From a National Public Radio host:
We have said the words grim milestone so many times over the past eight months on this program, and yet here we are once more. The number this time—250,000. . . . Each digit in that number, a life now gone, their loved ones now grieving. The collective loss is hard to measure.
From a NPR Reporter:
You know, Rachel, each of these terrible new milestones is so big they can start to feel incomprehensible. So I’ve been struggling to find a way to put such a terrible tragedy into some kind of context. It’s hard. But 250,000 deaths is about five times the number of U.S. troops killed in combat in Vietnam. It’s nearly five times the number of Americans who died in combat in World War I.
The WSJ’s Holman Jenkins has thankfully spared readers the full version (along with the dramatic intonation) that NPR apparently now requires of its on-air performers. NPR’s aim is not informational content. Instead it’s seems to be somebody’s idea of how to extort the appropriate emotional response from listeners.
And yet the question that started this discussion could have been answered in another way more befitting a news organization, continues Mr. Jenkins.
250,000 Deaths from COVID:
- 9% more than the estimated U.S. death toll from the 1957 flu, adjusted for population
- 34% larger than the death toll from the 1968 flu
- one-fifth the number of deaths from the 1918 pandemic
Covid-19 has nothing to do with the Vietnam War. It is nothing like World War I. It’s not even like heart disease, which kills an estimated 655,000 Americans a year and will likely continue doing so for the foreseeable future.
Covid-19 is a completely different phenomenon of its own. Why not say so?
In reality COVID deaths going from 249,999 to 250,000 is a largely meaningless milestone and the hoariest kind of fake news. When deaths hit 200,000, listeners could already figure out how many more would make 250,000. Many also knew, unmentioned in NPR’s sermon which likened the daily death toll to several jumbo jet crashes, that most of these deaths are from COVID plus other conditions that afflict the old and chronically ill. Still, the 250,000 milestone was the most reported factoid everywhere on Thursday and Friday.
In our interesting times, sadly, what is most noticeable is the shrill, hoarse wind of banality that blows from our multibillion-dollar media industry.
A contrast last week was a concise insight from a hospital executive buried in a long New Yorker article: “The only way you can eradicate the virus with today’s tools is if you’re a totalitarian government or on an island.”
Mr. Jenkins acknowledges he has doubts about totalitarian governments.
In Western Europe, where neither condition applies, deaths last week were running 75% higher than in the U.S. on a population-adjusted basis. New infections were also registering a sharp downturn as citizens responded to this feedback.
As in the past, we’re likely to find individual choices to curb transmission preceded the partial lockdown measures now being implemented. Free societies do not have the advantage in every instance, but their strength is free flow of information and individual responsibility even when that information flows with less value-added from the media than it should.
Perhaps Americans get need to wear earplugs instead of masks.