Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Media Manipulation of Emotion

It’s no longer hard to believe. In fact, it’s the easiest thing to believe. The more the news media cries out about how it is wedded to science and the facts, the more it descends into emotional manipulation.

After all, it takes less intelligence to feel deeply than to think clearly. And the people who now write for the mainstream media are not smart enough to think clearly. At times, they cannot think at all. Could it be that they are reading their audience correctly?

Thanks be given to America’s rotting educational establishment. It has not merely replaced sober evaluation of facts with non-stop propaganda. It has dumbed down the curriculum and enforced uniform thought. The result is a nation filled with people who whine endlessly about how they want to follow the science, but who spend their time enforcing group think. 

Since the scientific method is for nothing if it is not based on skepticism, they have no notion of what science entails. And since the science is never “settled” they are not promoting science. Lastly, since scientific hypotheses are judged against experience and experiments, those who believe that they are right regardless of the facts are not doing anything resembling science. Happily for them, the products of American education do not know the difference.

Anyway, Wall Street Journal columnist Holman Jenkins was listening to an NPR host exclaiming her deep feelings about how many people have been dying from the coronavirus. This was not accompanied by any commentary on the shameless politicization of the pandemic by a certain political party.

National Public Radio host: “We have said the words grim milestone so many times over the past eight months on this program, and yet here we are once more. The number this time—250,000. . . . Each digit in that number, a life now gone, their loved ones now grieving. The collective loss is hard to measure.”

NPR reporter: “You know, Rachel, each of these terrible new milestones is so big they can start to feel incomprehensible. So I’ve been struggling to find a way to put such a terrible tragedy into some kind of context. It’s hard. But 250,000 deaths is about five times the number of U.S. troops killed in combat in Vietnam. It’s nearly five times the number of Americans who died in combat in World War I.”

Of course, the numbers are designed to elicit an emotional response. Because otherwise we might have to educate people, and we don’t want to do that. Jenkins provides some context.

These words (and I’ve spared you the full version) were spoken with the dramatic intonation that NPR apparently now requires of its on-air performers, indicating not informational content but somebody’s idea of the appropriate emotional response to be extorted from listeners. And yet the question that started this discussion could have been answered in another way more befitting a news organization: 250,000 is 9% more than the estimated U.S. death toll from the 1957 flu, adjusted for population; it’s 34% larger than the 1968 flu’s death toll; it’s about one-fifth the 1918 pandemic’s.

Covid-19 has nothing to do with the Vietnam War. It is nothing like World War I. It’s not even like heart disease, which kills an estimated 655,000 Americans a year and will likely continue doing so for the foreseeable future.

Strangely, pandemic deaths will likely be far fewer next year-- thanks to the vaccines:

Unlike car accidents and opioid overdoses, Covid deaths are likely to be much reduced next year. Human immune systems will adapt. Vaccines will be deployed. We get invaluable help, which our ancestors never received, from science to endure this new threat from nature as we continue the activities necessary for human survival and advancement.

But, the media, even the media that is not supposed to be corrupted by the profit motive, cares more to sensationalize the crisis for political ends. You can feel completely confident that if a similar pandemic occurred during a Democratic administration the stories would be about how well we had contained it. The example of Gov. Andrew Cuomo, now being widely lauded for killing old people during the pandemic, cries out for recognition.

Many also knew, unmentioned in NPR’s sermon which likened the daily death toll to several jumbo jet crashes, that most of these deaths are from Covid plus other conditions that afflict the old and chronically ill. Still, the 250,000 milestone was the most reported factoid everywhere on Thursday and Friday, so another hint for journalists: If you find yourself straining for ways to sensationalize a claim that listeners have already heard 50 times, maybe just drop it and move on.

On January 20, 2021, the media will cease reporting on the coronavirus. The stories will then all be about the great recovery engineered by Joe Biden in the first hours of his presidency.

Is that a bit cynical? Of course, it is. When dealing with today's media, it's the only defense we have.


Sam L. said...

This is why I despise, detest, and distrust the media, and will not read or listen to them/it.

To me, NPR stands for National Pravda Radio, and I will not listen to it. I'm sorry if this harshes your mellow, but very, VERY little.

trigger warning said...

Meanwhile, California residents, alarmed and troubled by the appalling terrible grim milestones, are packing the streets in violation of Gov. Newsom's latest 10PM curfew order...


No businesses have been reported burned or police officers attacked, so these protests are probably "superspreader events".

whitney said...

I have recently asked a couple scaredy-cats how many people they know have died. The first one said well I don't want to know anyone that died. The second one said what I know people that have been sick. I've pointed out it been nine months if this was anything close to what they said it would be we would all know dozens of people dead at this point. I'm sure it doesn't get through because they're pretty much programmed at this point but I'm enjoying it. I also asked one other person, not a scaredy-cat, he said I know one person he was 84 in terrible Health in a nursing home he was about to die anyway. We've entered a period of arbitrariness. Rules don't exist for any reason except for the person making them thought it up. These are very dark times

jmod46 said...

As my mother told me years ago, it's never a good idea to argue about politics or religion. People don't want to hear anything that might challenge their emotional attachment to an idea. The tragedy is that science continues to be perverted by political operatives disguised as impartial observers to advance The Narrative and to benefit some at the expense of many.

370H55V said...

NPR dramatic intonation? Margaret Jo McCullen and Terry Rialto could not be reached for comment.

David Foster said...

A multi-country survey asked people "What % of the population of your country has died from Covid-19"? The estimates were bizarre, ranging (IIRC) from 10% to 30%. The estimate in Germany was particularly high, whereas the reality in German is exceptionally low.

See also the extreme innumeracy demonstrated by Yale students, here:


Anonymous said...

I just did the % , and got 0.075%,
or less than one tenth of one percent.

I used 250,000 vs 330,000,000 ( 330 Million)....Google says 331 M for 2020.

Has anybody asked if these people have ever considered mortality rates, from various causes, on an annual basis?

Do they realize the main cause of death is being born?
Or does black humor escape them?

- shoe

PS - the curbside virtue-signalling signs claim "we believe in science", which is, imo, as unscientific as the statement re : AGW/human caused global warming, " the science is settled".

Do they teach Plato's Cave any longer?

Malcolm said...

Heather Mac Donald nails it.

More Salem than Thanksgiving


Linda Fox said...

That's why the Left has to work so hard to demonize those of us who lived through the 60's and 70's - we've seen that Staged Performance before. We could have recited the lines ourselves.