Coronavirus, take three

By Randall Poulton | Apr 16, 2020

This is the third column I have written on the subject of the coronavirus. No, you did not somehow miss the first two; they were not published. In Corona Take Three, I will look back at what I said in those unpublished columns in the context of where we stand today with coronavirus and the overall situation in our country.

I wrote the first column, “Made for TV Pandemic,” on March 13 while we were still in Florida. As the title suggests, it was very critical of the media. But I also downplayed the seriousness of the virus. At the time I believed the shutdown of our country was an over-reaction and said we “should blame the broadcast media and the internet” for the panic. The management here at The Republican Journal felt my column sent the wrong message to readers, and told me they would not run it. I was disappointed.

But, in hindsight, they were probably correct. As I write Take Three, we have lost nearly 7,000 people to COVID-19 and that number is likely to increase dramatically by the time things wind down. The situation is very serious and we, as a country, were unprepared. This lack of preparedness, particularly on the part of our health care system, may be the subject of a future column.

My second column, titled “Finding the Silver Lining,” I wrote on March 27. It was intended to be humorous and give readers a break from the 24/7 media doom and gloom. But by Monday, March 30, the situation in New York City was so bad that I felt my humor might be offensive to some readers. Therefore, I asked TRJ management to pull the Silver Lining. It is my hope that, when we are through the worst of this crisis, a little graveyard humor may be cathartic and I will resubmit Silver Lining.

My point here is, what you read in this very fine newspaper is well vetted. As an opinion columnist, I really appreciate that management is trying to keep me from saying things I will regret, or that are libelous. As a columnist, I try very hard to make double damn sure the facts and statistics I cite are correct. But of course, I do have an agenda: I am skeptical of global warming, I think Trump is doing a good job (maybe even a great job) and I am pro-business. I write about the world as I see it or would like to see it. The words are my opinion. Some of you agree, others don’t. Chocolate and Vanilla.

One big problem I see here in the USA, my corner of the world, is far too much “news” is deployed without reasonable vetting and far too much opinion is masquerading as news. You would have to be awfully ignorant to believe that ABC, NBC, CBS, FOX and their “cable news” brethren do not have agendas. And I guess that is OK at some level. But it is not OK to allow their agenda bias to drive everything they do. When one biased talking head “interviews” another biased talking head — that is not news. That is opinion. And we have far too much of this biased opinion being disguised as news.

A month ago, Donald Trump was destined to be reelected. And, he may well still be. But today, Trump’s reelection is hanging in the balance. If he is seen as helping us win the war on COVID-19, Trump will be reelected. If we lose the war, and I am not really sure what that would look like, Andrew Cuomo is likely to be our next president. So, the mission of the never-Trump media is simple: He cannot be seen as winning the war. Game on.

In my opinion, much of the broadcast media’s coverage of the coronacrisis has been un-American yellow journalism. These are harsh words, I know. But look at these examples:

First, on Wednesday, March 25, CBS played disturbing video purportedly showing overcrowded conditions at a New York City hospital. Except, the video was actually recorded at a hospital in Bergamo, Italy, one of the hardest-hit regions in that country. CBS later apologized and said it was an editing mistake.

When was the last time CBS made an “editing mistake” that made Donald Trump look good? You know the answer to that one! Never, ever and never, ever will. Their editing is very thorough! The video was not a mistake and it stinks of yellow journalism.

Then on Sunday, March 29, on NBC, Chuck Todd asked Joe Biden, “Do you think there is blood on the president's hands?” This was not a spontaneous question. Plenty of people at NBC approved it. And, since Todd has not been disciplined, those approvals must extend to the highest levels. Just imagine Lowell Thomas asking if President Roosevelt had blood on his hands for the lives lost at Pearl Harbor. A stupid question and un-American.

There is a old saying that a picture is worth a thousand words. For people of my generation, the iconic photo of the naked “napalm girl” in Time magazine is the symbol of America’s failure in Vietnam. Just imagine if that image was in fact from another time and another place. Wars are won and lost not just on the battlefield, but in the hearts and minds of the citizenry. What ABC, NBC and CBS, et al, are doing is fighting for your mind and heart. And they are playing dirty to win!

Postscript: Wars make heroes and we have many to be proud of.

My hat’s off to all the docs, nurses and aids who are in the front lines. We owe them a great debt and we should never, ever, again send them into battle without the right equipment.

A big thank-you to all the “associates” at Hannaford, Walmart and Shaw’s who continue to come to work, at great personal risk, so we can have plenty to eat and drink.

And, maybe the biggest unsung heroes in this crisis are truckers, without whom the shelves in our essential stores would be bare.

One last thing: Regional newspapers like The Republican Journal are pretty much the last honest source we have for town news, school sports, and what’s happening on the local arts and entertainment scene. Plus, you get great opinion writers like me! For this source to survive, people need to buy the paper. You will not miss it until it is gone, and then it will be too late.

(If you are worried about COVID-19, you can nuke TRJ in your microwave to make sure it is virus-free. Thirty seconds should do it! I do the same with my mail!)

Randall Poulton is a columnist for The Republican Journal. He lives in Winterport.


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Comments (1)
Posted by: Dorothy Hiebert Odell | Apr 19, 2020 10:30

Thank you so much for saying what we so rarely hear, "I was mistaken." And thanks to the editors for doing their job of responsible gate-keeping.

My point of view and yours on the subject of Donald Trump and climate change are at opposite poles. I would love to read more of what you have to say on both topics.  For starters, I would like to know your answer to this question: Is there any fact or event that would move you to the understanding that climate change poses a danger?



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