At the top of his prime time show Tuesday night, Tucker Carlson hyped a video featuring two California doctors who downplayed the threat of the coronavirus. The doctors, Dan Erickson and Artin Massihi, are the co-owners of an urgent care clinic in Bakersfield. They went viral in the last few days for delivering a presentation last week in which they suggested the mortality rate of Covid-19 is similar to the flu.
But Carlson promoted their claims anyway. In fact, the Fox News host argued that “what YouTube just did” by removing the video will be seen “as a turning point in the way we liven this country.” He declared that YouTube and Google “have now officially banned dissent.”
Over on MSNBC, at the same time Carlson was spotlighting the claims from the doctors, Chris Hayes was working to debunk them. Characterizing Fox News as comprised of “coronavirus truthers,” Hayes quoted University of Washington biologist Dr. Carl Bergstrom who said the doctors had “used methods that are ludicrous to get results that are completely implausible.” Hayes also highlighted the blatant hypocrisy in Fox’s top hosts calling for people to return to work when Fox’s own executives have instructed the network’s staff to work from home.
It was another perfect case study in the choose-your-own-news phenomenon that has come to define the media in the last few years. It’s not just that Hayes and Carlson were offering different viewpoints to their audiences. The two shows were mirror images of each other. What Carlson said, Hayes debunked. But, stuck in their bubble, Carlson’s audience will likely not see the information Hayes outlined.
Then versus now
Conservatives rage against YouTube
A large portion of Carlson’s opening monologue was aimed at skewering YouTube for removing the video featuring the California doctors. Positioned in front of a graphic that read “BIG TECH CENSORSHIP,” Carlson argued, “The only justification for taking it down was that the two physicians on screen had reached different conclusions from the people currently in charge. It was a form of dissent from orthodoxy.”
In a statement, YouTube said in part, “We quickly remove flagged content that violate our Community Guidelines, including content that explicitly disputes the efficacy of local healthy authority recommended guidance on social distancing that may lead others to act against that guidance….From the very beginning of the pandemic, we’ve had clear policies against COVID-19 misinformation and are committed to continue providing timely and helpful information at this critical time.”
Meanwhile, YouTube also being hammered from the left
YouTube told CNN Monday that it had taken down videos from conspiracy theorist George Webb’s YouTube channel targeting Maatje Benassi, the US Army reservist. Warned told CNN Tuesday, “This shouldn’t be something that requires attention from a major news network and a U.S. Senator to fix.”
“It’s clear that the blanket grant of immunity for sites like YouTube has resulted in platforms that are too big and unresponsive to the harms they promote,” he added, saying Congress need to act. YouTube said it will continue monitoring Webb’s YouTube channel.