America has surrendered to Fox
It’s time to get back to normal. That’s what we’re hearing from some of the shrillest voices in the press and pundit corps along with governors of some of the largest states in the union.
And what does normal look like?
Apparently, it means opening “everything” – even if no one can figure out exactly what is closed or has been closed for more than a year, except schools that can’t find enough adults to stay open because so much of the faculty and staff have the covid.
You might think normalcy would include radically reducing the number of people dying, which is higher than it has been in a year.
It means resuming “playdates and dinner parties without guilt” while crossing our fingers hoping the omicron surge magically de-surges.
Let’s be like Denmark, these “normies” insist.
Let’s “live” with the disease!
Let’s party like we’re young, immune and Scandinavian!
After all, the Danes, with their population of almost 6 million, are only averaging around 22 daily deaths from the novel coronavirus, which is about half of what the state of Wisconsin has been experiencing.
Who wouldn’t long for The Time Before Covid, as we do whenever a variant wave crashes? The airtight fantasy is perfect. Like an Instagram influencer's fantasy life, it sidesteps a few crucial bits of reality.
First of all, Denmark’s vaccination rate is at 81 percent for two doses and 61 percent for three for the entire population. Compare that to 64 percent with two doses in the United States and 42 percent with three.
Also applying Denmark’s “Let’s treat it like a cold” philosophy to the United States neglects the biggest obstacle to returning to any semblance of normal here: The Danes don’t have Fox.
You can’t find fault with wanting to pretend Fox doesn’t exist. Hopefully, you’ve set the parental controls at your parents’ house.
But what we can’t ignore is that for almost a year, our largest cable “news” channel – and the most durable propaganda machine in human history – has been waging a war against covid vaccinations.
Almost nightly, the channel’s hugely popular primetime hosts have flung every speck of feces they can find at the miracle vaccines that have proven to be so incredible at minimizing the risk of death.
And when Fox adopts a misinformation campaign – like, say, make-believing genuine concern for the Benghazi tragedy – it doesn’t soak millions of viewers in filth. It’s more like a black hole, drawing the entire GOP and its right-wing media complex into the darkness.
(All while the channel appears to have covid vaccination mandate stricter than anything President Joe Biden has proposed.)
Vaccinating this country is the closest thing we’ve come to facing a “Dunkirk Moment,” when average citizens step up in a rescue mission that will give us a chance to prevail over an enemy that’s now killed far more Americans than have died in all our foreign wars.
But Fox has convinced a huge chunk of the Republican Party to turn their boats around and block the rest of us from getting to the beach.
Being a Republican makes you less likely to be vaccinated, no matter what demographic group you are in. This is your nation on Fox:
Charles Gaba found that rates of death from covid soared in red areas compared to blue areas, even adjusted for age, since the president’s inauguration. This trend now continues even while Omicron’s highly contagious nature has led to an explosion of cases in big, blue cities.
And what have the rest of us done about it?
Most of us vaccinated Americans, who are the majority of the county, have just watched in horror as we try to get along with our lives, hoping the tide will turn with the next convervative anti-vax talk radio guy who begs for a vaccination as he faces death on a ventilator.
We largely haven’t adjusted our “vaccinations only” approach to fighting the pandemic, even as anti-vax misinformation floods at a pace and furor that no scientific education campaign could match.
Instead, “normalcy” obsesses Democratic governors after watching Terry MacCullife lose in Virginia. They’ve been urging Biden to “move away” from the pandemic, even if the pandemic won’t go away and continues to kill a 9/11-number of Americans almost every day.
The Times reports that New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy led the way. In 2017, he won by a blowout, but in 2021, he won by just a few points.
QUOTEQUOTEArranging a series of focus groups across the state to see what they had missed, Mr. Murphy’s advisers were struck by the findings: Across the board, voters shared frustrations over public health measures, a sense of pessimism about the future and a deep desire to return to some sense of normalcy.
These focus groups sound a lot like David Leonhardt of the Times – who constantly inveighs for “normality” while also recently wondering why there has been no urgency to get America boosted – and “Hotline” Josh Kraushaar of National Journal – a Republican who pretends to care about Joe Biden’s political fate while constantly praising Democratic Governor Jared Polis’ rush to normalcy in Colorado.
Polis has declared the covid emergency “over.” The governor said that “if you haven’t been vaccinated, it’s really your own darn fault.”
These focus groups and reporters are at odds with polls showing that mask mandates are consistently popular even in Texas. Parents of school-aged kids have largely embraced them, but are drowned out by screeching right-wing parents with the time, energy and spittle to rant at school board meetings, even if their kids are homeschooled.
Governor Murphy should consider that perhaps it isn’t the restrictions that narrowed his reelection victory but the reality that New Jersey has had more covid deaths per capita than any state but Mississippi.
But this is a time for cheap and easy solutions.
The fact that our hospital system nearly crashed under the weight of omicron’s “mild” effects will be soon forgotten. As will the realization that the administration’s sudden push toward testing and masking at the peak of the surge may have prevented a full medical meltdown.
Like amnesiacs, we’ll relearn these things after the next wave comes.
Pretending the pandemic has ended for boosted Americans who are relatively sure they won’t die from the plague requires an incredible talent for shunning reality. A numbness of such magnitude makes me wonder if all the daily death has hollowed out our nation’s conscience.
It doesn’t have to be this way.