Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Journalists’ blind spot

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Some years back Daniel Goleman write a book, Vital Lies, Simple Truths: The Psychology of Self-Deception, on the causes of self-deception. It’s a fascinating book (included in the list of books I find myself repeatedly recommending), and it came to mind as I thought about a column by Julia Doubleday in The Gauntlet on journalism’s blind spots:

The day after the 2022 Midterms, I heard almost every possible interpretation of the surprising results. The Democrats had done much better than expected and feared, and youth voter turnout was unusually high. On cable news and twitter, data analysts and pundits picked apart dozens of explanations and contributing factors, from the ultimately-flat Crime Wave narrative to the nationwide gratitude for student debt forgiveness. There was, however, one word I didn’t hear on CNN or twitter: COVID-19.

COVID has killed 1.1 million Americans in roughly 1,000 days, or an average of 1,100 Americans dying daily for 2 years and 10 months. Of those 1,100 daily average deaths, 93.2% were among people over the age of 50. Older Americans are well known for the high voter turnout, as well as their conservative bent.

It’s glaringly obvious that an extra 1,000 deaths of individuals over 50 every single day for nearly 3 years would have an effect on the electorate- but not a single analysis even mentioned pandemic deaths. This is frankly, very odd. I’ve worked in campaign data, and political statisticians tend to want to take every possible variable into account; from voters’ shopping preferences, to their racial background, to their likelihood to listen to K-pop, to their hair color and first car model. Yet here we have a very, very large variable, receiving no attention or weight whatsoever.

Even assuming an ideological commitment to pretending COVID ended, no mention of 2020 or 2021 deaths? No mention of, arguably, the biggest historical tragedy of modern times? COVID deaths weren’t considered as a possible cause of the shifting electorate, then dismissed after statistical analysis; they were quite simply erased from collective memory.

Coverage that pointedly omitted mention of an ongoing mass death event had an Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind feel to it, as pundits debated the efficacy of Republican messaging without mentioning their years-long anti-vaccination stance that led to disproportionate death among their voters. Blonde women on TV laughed and argued with guest pundits nitpicking any and every factor that played into the electoral results without touching the dreaded p*nd*m*c third rail. Even when “lockdowns” were brought into the conversation about DeSantis in Florida, no one seemed to recall what those lockdowns had been in relation to.

This pandemic erasure is hardly an anomaly; it can be seen in reporting about hospitals, travel, illness, schools, celebrity deaths; just about everything.

Over the past week, we were all treated to  . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

2 January 2023 at 4:50 pm

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