During the Trump years, Fox News was notorious for carrying advertisements with a target audience of one. Dueling ads would denigrate or praise the nation of Qatar. Julián Castro bought time in Bedminster, New Jersey during a presidential visit to blame the president for a mass shooting in El Paso. The Lincoln Project spent millions airing its ads on Fox mostly in the hope that the president would be enraged when he saw them.
Now, the New York Times is borrowing the tactic. This time, however, the one-man target is the aged-yet-apparently-immortal head of the Fox Corporation, Rupert Murdoch.
For half a decade, multiple NGOs and dozens of journalists have made the destruction of Fox News, or at least the cancellation of its most high-profile jobs, a virtual full-time profession. They’ve tried egging on advertiser boycotts and they’ve tried mafia-style threats from Congress. It hasn’t worked, and even worse, the more they try, the more dominant Fox’s ratings become.
So the Times’s intrepid reporters are trying a new, more desperate weapon: trying to use coronavirus to drive a wedge between Murdoch and his employees.
‘Back in December…media mogul Rupert Murdoch received a dose of a COVID-19 vaccine,’ the paper’s latest from Tiffany Hsu says. ‘Afterward, he urged everyone else to get it, too.’ Yet now, the Times gravely observes, Tucker Carlson and Laura Ingraham oppose compulsory vaccination and complain about the Biden administration’s plan for door-to-door shot shills.
The intent, as far as Cockburn can tell, is a Hail Mary play: anger the nonagenarian Murdoch by planting the idea that his hosts are using vaccine skepticism to embarrass him or plot his demise. Then, hope that he retaliates by canceling their programs or, better yet, simply closing down Fox News forever and burning its studios in an elaborate Viking funeral.
In the Times’s moral universe, the paper is unable to imagine a person who gets a vaccine but doesn’t want it forcibly imposed on others. Not only that, the paper is also unable to imagine a vaccine proponent willing to let those who disagree speak at all.
Cockburn suspects this outcome of this play will be similar to past efforts: new ratings highs for Fox, more whiny articles in the New York Times about how ghastly it all is.
What the Times doesn’t seem to appreciate is its own role in the dreaded ‘vaccine hesitancy’. Nothing has increased wariness of COVID vaccines more than the zealotry of COVID vaccine proponents.
The public-health-official expert class ignored the virus, then demanded a year of lockdowns against it. They turned two weeks to flatten the curve into 12 months of totalitarianism. They said masks were useless, then said they were helpful, then told everyone to wear two of them. They kept children locked indoors for their safety when, all the way back in March 2020, just about the only thing known about coronavirus was that children were virtually immune.
The messages have been so confused that even now, the most zealous vaccine evangelists don’t believe the vaccine works, and instead regard its benefit as spiritual in nature. In California, K-12 students (who don’t need a vaccine at all, being at statistically zero risk) will all be forced to wear masks this fall, regardless of shot status. The double-vaccinated-but-still-masked person with dead eyes is a recurring trope of 2021.
Now, the class that bungled almost every dimension of coronavirus insists to the public that its mRNA vaccines, the first ones ever created, are 100 percent safe with no long-term side effects, and they should be taken by everyone. Or else.
It wasn’t Tucker Carlson who convinced a third of the public to be wary. It was our own expert class, who burned their credibility like it was oil bubbling up from the Gulf of Mexico.
And the Times itself is very much in that camp of credibility-burners.
‘Biden, Seizing on Worries of a Rushed Vaccine, Warns Trump Can’t Be Trusted,’ blared a headline in September. When vice presidential nominee Kamala Harris said she would not be getting any vaccine endorsed by Trump, the paper was nakedly sympathetic. When health agencies accurately said a vaccine could be ready by mid-November, the paper overtly implied that would only be possible due to political machinations by Trump.
‘The CDC is actively promoting the president’s fantasies that a safe and effective vaccine will be available just a few weeks from now,’ said a letter from registered nurse, highlighted by the Times.
‘Although I am over 70 and therefore especially vulnerable to infection and death from COVID-19, I absolutely will not receive any vaccine pushed by Donald Trump,’ said another. Yet another said the virus would be rushed out for a political boost, with the side effects allowed to manifest later.
Over and over again, the Times promoted the idea that a COVID-19 vaccine would be rushed, or dangerous, or outright fraudulent. What changed? Oh, come on, you don’t need Cockburn to tell you that.
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