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Rupert Murdoch

Photo by Hudson Institute (Creative Commons Attribution 2.0)

Reprinted with permission from Press Run

There's a renewed Covid crisis in this country because powerful forces, led by Rupert Murdoch's Fox News, want there to be one.

The United States is the only country in the world that's simultaneously trying to recover from the Covid-19 pandemic while battling a homegrown, deep-pocketed political and media crusade determined to keep the pandemic going.

Call it the Murdoch variant. And it's proving to be deadly.

While a staff of fully-vaccinated hosts rage against an extraordinarily safe and efficient vaccine, Fox News is doing what no other outlet has done in the history of cable news, or even broadcast television has done — it's deliberately getting people killed during a public health crisis by feeding eagerly gullible red state viewers a mountain of lies.

With the debate about masks now largely eliminated from the cultural war battlefield, as a majority of eligible Americans got vaccinated and no longer have to wear them, Fox News and the extreme-right media are left with only one target — the miraculous vaccine itself.

The same right-wing crew that this winter demanded Trump receive credit for helping develop the vaccines, has done a U-turn. They're now urging loyalists not to get the vaccine, thereby prolonging the pandemic.

The anti-vaccine campaign follows the network's strident anti-mask, and anti-social distancing crusade. Last year, Fox pumped poisonous, anti-science rhetoric onto the airwaves and worked hard to divide the country, making it impossible to have a common sense national conversation in a time of crisis. This NPR headline surprised nobody from May, 2020: "Study Finds More COVID-19 Cases Among Viewers Of Fox News Host Who Downplayed Pandemic."

Today's pro-Covid movement, which dresses itself up as being anti-vaccine, highlights the deliberate lunacy that has gripped the conservative movement. It's shocking, but not surprising. It reflects the willing embrace of a dark, QAnon conspiracy view of the world where conservatives are the target of demonic Democratic scheming. And where a safe vaccine might kill you.

"This is becoming a pandemic of the unvaccinated," CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said last week. There remain tens of millions of Americans who have no plans of ever getting vaccinated. For the most part, they're not "vaccine hesitant." Those "hesitant" people make up a much smaller portion of the population and for a variety of personal, historic, and religious reasons they lean against getting the shot. The defiant tens of millions though, are part of a larger movement that gladly risk infections and spreading the disease in order to own the Libs. Period.

Between June 28 and July 11, "Fox personalities and guests made a total of 216 claims undermining or downplaying vaccines in segments about coronavirus immunization," Media Matters reported.

And this, since July 11:

• "Fox's Jeanine Pirro claims door-to-door vaccine outreach is about confiscating guns."

• "Tucker Calson on COVID vaccine: "Maybe none of this is really about COVID. Maybe's it about social control."

• "Fox contributor Lara Trump says the COVID vaccine has been about controlling people "from day one"

And it's not just Fox. "Republicans are getting the same message of skepticism about the vaccines and the vaccination campaign from other parts of the right-wing media apparatus, from digital outlets to talk radio to podcast shows to Sinclair Broadcast stations to the new generation of social media influencers," Media Matters' Matt Gertz noted.

In 2020, the crass political calculations were obvious — desperate to get Trump re-elected amidst a crippled economy and a once-in-a-century health crisis, Fox News knew the only chance was to downplay the virus and pretend Democrats were overreacting, even though Trump himself nearly died from the contagious disease.

But with Trump now out of office, and even making vague suggestions that people get vaccinated, what's the political advantage of Fox News becoming a ghoulish hotbed of anti-vaccine hysteria? It's pure nihilism.

Pretending that American school children haven't been forced to get vaccinated for lots of serious ailments for the last century, Fox News has embraced a wholesale anti-vax conspiracy approach, portraying Covid jabs in the arms as signs of encroaching totalitarianism, condemning the shots in the most hysterical terms.

This was a Fox News host when Biden said there might be "door to door" outreach about the vaccine in certain communities: "Do you want someone knocking at your door that you don't know, that's a stranger?" Another host suggested the vaccine ambassadors would be shot for trespassing.

For decades, Democrats have had to deal with a billion-dollar propaganda outlet and have wrestled with how to communicate with the country when the largest cable 'news' channel lies to its viewers every day, around the clock. And for years, Beltway journalists rolled their eyes and claimed Fox News didn't pose any real danger, that the network was simply spinning on behalf of the GOP, and if Democrats wanted to govern the country they had to figure out a way to make better arguments.

Now with the pandemic, Fox News' deliberate sins are coming into clearer focus. No longer taking place against a partisan backdrop, the network is still lying nonstop. But instead of falsifying claims about Democrats or candidates or legislation, Fox News is lying without pause about a health emergency, and getting people killed in the process.

The Murdoch variant spreads.

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