For right-wing “news” outlets like Fox News, OAN, Newsmax and Breitbart, Christmas came early this year in the form of the Omicron variant of Covid-19. While The New York Times reports that Omicron Is Fast Moving, But Perhaps Less Severe, conservative media has quickly moved to use Omicron as another opportunity to indoctrinate its millions followers into the politics of grievance, resentment, and victimhood.
Look no further than Fox’s take that Dr. Anthony Fauci’s measured warnings about Omicron are doing Immeasurable Harm to the fragile American Economy. This view was recently summed up on-air by “The Five” co-host Katie Pavlich, who said: “They have not balanced any of this out and yet they continue to push this narrative of gloom and doom forever because they like power and can’t get themselves off of it and are willing to do whatever it takes to stay in power.”
Or, on Fox’s supposed “straight news” side, where America’s Newsroom co-anchor and noted spreader of baseless claims about vaccines, Bill Hemmer, spent part of the November 30th edition of the program reading aloud from a Wall Street Journal editorial which complained about vaccine mandates for hospital workers and attacked prominent Democratic officials.
Or there’s OAN, who previously promoted Ivermectin as a “Safe, Proven Drug Whish Has Saved Millions Around the World,” and described Covid-19 as “A Pandemic of Misinformation.” Here they’re sharing and re-sharing an interview between Christina Bobb, an OAN anchor, and one Dr. Shea Bradley-Farrell in which Dr. Bradley-Farrell suggests that anti-vaccine positions are morally equivalent to “My-Body-My-Choice,” again calls into question the effectiveness of vaccines, and echoes Laura Ingraham’s comparison of Europe’s vaccine response to Nazi Germany. Here’s Dr. Bradley-Farrell, in her own words, suggesting vaccines are equitable to natural immunity and blaming patients for weight and hereditary risk factors: “I think we have such a fear-based approach, and such an obsessive approach with vaccines, but doctors and medical reports are saying [natural] immunity can be just as good, or better. […] And also what about taking care of ourselves generally, you know, obesity has been linked to more severe cases of covid…”
Then, apparently following OAN’s lead, Newsmax jumped into the fray with an interview on “Eric Bolling: The Balance” between Bolling and Kansas Senator Roger Marshall, in which Bolling suggests that Middle America is somehow being persecuted by coastal elites, laments “Why are we still dealing with mask mandates, vaccine mandates” and, looking directly into the camera, suggests that since “…the communist mayor of New York City, Bill DeBlasio, has dictated that private businesses, all private business in New York, must be mandate their employees to get vaccinated, eventually it’ll get to Kansas.”
These attitudes toward Omicron, which plainly see Conservative grievances over mask mandates and vaccines as a gold mine of clicks and attention and ad-revenue, all mirror a common refrain from right-wing media: if it can happen in New York or California, it can happen to you. And yet there is little evidence to support that mask mandates in Los Angeles or New York City have any impact whatsoever on the lives or vaccination status of Middle Americans, except that for Fox, OAN and Newsmax, Omicron is a golden opportunity to churn up viewership, and resentment.