The Other McCain

"One should either write ruthlessly what one believes to be the truth, or else shut up." — Arthur Koestler

MSNBC’s Doomsday Crisis Theme

Posted on | April 2, 2020 | Comments Off on MSNBC’s Doomsday Crisis Theme

Today, I watched MSNBC (so you don’t have to), and it is difficult to find the words to describe how bad their coverage is. What is obvious — if you could just stand to watch MSNBC for a few hours, you’d see it — is that they are invested in the idea that the coronavirus is the ultimate “Walls Closing In” moment that will doom Trump’s presidency. From this idea flows two basic themes in their coverage of the pandemic:

  1. It’s a Doomsday Crisis that threatens to kill us all;

Never mind the blame game just now, the greater problem in MSNBC’s coverage is that they are so heavily invested in hyping up the severity of the pandemic that they ignore all contrary data. And if you are capable of doing basic arithmetic, contrary data is not hard to find.

The first thing to point out is that the three states with the largest number of coronavirus cases — New York (92,506), New Jersey (25,590) and Michigan (10,791) — have a combined total of 128,887 cases, which is 53% of all U.S. cases. As I have previously explained, even within these states, the overwhelming majority of cases are in urban areas — New York City and its suburbs, Detroit and its suburbs. So if you live in the more rural parts of those states, you’re not really at very high risk from the coronavirus outbreak. At the very minute I’m writing this sentence, Rachel Maddow is telling her audience that Florida’s Republican governor is an irresponsible idiot who has put lives at risk because he didn’t issue a statewide lockdown order earlier. As I write this sentence, Maddow has just finished telling her audience that a hospital in North Carolina has declared it will need an extra 3,000 beds for expected overflow coronavirus cases. And nobody on MSNBC will speak a word to the contrary. It’s all Doomsday Scenario 24/7, and this theme requires MSNBC to completely ignore some very important data.

Start with North Carolina. They report fewer than 2,000 coronvirus cases in a population of 10.4 million, 39 cases per 100,000 population. Compare this to New York, which has 476 cases per 100,000 population. Does anyone expect a 12-fold increase in North Carolina’s COVID-19 caseload, and if so, why? Is there some particular reason that this stratospheric increase is expected to hit North Carolina? Nearly 30,000 residents of North Carolina have been tested for the virus so far, and 93% of those tests were negative. The state has fewer than 200 coronavirus patients hospitalized, and only 16 deaths so far. So why the fear of hospitals overflowing with COVID-19 patients? “The Murray model”:

North Carolina will be short hundreds of hospital beds and intensive care units at the state’s peak of the COVID-19 pandemic, which is still weeks away, according to a model touted by a leading expert on Sunday.
Developed by the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, the model estimates that there will be dozens of COVID-19-related deaths daily during the virus’ projected peak.
The model projects 79 COVID-19 deaths in North Carolina on April 22, with about 2,400 people in the state dying from the disease by Aug. 4.
North Carolina could face a shortage of hospital beds from April 17 until April 27, according to the model, which shows the need for beds for COVID-19 patients peaking at 7,774, including 1,173 intensive care unit beds. . . .
In a post describing the study, Christopher Murray, the institute’s director, wrote that the goal was to determine when people across the nation are likely to die from COVID-19 and when hospitals could run out of resources.

These projections are already being proven false.

As of Wednesday, North Carolina was projected to have more than 1,000 hospitalized cases — five times larger than the actual number. So is it really likely that there will be nearly 8,000 patients hospitalized in the state within three weeks? I don’t know. I’m no scientific expert, but if the projection is 400% off-target within a week of its release (the Murray projection was published March 26), call me . . .  somewhat skeptical.

(As I’m writing this sentence, Lawrence O’Donnell is ranting about Trump somehow swindling New York out of its fair share of medical equipment — the word “profiteers” was used — while “rewarding” Republican governors like Evil Ron DeSantis of Florida who, according to O’Donnell, did not take “reasonable precautions.”)

You see the Doomsday Crisis theme and the Blame Trump theme require MSNBC to deprive its audience of any information that contradicts the network’s chosen narrative. The fact that the Murray model — the basis of the Doomsday Crisis theme — is being disproven on a daily basis by the actual data simply has no place in MSNBC’s coverage. Meanwhile, what’s happening in Florida, where Evil Ron Desantis is governor?

Well, they’ve got 9,008 reported cases in a population of 21 million, a total which has risen rapidly because they have tested 52,783 people for coronavirus in a single week (March 26-April 1). There were 6,417 positives (12.2%), meaning that 87.8% tested negative. Of the 9,008 cases in Florida, only 1,167 have been hospitalized — about a 13% hospitalization rate — and 144 have died, a 1.6% death rate. So, 87% of coronavrius cases have not required hospitalization, and 98.4% survived.

This is good news, which is exactly why the MSNBC audience won’t hear about it. If you were told that more than 98% of coronavirus patients in Florida survived the disease, and 87% were not even hospitalized, you might stop thinking the Doomsday Crisis was going to kill you. But no, you’re going to die, because ORANGE MAN BAD! Or at least that’s what MSNBC keeps telling their audience, 24/7. (As I write this sentence, Lawrence O’Donnell is interviewing failed presidential candidate Kamala Harris, meaning that he’s mainly just listening while she denounces ORANGE MAN BAD!) So you’re locked down under a stay-at-home order (which was in large part inspired by the Murray model) and you’re probably not watching MSNBC, so you might have realized that the Doomsday Crisis is not really happening, except in a handful of major urban areas, even if I hadn’t told you. You’re somewhere “safe” (most GOP-leaning parts of the county have very low rates of coronavirus infection) and if you watch cable news, you probably watch Fox. So you are better-informed than any MSNBC viewer, and are not deceived by the worst-case scenario mentality prevailing at that network.

Let’s wait and see. Maybe we’ll see huge spikes in COVID-19 cases from Florida and North Carolina, and the Doomsday Crisis will actually happen. So far, however, there’s no reason to expect a viral apocalypse, and within a week, my hunch is that more and more people will be calling attention to the failure of the pandemic to match the scary predictions of the Murray model. Gov. Cuomo will continue to be on TV every day, talking about the need for more ventilators to meet the crisis at the “apex” of the “curve,” but by next Thursday, he’ll be within a week of when the “apex” is actually supposed to hit, and what will the daily numbers look like next Thursday? Today, in his press conference, Gov. Cuomo talked about how some numbers seem to be reaching a “plateau.” The expected upward surge isn’t actually happening, even though New York City has suffered 188 deaths in a 24-hour span. The situation in New York City is bad, and it’s getting worse, but the increase of numbers isn’t accelerating as was feared. But anyway . . .

As I write this sentence, the discredited Brian Williams is complaining that not all states have “stay-at-home” orders. This is a pony the national media — headquartered in New York and D.C. — is going to keep riding, because it’s unfair that other people out there in the rest of America aren’t doing what the media want them to do.

We must be patient. We are two weeks away from the projected “apex” in New York City, and once that arrives, the size of the actual pandemic — not just in New York, but everywhere — will be compared to what had previously been forecast. At that point, not even MSNBC will be able to conceal the difference between the forecast and the reality. Oh, well, maybe they will, but if they do, they’ll discredit themselves.

Stay home. Stay safe. Stay healthy. Wait and see.



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