It’s now been a year since the COVID-19 pandemic began, and light is finally appearing at the end of the tunnel, no doubt at least partly due to the takeover of the federal effort to coordinate the vaccination of the nation’s populace by the competent people in the Biden administration.
Yet, despite the extensive scientific studies conducted before the vaccine was allowed to be approved, there are still suspicious and superstitious people who refuse to support the one thing that could actually bring the pandemic to an end in a fairly rapid manner with much less death and destruction than we’d otherwise all have to suffer.
Unfortunately, one of those people has a large media platform from which he can continue to spread doubt about the safety and efficacy of the various COVID vaccines and help create a segment of the population that is increasingly wary of getting the shot that can not only prevent themselves from developing a life-threatening response to the coronavirus infection but can help halt its transmission to even more people.
You may have guessed already that the person being referred to is Tucker Carlson, the right-wing extremist and white supremacy-adjacent Fox News host, whose opinions on vaccination are likely inspired less by superstition and ignorance than by a cynical read of the marketplace of ideas that calculates the best financial and ratings return on investment for any given controversial issue.
Carlson was at it again last night as he bloviated on about the CDC and their recommendations for safe behavior once an individual has been fully vaccinated.
Fox News' conservative audience is much more hesitant to take the vaccine than the overall population. Its stars could be trying to solve that problem and save their viewers' lives. But they're doing this instead. https://t.co/5jyX75cOy9 https://t.co/sKs5B8V8Gl
— Matthew Gertz (@MattGertz) March 9, 2021
As Matthew Gertz, a Senior Fellow at watchdog group Media Matters for America, comments, in the face of one of the basic concepts of vaccination — that a vast majority of the population needs to be inoculated in order to win the fight against the rapidly mutating virus — Carlson and Fox News are actively working against the best interests of not only their viewers but of all Americans who will be adversely affected by the ravages of an uncontrolled pandemic.
While it’s difficult to attribute a direct tie, Carlson and Fox News’s rhetoric about the vaccines available in the U.S. closely mirrors the propaganda coming from Vladimir Putin’s Russia.
With Fox News at a critical juncture in its existence — assailed by falling ratings after being flanked on the right by even more extremist media outlets like OAN and Newsmax and losing its status as the virtual state media for the Trump administration — it seems to be adrift between its traditional impulses to hew to neo-fascist tropes and charting a new path forward for a different era.
Tucker Carlson’s past transgressions on his broadcast have already decimated the number of companies willing to risk their reputations by associating their brands with his through sponsorship, hurting Fox News’s bottom line in the crucial primetime hours, so a call for a further boycott of his advertisers can have only a limited effect.
Indeed, the only apparent solution that can halt the role of Fox News in attempting to damage the efforts of the Biden administration to successfully fight the pandemic — one that Donald Trump failed so spectacularly at dealing with — is to convince the company’s executives that it is in their best interests to reverse their editorial policies allowing the dissemination of false propaganda about vaccines.
Here are a couple of suggestions on how to do that:
In addition to making public your intention to boycott any company that buys advertising on the channel, call your local cable operator and urge them to stop carrying a channel that has long since violated its contractual obligation to provide actual news programming to their subscribers and replaced it with false and socially damaging opinion shows that are better characterized these days as poorly conceived parody and comedic entertainment.
In addition, barrage Fox News executives with your own opinions on their programming and urge them to remove Carlson, Hannity, and the other merchants of evil from their airwaves.
There is also the possibility of filing a billion-dollar civil lawsuit to use the same tactic that Dominion, the company behind the much-maligned voting software that the right-wing attacked in the wake of Donald Trump’s electoral failure, used to stop the broadcasting of malicious lies about the integrity of its machines voting tallies.
Lastly, call your representative and demand that the federal government reinstitutes the Fairness Doctrine that governed broadcasts until it was repealed in the Reagan era and required networks to give equal time to opposing viewpoints when reporting on controversial issues.
Hopefully, we can return to a time before the polarizing programming of Fox News divided the nation and enabled the election of such a colossal failure as Donald Trump. Unless Fox News and Tucker Carlson are de-fanged and rendered irrelevant, the risk of the ascendancy of another politician like Trump remains a grave danger to our nation.
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Vinnie Longobardo is a 35-year veteran of the TV, mobile & internet industries, specializing in start-ups and the international media business. His passions are politics, music and art.