Right-wing media are brainwashing their followers about vaccines, but the mainstream press won’t cover the story

Republicans used to support vaccinations more than Democrats, but the mainstream media won’t explore this story
A protester against hospital employee Covid-19 vaccination requirements holds an upside-down sign opposing them. Wake Forest, NC, August 10, 2021. Photo: Anthony Crider/Flickr

First published at Press Run

National Public Radio relayed more shocking Covid news last month: “In 2020, for the first time in recorded history, more people died in Alabama than were born in the state.” The pandemic has shrunk the red state. Yet local Republican leaders still oppose mask and vaccine mandates, leaving the Trump outpost exposed to more fatalities.

But like so many news outlets, NPR missed the real story. The pile of Alabama deaths continue to mount not simply because of Covid. But because so many people in the Trump-friendly state have been brainwashed by bad-faith partisan actors and they refuse to get inoculated. Anti-science Republicans seem determined to spread the virus among their own voters, which seems inconceivable.

Millions of conservative Americans are being brainwashed about the pandemic, and thousands are killing themselves in the process. Yet the media downplay the huge story, framing it simply as “vaccine hesitancy.”

The number of Americans who are dying every 36 hours from Covid now surpasses the total number of U.S. soldiers who were killed during 20 years of fighting in Afghanistan. It’s an entirely preventable crisis, yet it rages because we have people like the red state restaurant owner who is kicking out patrons if they refuse to take off their masks. It’s pure nihilism.

The mindless behavior is hard to describe, and the rest of the world must be looking on in slack-jawed astonishment as Trump voters lead a mad movement powered by Fox News. The network is doing what no other outlet has done in the history of television news — it’s deliberately getting people killed during a public health crisis by feeding eagerly gullible red state viewers a mountain of lies.

From PizzaGate, to QAnon, to the current anti-vaccine and anti-mask hysteria, the GOP has been brainwashed. It’s no secret — lots of victims openly admit it. Still, the press shies away, nervous about offending conservatives by portraying them as mindless zombies being easily duped about a miraculously safe and effective vaccine. (It’s the same reason news outlets refused to call Trump a “liar.”)


Instead of calling out the Covid zombies, the press coddles them, especially white, Southern ones, depicting them as merely “vaccine hesitant,” “vaccine-reluctant,” or “vaccine skeptics.”

A recent Wall Street Journal report on a deadly Covid surge in West Virginia driven entirely by the unvaccinated noted, “Early on, the state excelled at vaccinating people in nursing homes and others who were eager to get the shot, but then it ran into a roadblock of hesitant people, state officials say.”  [Emphasis added.]

West Virginia “ran into a roadbloack of hesitant people,” the newspaper reported, and that was it; the Journal delved no further into the how or the why. Fact: The unvaccinated phenomenon in America represents the story of Covid today. But the press tip-toes around it, pretending it’s normal for millions of Americans to risk death by refusing to take a vaccine that’s been administered billions of times worldwide.

Within the media, there’s lots of tsk-tsking commentary about vaccine “misinformation.” But the press continues to look away from the consequences of mass brainwashing —millions of Americans believe the vaccine is more dangerous than the virus. And they’re lashing out in public, staging deranged acts of civil disobedience, often inside restaurants and at local school board meetings, where the white-rage screaming and name-calling commences.

The New York Times reported on the deadly surge in yet another red state, Tennessee, and how the governor there is fighting vaccine mandates even as Tennessee reports more new coronavirus cases, relative to its population, than any other state in the country. “Officials said that Gov. Bill Lee, a Republican, was politically constrained by a deeply conservative legislature and a political base that became more uncompromising during the pandemic,” the Times reported.

That’s the weird, passive language the paper used for describing brainwashing — for the people in Tennessee who have developed an irrational opposition to the vaccine.

Reporting on the surge of monoclonal antibody treatments for MAGA Covid patients, the Times recently announced, “Vaccine-resistant Americans are turning to the treatment with a zeal that has, at times, mystified their doctors,”

That description is a joke because it suggests there’s thoughtful, fact-based analysis involved. It also ignores the fact virtually none of these people opposed prior vaccines, including the many shots all their young children need in order to enroll in public school. They didn’t oppose vaccines until a Democratic president urged them to take the Covid inoculation. (Twenty years ago, Republicans were more likely to believe in the safety of vaccines than Democrats were.)

Idiocy, of course, now defines the brainwash movement on the right. At Breitbart, John Nolte announced that pro-vaccine leaders like Joe Biden, Nancy Pelosi and Dr. Anthony Fauci actually don’t want conservatives to get vaccinated because they want conservatives to die off. So how do Biden, Pelosi, and Fauci make sure Republicans remain unvaccinated? By pleading with everyone to get inoculated.

“The push for mandates is another ploy to get us to dig in and not do what’s best for ourselves because no one wants to feel like they’re caving to a mandate,” wrote Nolte. “Nothing else makes sense to me,” he noted, without an ounce of self-awareness.

Brainwashing isn’t typically a topic that’s covered when dissecting mainstream American politics. Sadly, it needs to be. And fast.