Monday, August 23, 2021


AP published a disturbing story yesterday about anti-mask, anti-vaccine violence and intimidation.
The Hawaii lieutenant governor watched in horror as protesters showed up outside his condo, yelled at him through bullhorns and beamed strobe lights into the building to harass him over vaccine requirements.

A parent in Northern California barged into his daughter’s elementary school and punched a teacher in the face over mask rules. At a school in Texas, a parent ripped a mask off a teacher’s face during a “Meet the Teacher” event.

A Missouri hospital leader was approached in a parking garage this week by a man from Alabama who handed him papers accusing him of “crimes against humanity,” and it was not the only in-your-face encounter over vaccines and masks. School board members, county commissioners, doctors and local leaders are regularly confronted at meetings and in public with angry taunts that compare them to the Taliban, Nazis, Marxists and the leaders of Japanese internment camps.

Across the country, anti-vaccine and anti-mask demonstrations are taking scary and violent turns, and educators, medical professionals and public figures have been stunned at the level at which they have been vilified for even stating their opinion. And they have been terrified over how far protesters will go in confronting leaders outside their homes and in their workplaces.
The story runs for 32 paragraphs -- 1,227 words. But the Republican Party is never mentioned. The right is never mentioned. The right-wing media is never mentioned. There's no mention of conservatism. Talk radio? Fox News? Newsmax? OANN? Invisible.

Everything is the fault of Facebook and YouTube.
Researchers, professors and political experts have varying opinions about how and why discourse seems to keep plunging to new lows over the pandemic, but many agree that social media is a big factor.

Barbara Rosenwein, professor emerita at Loyola University Chicago and author of “Anger: The Conflicted History of an Emotion,” said social media can make minority views look more like the majority. On the many social media platforms, people validate each other’s anger as being from a just and righteous place.

“Over time the possibility of feeling righteous anger has become democratized. Everybody feels almost obligated to feel it,” Rosenwein said. “That locks you into a position that will allow for no compromise, which is terrible for our country.”

That anger also makes it seem OK to buck authority such as teachers and government at a time of heightened culture wars on topics like education. Getting punished or even arrested might feel like “a badge of courage,” she said.
But nearly everyone is on social media, across the political spectrum, and there's nothing like this on the pro-mask, pro-vaccination side. Theoretically, our side could be harassing and intimidating vaccine refusers and anti-maskers. But we aren't.
“I don’t think these people are running into old-age homes and telling granny she better not get vaccinated,” Rosenwein said. “I think they’re telling the school teachers because teachers represent an elite that’s teaching their kids.”
You're so close, Professor Rosenwein. Who in America thinks teachers -- whose average salary is $63,645 a year -- are "elites"? Only the right thinks this way.

This is what Jay Rosen calls "view from nowhere" journalism. It avoids holding the right accountable in an effort to appear "impartial," even if "impartiality" means withholding key facts.

I have no doubt that social media alone would have been capable of fueling an anti-public-health movement during this pandemic. But the movement we have wouldn't be as powerful as it is if it didn't feed on the anti-liberal, anti-"elite" messaging the right has pumped out nonstop for years, starting long before the pandemic. And the movement wouldn't have the power it does if the Republican Party and its backers didn't see it as a turnout and contribution motivator.

The message of the harassers and intimidators isn't very different from the message of many Republican governors and Fox News hosts. Why do the authors of this AP story not consider that relevant?

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