Whither, journalistic integrity?

Of late I have been increasingly incensed with the way the so-called "newspaper of record" around here, El País, has been acting as though its greatest aspiration was to devolve into a sensationalist tabloid. Headlines are laden with emotional trigger words, people are told to be afraid, faceless "experts" act as harbingers of some ill-defined doom.

I’m talking about Covid, obviously, which appears to be the favorite topic of said newspaper as well. Like parents who have lost the ability to sustain conversation about any topic other than their offspring, journalists at El País seem to have forgotten what it is to write about anything except the imminent destruction of civilization at the hands of an indomitable virus. I can almost see glimmering relish in their eyes, a cloudy bead of drool forming at the corners of a mouth, as a new word enters the lexicon of the pandemic — Omicron — and they start to blandish it, mouth-breathingly hunched over their laptops in their work-from-home writing dens (AKA, "kitchens"). I wonder whether they feel any shame when they look at themselves in the mirror.

Despite the baffling incoherence of it all, despite the ready availability of highly reliable data (actual death counts), the fear-mongering seems to be working. These "journalists" tell us that we should be afraid of Omicron, deathly afraid, precisely because it is so benign. It presents much like a common cold, they scream, voices trembling, waving their hands above their wild-haired heads and gnashing their teeth. Tapping an eager roster of credential-wielding "experts" keen to have their measured opinions disseminated to the masses, we learn that apparently nobody knows whether we should be worried about Omicron, and therefore we should be very worried indeed. Evidence suggests it is simultaneously strikingly more contagious, and much less lethal, so we should be shitting ourselves about this thing. Don’t you see? It looks relatively inoffensive — but that’s exactly what the virus wants you to think. Don’t fall for it! It’s a trap! Trust us… shit is getting real now. If "Delta" sounded like the end-game boss in a video game, "Omicron" is the much bigger and meaner boss from the sequel: a total and utter bad-ass, and not in a good way. In fact, forget I even said video game, because that makes it sound fun — Omicron is not fun, unless you consider stuff like infant bone cancer to be "fun".

Our politicians obediently take the cue, and have to be seen doing something. In the case of Spain, that means making masks obligatory everywhere. Again. That means wearing a mask when you are walking, alone in the street, with nobody around[1]. Even said "newspaper of record" begrudgingly quotes faceless "experts" on the dubious efficacy of such a measure. Political enemies gleefully rub their hands together as such an undeserved and unexpected gift: yet another unforced error handed to them on a platter by the government itself.

So yeah, I am kind of sick of all this. It’s hard to continue giving a fuck when so much evidence points to this being massively overblown by a media sector, a political class, and a set of bureaucratic organs that have been given a lease of tremendous relevance by a pandemic that nobody wanted, and few want to see continuing on for years.

  1. Feel free to make your mask off as soon as you cross the threshold of the local bar or restaurant though. As Agent Smith said to Neo in the original Matrix movie, "Tell me, Mr Anderson, what good is a mouth, if you’re unable to eat?" (or something like that)… ↩︎