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Omicron: Don't panic, but please read these panicky stories. Plus, the race and jury debate.
By Gary Abernathy
Omicron: Don’t panic, but here are more panicky stories
In recent weeks, more and more health professionals have been acknowledging that covid, in some form and in different mutations, is probably a permanent thing that everyone will just learn to live with. Apparently, that doesn’t mean the media won’t freak out over every new variant that comes along. We’re seeing that fact in action with the omicron variant.
Headlines are blaring about the emergence of this new covid variant. Even as stories include disclaimers that, so far, omicron seems mild and nothing to get too worried about, worrisome stories abound. Part of it is the result of news organizations having reporters assigned to the covid beat, and when something new comes along everyone feels duty-bound to churn out hundreds or thousands of words parsing every little thing known about it. When that happens, no one much bothers to separate the meaningful from the trivial; everything gets equal play.
Stories are saying omicron poses a “high risk” — meaning a high risk of transmission, not of serious illness or death, which is what matters. But the distinction is not made often enough.
The Washington Post reported Monday that “as the news unfolds, health experts inside and outside of the federal government are urging the public not to panic. There’s still much to learn about omicron.” But the very fact that admonitions not to panic are couched in an avalanche of new reports across all media platforms is itself a reaction that leads to panic. If no one should panic, then news organizations should curtail their reporting accordingly.
Another good piece of advice would be to keep Anthony Fauci off the public airwaves. As much as Fauci is revered by some, including, apparently President Biden, he is not trusted by millions of Americans, which makes him an ineffective communicator to serve as the face of the battle against covid. His cavalier attitude in shrugging off any criticism that comes his way is off-putting. Back in June, Fauci said, “Attacks on me, quite frankly, are attacks on science.” He has repeated a variation of that comment over and over, including over the weekend.
Fauci may be a renowned scientist, but he is not science itself. That’s like a famous or respected journalist from history — take your pick, from Edward R. Murrow to Walter Cronkite to David Halberstam to Bob Woodward — insulating themselves from criticism by saying, “Attacks on me, quite frankly, are attacks on journalism.” It’s nonsense, and the height of arrogance. (Sadly, we did see that attitude displayed by some journalists when former president Donald Trump complained about the biases of some reporters.)
As with all viruses, and especially during cold and flu season, the best, and most universally agreed upon advice is to wash your hands a lot, stay home if you’re sick, consult with your own doctor if you have questions, and otherwise get on with your life.
Jill Biden’s decorations will be lauded over Melania Trump’s
USA Today reports, “First lady Jill Biden was scheduled on Monday to unveil decorations matching the theme, said to be inspired by people the couple met as they traveled the country this year.” The new first lady is guaranteed to get gushing reviews for her decorations compared to her predecessor, who was a casualty of the media’s hatred of her husband.
Racial composition does not define a jury of our peers
Before the verdict came in last week on the three white defendants accused of murdering Ahmaud Arbery, a black man in Georgia, countless media outlets made much over the racial makeup of the jury. The Associated Press, for example, called it a “disproportionately white” jury.
Americans are promised a trial decided by a jury of our peers. Our peers are Americans, not white Americans, or black Americans, not male Americans or female Americans, not young Americans or old Americans. Just other Americans eligible to serve on juries. Are some suggesting a day when a case involving a black victim must have an all-black jury? Or there must be a black jury for a black person accused of murdering a white person? Or, conversely, an all-white jury for white victims, or white defendants, depending on the circumstances? Nonsense.
When the guilty verdict came in, critics were muted, left to talk about how it was a good development that the overwhelmingly white jury convicted three white men for killing a black man. “But there’s still work to be done!” everyone cautioned.
The verdict wasn’t surprising at all. The evidence was pretty clear, and the jury did the right thing. The main controversy, rightfully so, in the Arbery case was that it almost didn’t get prosecuted in the first place, until video evidence emerged. But when it comes to verdicts, juries usually get it right. It just doesn’t always seem that way because people are always upset, naturally, if they don’t get the particular verdict they want, usually based on what they know from incomplete media reports.
Some critics tried comparing the Arbery trial with the trial of Kyle Rittenhouse, which resulted in an acquittal just a few days earlier. The fact is, the jury likely got it right in both cases, but the facts and circumstances of each case were entirely different.
We want a colorblind society, it’s often said. But we’re also told that we need to view everything through a racial lens. Got it?
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