In a crisis, trust the experts, not the nattering nabobs of nonsense

Millions of Americans don’t want to hear the truth. They would rather listen instead to echoes of their own interpretations and distortions of the truth. The emergence of the coronavirus pandemic is showing just how absurd – and deadly – that bone-headedness can be.

Americans of all political persuasions can be guilty of preferring spin to truth, but the coronavirus has brought out the worst in the nattering nabobs of nonsense on the right who daily entertain their listeners and readers with the conspiracies and fantasies they think their audiences want to hear and read. Radio and TV commentators Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity were among several of their crowd downplaying, dismissing and ridiculing the warnings of experts as the coronavirus was beginning to loom as a for-real threat over the United States.

“A review of hundreds of hours of programming and social media traffic from Jan. 1 through mid-March – when the White House started urging people to stay home and limit their exposure to others – shows that doubt, cynicism and misinformation about the virus took root among (President) Trump’s boosters in the right-wing media as the number of confirmed cases in the United States grew,” reporter Jeremy W. Peters writes in The New York Times. (See article)

It is unknown how much the right-wing media’s misinformation influenced Trump’s own initial attempt to downplay the seriousness of the virus, but his political base includes their audiences.

More recently, Peters writes in the article linked below, as the coronavirus pandemic has expanded in the U.S. and the number of deaths has increased, the right-wing commentators have changed tactics and started blaming liberals — for what, I am not sure. As far as I know the virus is apolitical. It attacks liberals, conservatives, moderates, Democrats, Republicans, Libertarians, independents and know-nothings.

And, of course, there is blame for the media, the mainstream media, that is.

“It’s so unfair. It’s so unfair,” Trump said last week in an interview with Hannity on Fox News. “If we could only have a fair media in this country, our country.”

The media are contracting this virus too, Mr. President, and so are educators, the people who actually believe in science and health experts. So quit whining.

(An explanatory note: For those who may not know, the late Spiro Agnew, Richard Nixon’s first vice president and attack dog, used the phrase, “nattering nabobs of negativism,” to attack the mainstream news media who dared to criticize Nixon back in the Watergate era. Agnew resigned in October 1973, less than a year before Nixon did, and pled guilty to tax evasion to avoid being indicted on kickback and bribery charges for schemes dating back to when he was Baltimore County executive and governor of Maryland. I never thought I would find inspiration in Spiro Agnew, but he did have a way with words.)

Clay Robison


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