Parson’s claim of Missouri news media COVID ‘propaganda’ is dishonest and dangerous
Governor Mike Parson, embarrassed by another surge in coronavirus infections in Missouri, has again resorted to his stock response: Shoot the messenger. Parson on Wednesday selected the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the Kansas City Star and the nonprofit news site Missouri Independent to distribute "propaganda" about the Delta variant that is raging across the state.
It's a curious allegation as the data this and other credible news organizations have reported comes from official figures on new coronavirus infections, hospital admissions and deaths. This data for this alleged propaganda comes from Parson's own government.
Worse still, Parson himself was involved in disseminating misinformation by falsely claiming that the Missouri Independent was "a George Soros organization" (an allusion to the liberal Jewish billionaire and a reliable bogeyman for right wing fanatics). The trope of an alleged Soros / Missouri Independent alliance - one with a disturbing undertone of anti-Semitism - exposed by fact checkers.
Missouri has one of the lowest vaccination rates in America and one of the highest new infection rates. This is not propaganda, but a verifiable fact that is confirmed by data from Parson's own administration. The fact that Parson on Wednesday unveiled a major new incentive program of $ 10,000 checks to get people to take the vaccine shows that he understands the extent of the crisis that lies ahead . And yet, for no apparent reason other than his own thin skin to criticize, he insists on making potshots at mainstream media organizations to cover the facts.
Parson was asked by a reporter on Wednesday about "certain news outlets asking questions about people receiving the vaccine." The question was an obvious indication of irresponsible reporting by conservative media outlets like Fox News, whose commentators have openly lied about vaccine-related deaths and other issues.
Parson's response actually began by lamenting news outlets for "propaganda" and "spreading misinformation just to stir fear in people's minds and only cause chaos" - a perfect embodiment of the bizarre anti-vaccines of the social and right-wing new media campaign. But then Parson revealed that he was actually talking about mainstream publications in Missouri that covered the facts of his own government and warned the public of the consequences of refusing to vaccinate.
Parson's skillful shifting of the blame on his own end of the political spectrum isn't quite as irresponsible as the behavior of Fox News or some of Parson's own elected Republicans. But the more their followers are encouraged to distrust solid information from mainstream sources, the more likely those followers are to embrace the barrage of dangerous lies from the right. The result is increased vaccination reluctance, followed by more deaths and hospitalizations due to the coronavirus.
Parson has not given a single specific example of the alleged propaganda that he believes these news organizations are distributing. If he has such examples, we listen to them. If not, he should heed his own advice from that press conference: "All you have to do is be honest."
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