Conservatives in Mississippi don’t trust the mainstream media. And they absolutely shouldn’t.
For many conservatives reading this, I know it’s not a shocker, but the media has been particularly egregious in politically weaponizing COVID. Mississippi’s media establishment is no exception. Their orders and piles of cash are coming from on high from billionaires, elites, mega-corporations, huge foundations and media conglomorates and the underlings are carrying their orders out with robotic efficiency. The “storytelling” is all through the lenses of how the media can most effectively use COVID to bash political opponents (read conservatives).
First, let’s get this out of the way. In my view, everyone should get COVID immunized. Full stop. It’s actually more about math than it is “science.” Immunizations work and these COVID vaccines that are readily available to everyone are 95+% effective with a super low adverse incidence rate. People worried about a 1 in a million chance of a serious adverse reaction (hyped endlessly by clickbaiting media) probably don’t worry a lot about shark bites or lightning strikes or deadly car accidents (which is a much much greater probability than a serious adverse COVID vaccine reaction). I’d say the jury is probably still out on the real medical effectiveness of masks and mask mandates in the general population. Wearing a mask probably makes a mask wearer act different, but over time there does not seem to be an appreciable difference in infection rates in states that did and didn’t have mask mandates in effect. But vaccines clearly work. Go get one.
Back to the matter at hand. The Sun Herald ran a story this past weekend about vaccine hesitancy among Coast residents. In the span of four months, we’ve literally gone from vaccines being unavailable to vaccines being unused. That’s pretty unbelievable. And it’s particularly pronounced in more conservative areas.
Vaccine hesitancy is at least a partial result of COVID being politically weaponized, yet the media is writing headlines like they’re shocked by the disparities. COVID was used like a battering ram to beat Donald Trump over the head and a rabid media establishment hammered him at every turn and has conversely lionized the Biden administration through the 2020 campaign and now into this new administration. Trump and red state governors could do no right on COVID. Biden and blue state governors could do no wrong.
Here at home, the media establishment raked Republican Governor Tate Reeves over the coals regularly. To his credit, Reeves has literally conducted dozens of hour plus long publicly broadcast press conferences where he and top officials took questions from all comers and tried to explain policies and the reasoning behind them.
For that, what did Reeves get? He was blamed by the media for being in Europe on a pre-planned trip when the pandemic began literally a few weeks after his inauguration. The media has breathlessly criticized the vaccine rollout. They tried to bully him over being late on declaring mask mandates. In short, he could do no right.
On March 3 of this year, with COVID case incidents at that point down 72% from the beginning of the year, Reeves ended the mask mandate he had in place. President Joe Biden characterized the decision as “Neanderthal thinking.” The CDC, media and medical “experts” said that it was “too soon” and that a rise in cases was inevitable as a result of the decision. Media mocked him. But cases kept going down. And down. And down. As of May 2, the 7 day average case incidents were down 91% from their early January high and 59% from when Reeves removed the mandate. Yet there have been almost no one in the media landscape acknowledging Mississippi’s recent success on fighting COVID.
The takeaway was that the Reeves decision to end the mask mandate was demonstrably the right one. The science says that COVID is not like polio that can be functionally eliminated even with vaccines. It’s like the flu. It’s highly communicable and hopefully with the vaccine it will at best be a manageable, seasonal event. That’s not to minimize the thousands of Mississippians that have lost their lives over the last year. But at present, 6 times as many people on a weekly average basis are dying from heart disease (263) in Mississippi than they are from COVID (43) according to the most recent available info from the MS Department of Health. And as of early April, Mississippi’s overall death rate (COVID included) actually slipped below the average 2017-2019 death rate. That’s a stark contrast from late last year and early this year when the overall death rate above the three year average was 200-300 people per week and COVID was one of the leading causes of death. But of course you don’t see headlines about the improvement because it’s not part of the narrative they’re desperate to sell you.
There’s a balance between safety and living and the role government should play in that. With the proliferation of shots in arms and a very efficient National Guard at the tip of the spear on delivery, the policy decision to get lives and livelihoods (post-vaccination) back to normal was the right one.
For as eye popping as the decline has been since his decision, you wouldn’t know about it from reading a newspaper or looking online. In fact, now that 1.25 million Mississippians have either had COVID or had at least one dose of vaccine, the next big shock fear being peddled by the media is breakthrough cases and COVID variants though both are exceedingly rare here. In fact, of the 311,900 COVID cases documented by MSDH only 363 “variant” cases (as of 4/30) in Mississippi have been documented. That’s .12% (about a tenth of one percent). It’s almost as if the media is rooting for a COVID comeback.
And it would probably surprise you to find out that COVID case incidence along racial lines has trended almost back to pure population demographics in Mississippi according to MSDH. There is a statistically significant (single digit percentages) but not huge disparity of vaccinations and death rates between black and white Mississippians but that is likely more linked to income and geography than racial demographics as those who live in rural areas are just harder to vaccinate en masse and treat with infections. Last year and even this year, innumerable headlines talked about the racial disparities of COVID incidence and vaccination rates. There were clearly disparities early in the process, but now that the sample size is large enough and policies are being fully implemented, the data itself is far less incendiary and headline grabbing, which is why you’re not reading more about it. But that’s just a minor detail for a hysterical media establishment.
Probably the most egregious example of recent political weaponization of COVID from the depths of the Mississippi media morass is from Adam Ganucheau of the “non-partisan” Mississippi Today. Last week, he took advantage of a “dead cat bounce” in COVID numbers to try and attack Reeves over Reeves’s comments that there were more fans at a college baseball game in Starkville than in Yankee stadium.
I hear MLB is struggling because of their decision to play politics, but are this weekend’s attendance #s real?
Yankee Stadium: 10,606
Dudy Noble Field: 13,338
I’ll take the Neanderthals over Team Lockdown all day. The time for panic is over—get a vaccine and live your life!
— Tate Reeves (@tatereeves) April 19, 2021
Nevermind the fact that the numbers after his article went down again last week and have stayed largely flat. But again, that’s not the narrative they’re selling – so you won’t see it.
He went on to try and COVID-shame Reeves and Ole Miss and Mississippi State fans by saying, “Mississippi, meanwhile, has no stadium capacity restrictions after Reeves rescinded them in March. Mississippi State hosted Ole Miss in Starkville this weekend, and the New Dude was packed. Few people were wearing masks, which has some health officials worried.” Of course, as the CDC came out and said this week that if you’re vaccinated and outside, the odds of you getting or transmitting COVID is miniscule, although they’re still recommending masks at larger events. For now.
Meanwhile, back in the normal universe, COVID restrictions in Mississippi and throughout the country continue to be rolled back due to . . . math. Graduations are happening. People are interacting more. Vaccination rates are up and infection, hospitalization and ICU utilization are way down and don’t seem to be trending up.
The net of all of this is that conservatives in Mississippi don’t trust the media and for the most part, they shouldn’t. If there was a headline in one of the few remaining large daily Mississippi newspapers or news sites that said the sun was going to shine tomorrow, most conservatives would try to figure out where their umbrellas are. There’s such an unbelievable disconnect between the media establishment and the majority of Mississippians. Their COVID coverage has illuminated that for those that had any doubt. I hope they don’t lose any sleep wondering why no one trusts them. When you use COVID like a political battering ram, you shouldn’t be surprised when the public backlashes about what you’re trying to tell them.
After 16 years of doing this, I know that there’s a huge portion of the Mississippi media establishment that wakes up every day with their hair of fire with fangs bared ready to speak “truth to power.” But speaking truth to power starts with speaking truth, a commodity that is in increasingly short supply in the mainstream media landscape. Journalists now largely view themselves as crusaders against great evil instead of professionals whose primary mission is literally journaling the facts and the truths of our world. I know simply telling the truth about the world with data is boring and won’t get you feted by the cool kids, but that’s more of the job than anything else.
And Mississippi officeholders and policy makers who happen to be conservative should know (if God forbid they don’t already) that these folks mean you harm. Your cooperation with them in any form CAN AND WILL BE USED AGAINST YOU. You can learn that lesson the easy way or the hard way.
This COVID pandemic has been a terrible thing, and we will feel its societal effects for years to come. It’s thankfully gotten better and God willing, it will continue to improve. I’m not in the business of predicting what’s going to happen on COVID. It could certainly all change tomorrow. But COVID has brightlined the truth that the media in Mississippi has absolutely no interest in contextualizing life or death information. The truth is that the lack of public trust in the media due to the systemic political weaponization of COVID is costing lives. But for the media, it’s all about clicks and political points to be scored for their powerful overlords.
It’s time for Mississippians to expect and demand better.