Yesterday I was perusing the newsstand at my local supermarket, and a headline on the front page of the New York Times caught my eye.
“Covid politics walloping red America,” it read. The article was about high rates of Covid cases, hospitalizations, and deaths in conservative-leaning states.
This headline is biased for a couple of reasons:
First of all, Covid politics are not walloping anyone… Covid is. It is clear from the article that by “Covid politics,” the Times means people’s decisions to refrain from protective measures such as vaccines, mask-wearing, and social distancing, or governments’ decisions to refrain from making these measures mandatory. Such measures do, to some extent, prevent people from catching the virus and/or getting sick. But that doesn’t mean that refraining from these things causes people to catch the virus and get sick. The virus itself causes this. Failing to prevent something does not equal causing it.
Second, it makes no more sense to characterize a lack of Covid restrictions as “Covid politics” than it does to characterize the enactment of restrictions as “Covid politics.” Several different definitions of “politics” are listed on Dicionary.com, but they pretty much all have to do with the science and art of government, or beliefs and opinions about government. Debates about which actions, if any, governments should take in response to the Covid pandemic are inherently a political topic. Some people hold political beliefs that emphasize safety and the common good; these people generally support the imposition of restrictions and mandates with the aim of combatting the pandemic. Other people hold political beliefs that emphasize individual rights and liberty; these people generally oppose restrictions and mandates because they believe that respecting rights and allowing people the maximum amount of freedom is more important than combatting the pandemic. So why is the Times equating the latter type of ideology with “politics” but not the former? Refraining from getting the Covid vaccine is not “politics” any more than getting the vaccine is politics. Respecting individual rights, and refraining from forcing people to get the vaccine, is not “politics” any more than forcing people to get the vaccine is politics. If anything, it is more appropriate to characterize the decision to impose restrictions and mandates as “politics,” because this is a decision that actively interferes with people’s lives, as opposed to simply leaving people alone.
In short, this headline is just another example of the New York Times presuming that its belief in a powerful government that controls people’s lives and tramples on individual liberty for the sake of the common good is the only possible legitimate belief. The Times does not even appear to consider the possibility that people might genuinely hold alternative views. Anyone who thinks or acts differently from them, the Times assumes, is just playing politics.