Stelter Decries Media ‘Doomsday Doctors’ Spreading COVID ‘Panic Porn’


With President Biden failing to “shut down” COVID-19, the public rejecting their lockdown forever pipedream, and the midterm election coming up, the liberal media have begun to transition their messaging to make people think they’re on their side. Hence Sunday’s Reliable Sources where CNN media apologist Brian Stelter was decrying “doomsday doctors” in the media for spreading “panic porn.”

Stelter started his B-block talking about “the media and mental health” in that “91 percent Democrats and 80 percent of Republicans agree that there is a mental health crisis in the United States” because of “the madness of COVID.”

After commending “many doctors” for “doing an amazing juggling act,” he worried about what “we’re also potentially seeing and hearing from doomsday doctors who push people toward even more fear, anxiety, and depression.”

I think this is obviously really nuanced. But is there an undue amount of fear being spread, especially in those Twitter threads and Facebook posts and in corners of cable TV where it feels like COVID zero is the only goal,” he added. “COVID zero, of course, the idea that you can completely eliminate COVID from the environment, which is an impossibility.”

And although he suggested he’s “not trying to call out anybody in particular,” we all know the doctors he’s talking about, doctors like Peter Hotez, Vin Gupta, and Leana Wen to name a few.

His first guest was practicing internist and health care educator Dr. Lucy McBride who he asked to take on the “doomsday doctors.” McBride took the doctors to task for preying on and over energizing peoples’ anxieties.

“Fear does harm. It only makes people afraid. It doesn’t affect people’s decisions,” she said. “So, when I’m on Twitter or right now with you, I’m trying to help people understand that, look, your risk for COVID is as different as someone else’s. And revving the emotional engines of people’s anxiety only does harm.”

For the follow-up question, Stelter wanted her to share the examples of “panic porn” she’s witnessed from other doctors (Click “expand”):

STELTER: What’s a specific example of that kind of fear, that panic porn that you’ve seen recently?

MCBRIDE: Well, there are a lot of doctors who are talking about, you know, “what if your child ends up in the IC, and then you die and from the same COVID infection, and then you’re parentless?” That’s just, in my opinion, not helpful.

(…)

But if doctors and public health officials don’t check their own anxieties, their own fears, and take a moment to reflect on how they are messaging and how they are potentially doing harm by, again, sharing fear-based messaging, then we really, really should take a break. Because, look, doctors are people too. We’re seeing a mental health crisis among healthcare providers as well.

Up next of was Stelter’s lackey Oliver Darcy to criticize the media for being stuck in their own bubble:

Stelter went on to say the CDC had become a literal “punchline” because they were experiencing a “huge credibility crisis.” To which, Darcy noted that no one was following the truly ludicrous suggestions for holiday gatherings, thus “we need to be maybe coming up with realistic solutions and advice to the general public when talking about COVID.”

Up until recently, the liberal media would try to get you kicked out of society if you were to question or criticize anyone in the medical profession. But they have a midterm election to win now.

This sudden, yet predictive, narrative change was made possible because of lucrative sponsorships from Procter & Gamble and Safelite. Their contact information is linked.

CNN’s Reliable Sources
January 9, 2022
11:14:51 a.m. Eastern

BRIAN STELTER: All right. Now to the media and mental health. Pollsters at Suffolk University have found something that crosses all of America’s partisan lines. And that something is mental health stress.

91 percent Democrats and 80 percent of Republicans agree that there is a mental health crisis in the United States. Researcher David Paleologos says this new poll, quote, “tells a story of despair felt by Americans who just don’t know when the madness of COVID will end.” The madness of COVID.

Now, there’s a segment of Americans who tuned out the pandemic a while ago. They dropped the masks, they moved on, despite entreaties from public health officials. Some of them are unvaccinated and at high risk right now due to Omicron.

But I want to focus on the other segment of Americans, those who are vaccinated, who are paying attention to the pandemic and are hearing about Omicron and school closures and testing troubles and all the rest. This moment in the pandemic is really complicated because a mostly mild variant is still bringing hospitals to the brink of capacity and care. And a lot of people are confused about what to do and about what to believe.

Now, many doctors are doing an amazing juggling act given these circumstances. And, yet, I think we’re also potentially seeing and hearing from doomsday doctors who push people toward even more fear, anxiety, and depression.

I’m not trying to call out anybody in particular. I think this is obviously really nuanced. But is there an undue amount of fear being spread, especially in those Twitter threads and Facebook posts and in corners of cable TV where it feels like COVID zero is the only goal?

COVID zero, of course, the idea that you can completely eliminate COVID from the environment, which is an impossibility.

My next guest is a practicing internist in Washington. She’s been calling out at medical pros who potentially are fear-mongering. Her name is Dr. Lucy McBride and she’s with me now.

Also here, CNN’s Oliver Darcy.

Thank you both for coming in.

Dr. McBride, doomsday doctors is an inflammatory term, I want to be careful about it. But I want to know what you’re seeing firsthand. You treat patients, they come in, they ask you about COVID. What are you hearing? What are seeing personally?

DR. LUCY MCBRIDE: So, as you just opened with, Brian, this is a parallel pandemic of mental health in crisis. You know, we are bathing in fear. People have been worried and panicked necessarily because of the threat of COVID-19, which is absolutely real and present.

That said, those of us in the medical profession, particularly those of us who are patient-facing, who help people every day understand their unique vulnerabilities for disease, whether it’s from COVID or cancer. We have an obligation to help people frame risk, to deliver fact-based nuanced information. Fear does harm. It only makes people afraid. It doesn’t affect people’s decisions.

So, when I’m on Twitter or right now with you, I’m trying to help people understand that, look, your risk for COVID is as different as someone else’s. And revving the emotional engines of people’s anxiety only does harm.

STELTER: What’s a specific example of that kind of fear, that panic porn that you’ve seen recently?

MCBRIDE: Well, there are a lot of doctors who are talking about, you know, “what if your child ends up in the IC, and then you die and from the same COVID infection and then you’re parentless?” That’s just, in my opinion, not helpful.

Now, let me just say this — I don’t ascribe ill intent to these doctors. I think most physicians went into medicine to help people. I think a lot of physicians themselves are anxious, and themselves are trying to offset their own anxiety by broadcasting to a wider public the anxiety that’s in the air.

But if doctors and public health officials don’t check their own anxieties, their own fears and take a moment to reflect on how they are messaging and how they are potentially doing harm by, again, sharing fear-based messaging, then we really, really should take a break. Because, look, doctors are people too. We’re seeing a mental health crisis among healthcare providers as well.

We are human, it’s normal to feel anxious, it’s normal to want to share our stress with others. But when it’s affecting people’s everyday behaviors and affecting the way they feel and their decisions. You know, fear isn’t motivating. Fear just makes people afraid.

For me to motivate someone to get a vaccine, to try to lose weight, to reduce the risk for COVID, for example, I don’t say if you don’t lose weight you’re going to get COVID and die or if you don’t lose weight you’re going to have a heart attack or stroke. I try to help with giving them knowledge, giving them tools, giving them information so that they can take that home with them and engage in productive, nuanced behaviors that help them with their unique risk.

STELTER: Right.

Oliver, you’ve been writing about some of this in the Reliable Sources newsletter. Here’s a big overly broad question for you. Is the media at this point out of touch with the public about COVID?

OLIVER DARCY: I think it’s hard to argue that — you know, the media is a large group of people, but a lot of the media does seem – when I look at it and travel the country – to be very out of touch with people. I mean, if you travel the country, people are not really living in the same bubble that it seems that most of the media is messaging toward.

STELTER: Right.

DARCY: And so — and, so, I think this is an issue because if people are tuning out what’s going on in cable news, if we’re not messaging toward the general population, they’re just ignoring everything and living their lives, and we’re not really getting the information that they need to them.

STELTER: Here’s a great example, I think of how to cover this moment in time. Here’s the Today show. Here’s Savannah Guthrie interviewing the CDC director, being very much in touch with the public recognizing the CDC has turned into a punch line. It is so sad but it’s true. The CDC has turned into a punch line.

Watch.

[Cuts to video]

SAVANNAH GUTHRIE: All of this mixed messages or new messages has led to a meme on social media poking fun at the CDC’s advice, tweets like, CDC now recommends eating straight off the floor at Waffle House. The CDC now says it’s in fact okay to eat Tide Pods. The CDC says go ahead and get bangs.

You know, it’s amusing, people letting off steam, of course. But is there a larger credibility problem with your agency right now?

[Cuts back to live]

STELTER: And the answer is yes, there’s a huge credibility crisis for the CDC. And, Oliver, to your point, it just causes people, if they hear all these mixed messages and all its confusion, it’s all too complicated, they just move on and ignore it.

DARCY: That’s exactly right. And we are supposed to be getting information, I think, to these people.

And, so, when we are messaging toward a very small group of people maybe who are taking the pandemic far more seriously than the average person, I think we’re not doing our job as effectively as we should be doing. And I think we need to generalize the message.

I mean, there are a lot of, for instance, stories ahead of Thanksgiving and the holidays saying — advising people to take all these precautions. It’s not that it’s bad to take those precautions, but it just felt like when I was reading it and talking to other people, nope, people are not reading these articles and doing every step in the playbook.

And we need to be maybe coming up with realistic solutions and advice to the general public when talking about COVID.

STELTER: Meet viewers where they are, meet readers where they are, and people are in a wide array of places now when it comes to risk assessment.

Dr. McBride, just have a few seconds. The reality about learning to live with COVID, we have to focus on the living part.

MCBRIDE: We have to learn how to live with COVID, which is not equivalent to saying let it rip, don’t protect the vulnerable. We absolutely need to do everything we can to protect the vulnerable. But remember, Brian, vulnerability means many things, it can be a vulnerability to depression and isolation, it can also be a vulnerability to COVID-19.

STELTER: Right. Absolutely.

MCBRIDE: We need to be broad in our messaging and inclusive and honest.

STELTER: Dr. McBride, thank you. Oliver, please stick around.



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