Many mainstream outlets recently ran a fake news story about hospitals in rural Oklahoma being overrun by people overdosing on Ivermectin. The hospitals were indeed crowded, but there was no evidence, beyond the twisted testimony of one doctor, suggesting it was because of ignorant bumpkins ingesting horse dewormer.
Commenting on this story in The Federalist, Rachel Bovard points out how these journalistic mistakes consistently fall in one direction — against conservatives —and how the correction so many days or weeks later is buried behind other headlines. Also, as Bovard notes, it is clear that corporate media are “using their platform[s] as an advocacy tool for their ideological goals.” Even if the instance in question isn’t factually true, it is “morally right,” as Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez notoriously said.
So what’s the narrative in this case? That conservatives are dumb and oppose science. They would rather take a drug intended for horses or cleaning aquariums than the vaccines developed by America’s greatest pharmaceutical experts.
But why perpetuate this narrative? What’s the goal? Even if it might be true (it isn’t), how does it benefit anyone to call half the country a bunch of morons? Will this really change their ways and help them become more progressive (as it’s satirically depicted in the show “South Park,” where the residents are shamed into building a Whole Foods in their small town), or will it simply push so many Americans away from public discourse? Do the people who push these narratives even care one way or the other how people respond?
Obviously, there’s tribalism at work in which one group vilifies and ridicules the rival to dominate them. There’s a great deal of satisfaction in “owning” or “dunking on” the other side. It makes for good entertainment and it creates a sense of belonging. Life may be bad, but it could be worse: you could be one of the idiots in Oklahoma overdosing on Ivermectin.
However, underneath this tribalism, there seems to be some genuine insecurity. In most cases, bullies resort to this kind of name-calling, scapegoating, and false narratives to make up for something lacking in themselves. After all, if they were confident in their ideas and in their ability to carry out those ideas, they would simply speak the truth and not feel the need to mock their rivals.