By David Flemming
On April 16, Bill Maher gave a scathing monologue that somehow managed to get his left-leaning audience to laugh at themselves:
“Over the past year, the Covid pandemic has prompted the medical establishment, the media, and the government to take a scared straight approach to getting the public to comply with their recommendations. Well I’m from a different school. Give it to me straight, doc. Because in the long run that always works better than ‘you can’t handle the truth!’ … The more they can get you to stay inside and watch their panic porn, the higher the ratings.
“Dartmouth built a database recently monitoring the Covid coverage of the major news outlets across the world and found that, while other countries mixed the good news in with the bad, the U.S. national media reported almost 90% bad news. Even as things were getting better, the reporting remained negative and politicians, they lie because it’s their nature to cover their ass. They don’t get blamed if things goes badly, and also to keep in practice.
“But, when all of our sources for medical information have an agenda to spin us? Yeah, you wind up with a badly misinformed population, including on the left. Liberals often mock the republican misinformation bubble, which of course, is very real. Ask anyone who works at Hillary’s Pizza Parlor.
“And we do know conservatives have some loopy ideas about Covid, like the third of Republicans who believe it couldn’t be spread by someone showing no symptoms. But what about liberals, you know, the high-information, by-the-science people? In a recent Gallup survey, Democrats did much worse than Republicans in getting the right answer to the fundamental question: ‘what are the chances that someone who gets Covid will need to be hospitalized?’
“The answer is between 1-5%. Forty-one percent of democrats thought it was over 50% (28% of Republicans). Another 28% put the chances at 20-49% (23% of Republicans). So almost 70% of Democrats are wildly off on this key question, and also have a greatly exaggerated view of the danger of Covid and the mortality rate among children. All of which explains why today the states with the highest share of schools that are still closed are all blue states [Vermont is thankfully one of the blue states which has at least partially re-opened].
“So if the right-wing media bubble has to own things like climate change denial, shouldn’t liberal media have to answer for how did your audience wind up believing such a bunch of crap about covid?”
Bill Maher is a cultural enigma, at a time when many pundits constantly tell their tribe what they want to hear. He is really the only one I know of who routinely invites his target audience to question their ingrained assumptions. The more Mahers we have and can cultivate on all political sides, the stronger our republic will be.
David Flemming is a policy analyst for the Ethan Allen Institute. Reprinted with permission from the Ethan Allen Institute Blog.