Journalist Glenn Greenwald said in a Tuesday Twitter thread that there was one single moment that changed media coverage of the coronavirus pandemic — and that when it “flipped overnight,” it destroyed trust in media.
The death of George Floyd — at the hands of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin — and the massive protests it inspired prompted a near-180 turn from multiple media outlets that had just spent the previous weeks telling Americans that the only patriotic thing to do was stay home to stop the spread of the virus.
“This was a pivotal moment in the pandemic’s history,” Greenwald began. “For 4 months, the message was clear and unrelenting: everyone must stay home. Those who leave – even to go to a deserted beach – are reckless sociopaths. It flipped overnight to endorse a mass protest movement liberals liked.”
Greenwald shared a tweet from June of 2020, just days after video of Floyd’s arrest and subsequent murder went viral, showing the media pivot: “Now some public health experts are broadcasting a new message: It’s time to get out of the house and join the mass protests against racism,” Politico reported at the time.
“That episode single-handedly destroyed trust in public health officials, proving they’d politicize their expertise when convenient,” Greenwald continued, referencing experts who had joined media broadcasts to argue that systemic racism and police brutality posed greater health risks than the rapidly-spreading virus. “Corporate media celebrated a douchebag-lawyer shaming families at deserted beaches, then — overnight! — cheered densely packed street protests.”
Multiple outlets ran with the narrative that “structural racism” was more deadly to black Americans than COVID could ever be — even as others continued to complain that COVID appeared to impact communities of color more than it did primarily white communities.
And that, according to Greenwald, was precisely the narrative he was asked to support even as he was writing a breakdown of the media’s reversal on the issue.
“In June, I was drafting an article on this flagrantly politicized reversal of COVID messaging. When @theintercept editors learned this, they commissioned an article — for the same day — to argue racism, not COVID, was the greatest health crisis, so everyone *should* go protest,” he said.
“As usual, elite institutions — media, government, public health authorities — love to whine about the refusal of the public to trust their pronouncements, complaining people turn to other less credentialed and worthy sources,” Greenwald concluded. “But they *never* ask what they did to cause this.”
Greenwald ultimately left The Intercept — which he cofounded in 2013 — several months after the George Floyd protests began, saying that the outlet had censored his articles about Hunter Biden, “Resident” Joe Biden, and the resident’s past dealings with China and Ukraine.