Looking at the news lately, one could be forgiven for thinking it was summer 2020. All at once, the corporate media resurrected the narrative that did irrevocable damage to American civil liberties and ruined countless lives over these past four years. Be afraid — be very afraid — they say, the COVID “summer surge” has returned to kill us all.
The synchronization is startling, almost as if all the outlets are reading from the same script. The trickle of panic began last Wednesday, with The New York Times warning that COVID cases are “rising slightly.” CBS echoed this fear of a “Covid comeback,” while Politico wondered what the rise in cases “really means” and CNN spoke to an expert to find out “what you should know.” NBC asked whether the U.S. needs “to brace itself for a surge?” Even Fox News fretted over a “late summer wave.” All this within a roughly 24-hour period.
The spike in gas prices has NOTHING to do with Bidenomics. CBS Host @GayleKing says that it’s actually due to the weather.
KING: “Have you noticed a recent surge in gas prices this summer?…
Extreme heat is playing a role.” pic.twitter.com/FygxxhEMtu
— Daily Caller (@DailyCaller) August 4, 2023
In the days that followed, state and local outlets got in on the action. New York, Chicago, New Orleans, San Francisco, even North Carolina, Texas and many more — all had regional reports echoing the sentiment of the national press. Now, the media have accepted their own narrative. The focus is no longer on whether the surge is happening, but how afraid you should be.
Forbes touted the “highest Covid-19 test positivity levels since May 2021,” a statistic it notes near the end of the piece should be taken with a “grain of salt.” The Times spoke to “experts” to give its readers a “refresher on how to protect yourself and others.” The suggestions follow the old playbook: testing, tracking, masking and quarantine. The Hill resurrected another old trick, giving a color-coded visualization of the states to avoid at all costs. CBS offered a guide to the “best N95 masks for travel” — in case you have to go to one of the scary states.
Also this week, the media developed a fixation on Eris, the “fast-spreading new subvariant” of COVID that even Politico admits “does not appear to cause significant illness.” This has not stopped it from dominating the headlines. Virtually every corporate outlet has a piece out in the last 24 hours declaring that Eris is now the “dominant strain” in the U.S.
One might be tempted to say this is harmless coverage. Cases are objectively rising, and thus it is newsworthy. But if living with COVID is the “new normal,” as the media has long been saying, then a mere rise in cases counts — especially when not accompanied by “significant illness” — should not make the cut. The entire press establishment does not simultaneously cover seasonal flu surges every year.
There are several explanations for why the media revived its latent COVID hysteria. The most harmless explanation is that they are merely pushing clickbait. They know their readers still have some lingering fear of the virus and will voraciously consume any breaking COVID news. It’s not about COVID per se, but any story that they can sensationalize.
The most nefarious explanation is that they are actively preparing the public for a return to lockdowns and mandates. The synchronization could imply they are coordinating with government officials toward the same goal. If their readers adopt the same zealous posture as in 2020, they could once again try to bully average Americans into submission and once again transform fear, chaos and division into electoral success.
Likely, the harmless explanation holds to some extent. If they are going to survive in the increasingly decentralized media ecosystem, the legacy outlets must generate all the clicks they can get. But even if many members of the media and government wish they could go back to the halcyon days of lockdown, it would be too politically risky. With the hindsight of COVID tyranny in mind for millions of American and many of the establishment lies well debunked in the public consciousness, there is no guarantee that Americans would bend the knee again to a COVID regime.
A middle ground is much more likely. A COVID surge allows the media to lionize themselves and castigate their enemies. NPR says the quiet part out loud: a summer wave occurs annually “particularly in the South.” The media love this because it reinforces the original narrative that they will never let go.
The narrative goes like this: Blue states, with their lockdowns and mandates, handled COVID exceptionally well all along. Red states — especially the evil ones like Florida, Georgia, and Texas that opened too soon— embraced and spread the “COVID denial” that is literally killing their citizens. This allows Democrats to say that if only red states had followed their lead, they would have been much better off. This implies a moral pitfall — how can you support a politician who is responsible for killing your grandma? Their hope is that people remember this message in the voting booth.
New CDC Director Mandy Cohen: “We anticipate that COVID will become similar to flu shots, where it is going to be you get your annual flu shot and you get your annual COVID shot.”
I was literally suspended from Twitter for predicting this back in 2021.https://t.co/WeeECeh3ym
— Michael P Senger (@michaelpsenger) July 29, 2023
It also furthers the original narrative on vaccines, which Democrats desperately cling to despite the revelation of their ineffectiveness. With Eris, the media and government can once again harp on the importance of getting a booster and resurrect the moral debates around vaccines. With the new push, the establishment types get to frame themselves as the good guys, the defenders of science who actually did save the country from the worst of COVID.
Meanwhile, the public is reminded that anyone who is skeptical of the booster is a very bad person. This moral standard, of course, largely breaks down along party lines. The goal is to stoke, if not hatred, then at least smug superiority and resentment toward anyone who denies the debunked establishment narratives. “Otherizing” the average person with these views serves to delegitimize any candidate who would represent their interests.
Combined, these aspects of the narrative reveal the broader picture. Continuing to push division is the best way for the establishment to shield itself from accountability for its COVID tyranny. An honest reflection on the issue would not only hurt the establishment’s electoral chances in 2024, but indict the entire liberal project of top-down social engineering.