I basically gave up on watching local television news early in the virus panic. I previously referred to the local newscasts as “The Giggle News” due to the typical on-air banter. We used to joke about the nightly lead story of “Breaking News” from an area suburb, where there always seemed to be a shooting or policing event. But with the virus coverage, I finally quit watching for the most part. We might tune it to the news to check the weather at a quarter past the hour, but simply don’t care about big hard-hitting stories about the staff at The Daisy Hill Puppy Farm knitting hundreds of masks to donate. I don’t care about people howling or barking at a particular time each evening to supposedly recognize medical professionals, presumably those treating virus cases and not the ones who were idled by the imposed shutdown. I don’t care about pandering newscasters observing social distancing by sitting on opposite sides of the set, or people doing their segment from home.
Long ago I gave up on the broadcast network national news broadcasts, regarding them as generally Leftist propaganda, watching only occasionally when there might be a major disaster or weather event such as a hurricane. I continue to receive the local daily newspaper, noting the sources for articles, picking and choosing what to read, sometimes little of it, sometimes when I’m in the mood for “opposition research” reading more of it. Nevertheless, looking at a variety of sources, I consider myself well informed, just careful and thoughtful of what I might accept as fact.
Just as in matters of faith, understanding culture and current events requires discernment. Check sources and evidence. Look at and analyze source data. Not everything in a newscast or the newspaper is true. The internet is full of “fake news.” Analyze. Consider data carefully. Even good and correct facts can lead to incorrect conclusions when the facts are considered out of context and out of the context of other data. The human-caused climate change debate is famous for this.
Throughout recent months, induced fear has been everywhere in our society. The run on products like toilet paper and other consumer staples showed the widespread fear. Recently I was on the road over Loveland Pass, at an elevation of nearly 12,000 feet. At a parking area, few people were around, on a sunny day, with some wind blowing as it always does there, I noticed two little girls, perhaps early elementary age, get out of a car. Both had on masks. Statistically, the coronavirus does not affect children, adolescents, or young adults (yes, there are exceptions). Not my business, they are free to wear masks, but I noted that they would have had to make an effort to get within 10 feet of anyone. While there, well away from others of course, I sneezed without so much as raising my hand or arm to my face, just for the sheer joy of it. I’m tired of the whole distancing thing.
People have lost businesses and jobs in the shutdown, others have lost educational opportunities, others have suffered postponement of needed medical procedures. Economic loss and financial disaster are all too real. The recent civil unrest and riots have arguably been as bad or worse than the virus shutdown. Fear – legitimate fear – is everywhere. Fear for the life and health of loved ones. The fear for one’s own life, health, and well-being. The fear of the early-stage dementia patient, seeing no one except a staff person or two in a mask and medical garb. The anxiety of an aging person unable to visit with anyone face to face.
“Cases” (positive tests). “Outbreaks” (two or more positive tests in a facility, group, or place of employment). An athlete or celebrity tests positive for the virus; not actually ill, just a positive test. “Surge.” “Spike.” “Emergency.” Somber tones. Mass death. Panic. Despair. Be afraid. But maybe some fears are induced, overblown, and unnecessary.
A few weeks ago, I ran across an article by Karin Wahl-Jorgensen, a journalism professor at Cardiff University (referenced in the monthly devotional booklet “Turning Points” from David Jeremiah’s organization). The article is titled “Feeling Panicked About Coronavirus? Media Coverage of New Epidemics Often Stokes Unnecessary Fear.” In the piece the author writes,
“New contagious diseases are scary. They frighten us because they’re unknown and unpredictable. The ongoing outbreak of the novel coronvirus COVID-19 has received extensive media attention — coverage that can tell us a lot about how uncertainty in the face of such an epidemic can all too easily breed fear.
For about a decade, I’ve been studying the role of emotions in journalism, including in the coverage of disasters and crises. Media coverage is vital to our shared conversations and plays a key role in regulating our emotions, including fear. While fear is an emotion that we frequently experience as individuals, it can also be a shared and social emotion — one that circulates through groups and communities and shapes our reactions to ongoing events. Like other emotions, fear is contagious and can spread swiftly.
Media coverage sets the agenda for public debate. While the news doesn’t necessarily tell us what to think, it tells us what to think about. In doing so, the news signals what issues merit our attention. Research has consistently shown that when issues receive extensive media coverage and are prominent in the news agenda, they also come to be seen as more important by members of the public.”
“Research on coverage of earlier disease outbreaks show a similar emphasis on fear. In the case of the SARS epidemic in 2003, a study by historian Patrick Wallis and linguist Brigitte Nerlich found that “the main conceptual metaphor used was SARS as a killer.” Along the same lines, media scholars Peter Vasterman and Nel Ruigrok examined coverage of the H1N1 epidemic in the Netherlands and found that it was marked by the “alarming” tone of its coverage. Like the coronavirus, these historical outbreaks were characterized by uncertainty, breeding fear and panic.
To put these observations into perspective, it is instructive to compare them with coverage of seasonal influenza, which is estimated by the World Health Organization to kill 290,000 to 650,000 people around the world every year. Since January 12, 2020, world newspapers have published just 488 articles on the seasonal flu without also mentioning coronavirus. In sharp contrast to coverage of this novel coronavirus, fewer than 1 in 10 stories about flu (37 of 488) mentioned “fear” or similar words or phrases.
The prominence of fear as a theme in reports of the coronavirus suggests that much of the outbreak’s coverage is more of a reflection of public fear than informative of what’s actually happening in terms of the spread of the virus. Franklin Roosevelt probably overstated the case when he famously said that “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” But at a time rife with misinformation, fake news, and conspiracy theories, it’s worth remaining alert to the dangers of this contagious emotion in the face of uncertainty.” *
In Hebrews 12:27-29, Paul wrote,
“Now this, “Yet once more,” indicates the removal of those things that are being shaken, as of things that are made, that the things which cannot be shaken may remain. Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us have grace, by which we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear.”
Commenting on this passage, Charles Spurgeon (updated by Alistair Begg) in his “Morning and Evening” devotional, wrote,
“We have many things in our possession at the present moment that can be shaken, and it is not good for a Christian to rely upon them, for there is nothing stable beneath these rolling skies; change is written upon all things. Yet we have certain “things that cannot be shaken,” and I invite you this evening to think of them—that if the things that can be shaken should all be taken away, you may derive real comfort from the things that cannot be shaken and that will remain. Whatever your losses have been, or may be, you enjoy present salvation.
You are standing at the foot of Christ’s cross, trusting alone in the merit of His precious blood, and no rise or fall of the markets can interfere with your salvation in Him; no breaking of banks, no failures and bankruptcies can touch that. Then you are a child of God this evening. God is your Father. No change of circumstances can ever rob you of that. Even if by loss you are brought to poverty and stripped bare, you can still say, “He is still my Father. In my Father’s house are many rooms; therefore I will not be troubled.” You have another permanent blessing, namely, the love of Jesus Christ. He who is God and man loves you with all the strength of His affectionate nature—nothing can affect that. The fig tree may not blossom, and the flocks may dwindle and wander from the field, but it does not matter to the man who can sing, “My Beloved is mine, and I am His.” Our best portion and richest heritage we cannot lose.
Whatever troubles come, let us play the man; let us show that we are not like little children cast down by what happens to us in this poor fleeting state of time. Our country is Immanuel’s land, our hope is fixed in heaven, and therefore, calm as the summer’s ocean, we will see the wreck of everything earthborn and yet rejoice in the God of our salvation.”
David the Psalmist wrote, in Psalm 37,
Do not fret (worry) because of evildoers,
Nor be envious of the workers of iniquity.
For they shall soon be cut down like the grass,
And wither as the green herb.
Trust in the Lord, and do good;
Dwell in the land, and feed on His faithfulness.
Delight yourself also in the Lord,
And He shall give you the desires of your heart.
Commit your way to the Lord,
Trust also in Him,
And He shall bring it to pass.
He shall bring forth your righteousness as the light,
And your justice as the noonday.
Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for Him;
Do not fret because of him who prospers in his way,
Because of the man who brings wicked schemes to pass.
Cease from anger, and forsake wrath;
Do not fret—it only causes harm.
Do not despair because of evildoers – racists, rioters, Marxists, destroyers. Do not worry because of diseases, disasters, disappointments. Do not worry – it only causes harm.
Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for Him.