At least someone in the Biden administration is willing to face the fact that America's children, actually, are not remotely all right. But it's really too little, too late.
In a 53-page report sounding the alarm about the mental health crisis among the nation's children exacerbated during the pandemic, Surgeon General Vivek Murthy attempts to ameliorate a disaster.
After two years of the public being gaslit with the absurd notion that "children are resilient," Murthy's report is a swing and a miss. Although he does blame the pandemic itself for worsening the existing crisis, he fails to specifically name and blame the school closures mandated by teachers unions and enabled by his own party as the main culprit.
Instead, he tries to spread the blame beyond the pandemic and the response to "the national reckoning over the deaths of Black Americans at the hands of police officers. ... COVID-related violence against Asian Americans; gun violence; an increasingly polarized political dialogue; growing concerns about climate change; and emotionally-charged misinformation" as "other challenges that may have affected [children's] mental and emotional wellbeing."
There is, however, one section that stands out. In a warning to the media, Murthy warns them to calm the hell down with their news coverage. Having correctly identified journalists as a catalyst for unnecessary panic, he writes: "Recognize the impact media coverage of negative events can have on the public’s mental health. The solution isn't to hide or downplay negative news, but rather to avoid misleading consumers, and to be more attentive to how stories are framed."
Per Murthy's recommendation, the press ought to avoid "language that shocks, provokes, or creates a sense of panic" and provide more context in stories, especially those based on preliminary research such as papers awaiting peer review.
"Particularly when covering pandemics, natural disasters, and incidents of mass violence," Murthy also urges journalists to include "positive messages and stories of hope and healing."
On all of these fronts, the overwhelming majority of the media is utterly failing. Their business model, after all, is to stoke panic and make things look much worse than they are when it comes to the pandemic, police shootings, anti-Asian violence, guns, political polarization, climate change, and "misinformation" — all factors that Murthy specifically cites as contributing causes to a mental health crisis.
Vaccinations are working, and the rates of COVID-19 hospitalization and death are on the decline, yet the media have kept the panic dialed to eleven. Hacks such as MSNBC's Joy Reid spent the presidency of Donald Trump claiming that we ought not trust any vaccine developed in tandem with his administration, and now, she runs outside while double-masked even though she's fully vaccinated. Even ostensibly serious organizations such as the New York Times have treated every new variant as if salivating over the prospect of returning to the hellscape of March 2020, when the spread of cases necessarily meant an increase in deaths. Among vaccinated populations, almost all the fears the media are stoking are misplaced.
Although the media was rightly outraged by the murder of George Floyd, its subsequent coverage directly fueled the race riots that followed. Jacob Blake, who unlike Floyd was armed and had a warrant out for his arrest for a violent crime against women, was instantly lionized by the media as the sainted victim of racist police brutality. The same media ignored Sen. Tim Scott's attempt to broker a bipartisan police reform bill, inadvertently letting a potential solution to racial injustice die in the Senate because the media are about showmanship, not substance.
Murthy fails to appreciate just how badly the media misled the public about the reason for violent hate crimes against Asian Americans. There was a game of pretend that Trump, by correctly blaming the Chinese Communist Party for the coronavirus, was the cause of the problem. Admitting the truth would give the press the permission to admit that we need to increase police budgets to stop such crimes, not to defund the police.
I could go on, but you get the point.
As the saying goes, "If it bleeds, it leads." The media fabricate their own narrative to foster maximal outrage and panic, resulting in maximal hopelessness. Journalists would be wise to stick to a few simple facts — vaccination is the ticket out of the pandemic, wait for all the evidence, climate change won't kill us all, and so on. Let's go back to basics rather than continue to terrorize children with constant messages of phony panic.