Welcome to 2021, the Year of the Global Village Lunatic. And just as it was almost seven centuries ago, it’s a pox to multiply a pandemic.
Behold: In 1347, as the bubonic plague began to kill a third of Europe, a handful of deranged buffoons shuffled past the piling bodies, arms failing and mouths foaming about how any life-saving treatment was the work of Satan and meant to prevent a holy cleansing of Planet Earth. Yet without much more than their tremulous voices, their head-scratching lies disappeared seconds after they were uttered. Then the ingrates returned to other pursuits, like scrawling their demented ramblings on parchment not fit for wiping Sir Galahad’s ass.
But in 2021—Gawd Bless social media and radio—the village lunatics of our day have mighty platforms from which to disseminate their fabrications and conspiracy theories. Though coming thousands of COVID-19 deaths too late, YouTube announced Wednesday that it would block all anti-vaccine content from its platform and ban prominent anti-vaccine “activists.” That’s the term the Washington Post used anyway. Strange, because “activist”—a kinda happy, for-the-people noun—doesn’t exactly square with “COVID corpse.” Here’s a compromise, then: anti-factivist.
One of those anti-factivists shut down by YouTube is Robert F. Kennedy Jr. Can’t you just see Bobby Kennedy screaming in his casket? But there are others who were worse, in part because they took their misguided views to the grave.
Or rather, their misguided views took them to the grave.
Five anti-vax commentators, forever off the air
If one were to, say, round up the 100 most liberal radio hosts in America, it’s a fact that not a single one has simultaneously died of COVID-19 while urging people to spurn the vaccines. This cannot be said, however, for media figures on the far right or even the plain ol’ right (whatever that is, anymore).
Here’s the sad thing: No one wants to see someone die just because they espouse crazy views. But the rub is this: The lines between opinion and journalism have blurred, even though it’s dangerous and unscrupulous to blend the two. Regardless, we confuse them at our peril.
That is why the media exists: to deliver facts. To trust science. Dispassionately. And in the case of COVID vaccines, out of public service. Without political slant or agenda.
Fact: People who aren’t fully vaccinated are more than 10 times more likely to be hospitalized, and 11 times more likely to die of COVID-19.
That’s according to the Centers for Disease Control and the more than 50 doctors and researchers who contributed to the study, published just a few weeks ago.
But social media, fringe media outlets (such as Newsmax and OAN) and radio shows enable deluded people to embolden their audience members and ultimately kill people. All manner of lies–that fetal tissue was used in vaccines, or that there’s proof they are deadly–defy fact checking because they’re so preposterous. But the force of their delivery from public personalities who stand behind them serves as a dangerous shortcut for many people as they debate the efficacy and safety of the shots.
Here’e the list of those who disparaged COVID-19 vaccines and/or urged listeners not to get them, as recently scored by the Washington Post on Sept. 14. All of them, I might note, are white conservative males over age 60:
- Phil Valentine, 61, a popular host in Tennessee. Valentine used to make fun of the vaccine with a parody song, “Vaxman.” It was based on The Beatles’ song, “Taxman.” Harrison’s lyric at one point states, “And my advice for those who die…” Here’s my parody couplet: “Knock the shot? Too late, goodbye.”
- Jimmy DeYoung, 81, a nationally syndicated Christian preacher also based in Tennessee. His radio program, “Prophesy Today,” somehow missed the Bible passage in the Book of Alfred E. Neuman that foretold of the Great Idiot Wind.
- Marc Bernier, 65, a longtime host in Daytona Beach, Fla. and outspoken vaccine critic. He dubbed himself “Mr. Anti-Vax.” I tried to reach him to see if he still wore this label proudly, but Bernier was unavailable for comment.
- Bob Enyart, 62, a pastor with the Denver Bible Church, and radio host on KLTT-AM. On Enyard’s death, his co-host Fred Williams said: “Bob Enyart was one of the smartest, and without question the wisest person I’ve known.” Among all the COVID-19 whoppers, I suppose this one tops them all.
- Dick Farrel, 65, who had worked for stations in Miami and Palm Beach, Fla., as well as Newsmax. After previously mocking vaccines and calling Covid-19 a “scamdemic,” Farrel reportedly said as he neared death, “I wish I had gotten it.”
And now, the worst of all…
I doubt Tucker Carlson, Fox News commentator and ruler of the TV ratings roost, will succumb to COVID-19. For one thing, he’s privileged enough for a so-called populist–and, one hopes, smart enough to get the shots. As the stepson to a Swanson frozen foods heiress, Tucker Swanson Carlson (as I prefer to call him) is more fit to heat up a Hungry Man dinner than spread warmed-over mistruths disguised as informed opinions.
Some of those I can laugh at or brush off. But when Swanson Carlson told his loyal viewers that President Biden’s plan to have people go door to door to persuade the unvaccinated was an attempt to “force people to take medicine they don’t want or need,” it marked a new kind of subterranean low. He called the initiative “the greatest scandal in my lifetime, by far.”
First of all, “don’t need”? And second, Swanson Carlson, if he didn’t get the vaccine, would certainly be one of the last major media holdouts. Even Rupert Murdoch, his boss at Fox, got his. While the rest of us need to produce proof of vaccination wherever we go, I want to see his proof of non-vaccination. Otherwise, it’s–what was that blowhard nonsense?–“the greatest scandal in my lifetime, by far.”
Parting shot, booster on the way
Here’s the thing. An ignoramus may be possessed of uninformed opinions, lack of scientific knowledge and enough bile to poison listeners who think from their reptile brains. But I pity those poor, misled listeners whom we’ll never hear from again. All told, it’s impossible to say how many people, in following an anti-vax pied piper, wound up meeting the grim reaper.
I look at it this way. If 50 percent of Tucker Swanson Carlson’s estimated 2.9 million viewers followed his lead and refused shots, and 1 percent of them died from COVID-19, we’d be looking at 14,500 deaths. You tell ’em, you MotherTucker!
Anyone who’s so sure that the vaccines are a scam, ineffective or part of a government strong-arm tactic–and willing to goad gullible people into believing it–should wager something on it. A few dollars. A round of drinks. Or, if you’re a pseudo-pundit, maybe your life.
Just don’t bet other people’s lives. Please. It’s sad enough that you bet your own, and lost big time.