“Wow, Financial Times editorial today. ‘Radical reforms — reversing the policy direction of the last four decades — will need to be put on the table. (…) Policies until recently considered eccentric, such as basic income and wealth taxes, will have to be in the mix.'”
Virus lays bare the frailty of the social contract
Radical reforms are required to forge a society that will work for all
If there is a silver lining to the Covid-19 pandemic, it is that it has injected a sense of togetherness into polarised societies. But the virus, and the economic lockdowns needed to combat it, also shine a glaring light on existing inequalities — and even create new ones. Beyond defeating the disease, the great test all countries will soon face is whether current feelings of common purpose will shape society after the crisis. As western leaders learnt in the Great Depression, and after the second world war, to demand collective sacrifice you must offer a social contract that benefits everyone.
Today’s crisis is laying bare how far many rich societies fall short of this ideal. Much as the struggle to contain the pandemic has exposed the unpreparedness of health systems, so the brittleness of many countries’ economies has been exposed, as governments scramble to stave off mass bankruptcies and cope with mass unemployment. Despite inspirational calls for national mobilisation, we are not really all in this together.
The economic lockdowns are imposing the greatest cost on those already worst off. Overnight millions of jobs and livelihoods have been lost in hospitality, leisure and related sectors, while better paid knowledge workers often face only the nuisance of working from home. Worse, those in low-wage jobs who can still work are often risking their lives — as carers and healthcare support workers, but also as shelf stackers, delivery drivers and cleaners.
Governments’ extraordinary budget support for the economy, while necessary, will in some ways make matters worse. Countries that have allowed the emergence of an irregular and precarious labour market are finding it particularly hard to channel financial help to workers with such insecure employment. Meanwhile, vast monetary loosening by central banks will help the asset-rich. Behind it all, underfunded public services are creaking under the burden of applying crisis policies.
The way we wage war on the virus benefits some at the expense of others. The victims of Covid-19 are overwhelmingly the old. But the biggest victims of the lockdowns are the young and active, who are asked to suspend their education and forgo precious income. Sacrifices are inevitable, but every society must demonstrate how it will offer restitution to those who bear the heaviest burden of national efforts.
Radical reforms — reversing the prevailing policy direction of the last four decades — will need to be put on the table. Governments will have to accept a more active role in the economy. They must see public services as investments rather than liabilities, and look for ways to make labour markets less insecure. Redistribution will again be on the agenda; the privileges of the elderly and wealthy in question. Policies until recently considered eccentric, such as basic income and wealth taxes, will have to be in the mix.
The taboo-breaking measures governments are taking to sustain businesses and incomes during the lockdown are rightly compared to the sort of wartime economy western countries have not experienced for seven decades. The analogy goes still further.
The leaders who won the war did not wait for victory to plan for what would follow. Franklin D Roosevelt and Winston Churchill issued the Atlantic Charter, setting the course for the United Nations, in 1941. The UK published the Beveridge Report, its commitment to a universal welfare state, in 1942. In 1944, the Bretton Woods conference forged the postwar financial architecture. That same kind of foresight is needed today. Beyond the public health war, true leaders will mobilize to win the peace.
Jason Hargrove, a bus driver in Detroit, raised alarms about COVID-19 after picking up a coughing passenger.
Jason, you will forever be the face of COVID for me. When I first saw this clip yesterday, I thought the anchor was going to toss to you in Detroit for an interview. Instead, after it aired, he said this:
Sadly, Hargrove was infected with coronavirus and died less than two weeks later.
Jason, you were 50. And you were loved.
And I will always remember you.
Jason died from COVID-19 on Wednesday, April 1st, 2020.
Every pandemic in history has been followed by a cultural and social blossoming. This one can too, but only if we use this time to reflect on what that blossoming might look like. In the midst of the darkness that’s our slice of light.
From Journalists and Teachers of Journalism
“Americans consistently rate the Fox News Channel as one of the most trusted TV channels. The average age of Fox News viewers is 65. It is well established that this population incurs the greatest risk from the COVID-19 pandemic. In other words, Fox News viewers are at special risk from the coronavirus.
But viewers of Fox News, including the president of the United States, have been regularly subjected to misinformation relayed by the network — false statements downplaying the prevalence of COVID-19 and its harms; misleading recommendations of activities that people should undertake to protect themselves and others, including casual recommendations of untested drugs; false assessments of the value of measures urged upon the public by their elected political leadership and public health authorities.
The misinformation that reaches the Fox News audience is a danger to public health. Indeed, it is not an overstatement to say that your misreporting endangers your own viewers — and not only them, for in a pandemic, individual behavior affects significant numbers of other people as well.
Yet by commission as well as omission — direct, uncontested misinformation as well as failure to report the true dimensions of the crisis — Fox News has been derelict in its duty to provide clear and accurate information about COVID-19. As the virus spread across the world, Fox News hosts and guests minimized the dangers, accusing Democrats and the media of inflating the dangers (in Sean Hannity’s words) to “bludgeon Trump with this new hoax.” Such commentary encouraged President Trump to trivialize the threat and helped obstruct national, state, and local efforts to limit the coronavirus.
The network’s delinquency was effective. According to a YouGov/Economist poll conducted March 15–17, Americans who pay the most attention to Fox News are much less likely than others to say they are worried about the coronavirus. A Pew Research poll found that 79% of Fox News viewers surveyed believed the media had exaggerated the risks of the virus. 63% of Fox viewers said they believed the virus posed a minor threat to the health of the country. As recently as Sunday, March 22, Fox News host Steve Hilton deplored accurate views of the pandemic, which he attributed to “our ruling class and their TV mouthpieces — whipping up fear over this virus.”
Fox News reporters have done some solid reporting. And the network has recently given some screen time to medical and public health professionals. But Fox News does not clearly distinguish between the authority that should accrue to trained experts, on the one hand, and the authority viewers grant to pundits and politicians for reasons of ideological loyalty. There is a tendency to accept (or reject) them all indiscriminately, for after all, they are talking heads who appear on Fox News, a trusted source of news. When the statements of knowledgeable experts are surrounded by false claims made by pundits and politicians, including President Trump — claims that are not rebutted by knowledgeable people in real time — the overall effect is to mislead a vulnerable public about risks and harms. Misinformation furthers the reach and the dangers of the pandemic. For example, the day after Tucker Carlson touted a flimsy French study on the use of two drugs to treat COVID-19, President Trump touted “very, very encouraging early results” from those drugs, and promoted a third as a possible “game changer.”
The basic purpose of news organizations is to discover and tell the truth. This is especially necessary, and obvious, amid a public health crisis. Television bears a particular responsibility because even more millions than usual look there for reliable information.
Inexcusably, Fox News has violated elementary canons of journalism. In so doing, it has contributed to the spread of a grave pandemic. Urgently, therefore, in the name of both good journalism and public health, we call upon you to help protect the lives of all Americans — including your elderly viewers — by ensuring that the information you deliver is based on scientific facts.”
(If you are a journalist or teacher of journalism and would like to add your name, click here.)
Todd Gitlin, Professor, Chair, Ph. D. Program in Communications, Columbia Journalism School
Mark Feldstein, Eaton Chair of Broadcast Journalism, University of Maryland
Frances FitzGerald, Pulitzer Prize-winning author
Adam Hochschild, Graduate School of Journalism, UC Berkeley
Edward Wasserman, Dean, Graduate School of Journalism, UC Berkeley
Lisa R. Cohen; Columbia Journalism School
Gerald Johnson, Texas Student Media
Susan Moeller, Professor, Merrill College of Journalism, UMD, College Park
Maurine Beasley, University of Maryland College Park
Michael Deas, Medill School of Journalism, Northwestern University
Ivan Meyers, Medill School at Northwestern University
Helen Benedict, Professor, Graduate School of Journalism, Columbia University
Hendrik Hertzberg, longtime staff writer and editor, The New Yorker
Lewis Friedland, Vilas Distinguished Achievement Professor, School of Journalism and Mass Com, UW-Madison
Dr. Tom Mascaro, Ph.D. Bowling Green State University, School of Media & Communication
Tom Bettag, Visiting Fellow, University of Maryland
Betty H Winfield University of Missouri Curators’ Professor Emerita
Frank D. Durham, University of Iowa
Dennis Darling Professor, School of Journalism, The University of Texas at Austin
Jonathan Weiner, Maxwell M. Geffen Professor of Medical and Scientific Journalism Columbia Journalism School
Ari L. Goldman, professor, Columba University Graduate School of Journalism
Jennifer Kahn, Narrative Program Lead, Graduate School of Journalism, UC Berkeley
Meenakshi Gigi Durham, Professor, School of Journalism and Mass Communication, University of Iowa
Deirdre English, Graduate School of Journalism, UC Berkeley
Rosental C Alves, University of Texas at Austin
Pauline Dakin, Ass. Professor, University of King’s College, Halifax, Nova Scotia
Nina Alvarez, Assistant Professor, Columbia Journalism School
Travis Vogan, University of Iowa
Ali Noor Mohamed, United Arab Emirates University
Linda Steiner, Acting Director, Ph.D. Studies; Professor, Phillip Merrill College of Journalism, University of Maryland, College Park
Lucas Graves, School of Journalism & Mass Communication, UW — Madison
Anna Everett, Professor Emeritus, University of California, Santa Barbara
Richard Appelbaum, Fielding Graduate University; UCSB Emeritus
Tom Collinger, Northwestern University, Medill School of Journalism
Wenhong Chen, Founding Co-director, Center for Entertainment and Media Industries Associate Professor ofMedia Studies and Sociology, Moody College of Communication The University of Texas at Austin
LynNell Hancock, Professor, Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism
Donna DeCesare, Associate Professor, School of Journalism, University of Texas at Austin
Barbie Zelizer, Annenberg School for Communication, University of Pennsylvania
Michael Murray, UM Curators Distinguished Professor Emeritus, UM-St. Louis
Michael Schudson, Columbia University
Martin Kaplan, Norman Lear Chair in Entertainment, Media and Society, USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism
Brian Ekdale, University of Iowa
Gina Masullo, University of Texas at Austin
Krishnan Vasudevan, Assistant Professor, Philip Merrill College of Journalism, University of Maryland at College Park
Harold Evans, former editor Sunday Times and The Times, London
Chuck Howell, Librarian for Journalism & Communication Studies, University of Maryland
Clarke L. Caywood Ph.D, Professor Medill School of Journalism Media Integrated Marketing Communications
Andie Tucher, Director, PhD program in Communications, Columbia Journalism School
Kalyani Chadha, Associate Professor, University of Maryland
Denis P. Gorman, Freelance Journalist
Jon Marshall, Northwestern University
Kevin Lerner, Marist College
Joel Whitebook, Columbia University Center for Psychoanalytic Training and Research
Abe Peck, Prof. Emeritus in Service, Medill School of Journalism, Media, Integrated Marketing Communications, Northwestern University
Carrie Lozano, Graduate School of Journalism, UC Berkeley
Susie Linfield, Dept of Journalism, New York University
Charles Berret, University of British Columbia
Jay Rosen, Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute, New York University
Maggie Rivas-Rodriguez, Professor of Journalism, The University of Texas at Austin
Joseph Straubhaar, Professor, School of Journalism, University of Texas, Austin
Edward C Malthouse, Haven Professor, Medill School of Journalism, Media and IMC, Northwestern University
Mitchell Stephens, Professor of Journalism, New York University
Patricia Loew, Ph.D. Professor, Medill School of Journalism, Northwestern University
Richard Fine, Professor of English, Virginia Commonwealth University
John E. Newhagen Associate Prof. Emeritus University of Marylans
Caryn Ward, Northwestern University, Medill School of Journalism, Media and Integrated Marketing and Communication
David Hajdu, Professor, Columbia Graduate School of Journalism
Naeemul Hassan, Assistant Professor, University of Maryland
Stephen D. Reese, School of Journalism & Media, U of Texas at Austin
Kevin Klose, Professor, University of Maryland
John Vivian, Winona State University
Sue Robinson, Helen Firstbrook Franklin Professor of Journalism, University of Wisconsin-Madison
Thomas P. Oates, University of Iowa
Samuel Freedman, Columbia Journalism School
Susan Mango Curtis, Northwestern University Medill School of Journalism, Northwestern University
Prof. Robert S. Boynton, Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute at NYU
Leonard Steinhorn, Professor of Communication and Affiliate Professor of History, American University
J.A. Adande, Medill School, Northwestern
Victor Pickard, University of Pennsylvania
Summer Harlow, Assistant Professor, University of Houston
Danielle K. Kilgo, Ph.D., Indiana University
Jack Doppelt, Northwestern University
Gerry Lanosga, The Media School, Indiana University
Martin Riedl, PhD Candidate, School of Journalism, The University of Texas at Austin
Rich Shumate, School of Media, Western Kentucky University
Mac McKerral, School of Media, Western Kentucky University
Mel Coffee, University of Maryland
David J. Vergobbi, University of Utah
Tom Boll, part-time instructor, S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications, Syracuse University
Dannagal G. Young, Associate Professor of Communication and Political Science, University of Delaware
Ken Light, Reva and David Logan Professor of Photojournalism, UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism
George Harmon, emeritus faculty, Medill School of Journalism
Rachel Young, University of Iowa
Carol M. Liebler, Professor, Newhouse School, Syracuse University
Kyu Ho Youm, University of Oregon
Julianne H Newton, University of Oregon
Bethany Swain, University of Maryland
Gi Woong Yun, Reynolds School of Journalism, University of Nevada, Reno
Thomas E. Winski, MJE Retired Assistant Professor of Journalism, Emporia State University
Roy L Moore, Professor (retired), Middle TN State University
Ira Chinoy, Philip Merrill College of Journalism, University of Maryland
Jay Edwin Gillette, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus of Information and Communication Sciences Center for Information and Communication Sciences, Ball State University
Michael Anderson, retired journalist
Kimberley Shoaf, Professor of Public Health, University of Utah
Erica Ciszek, University of Texas at Austin
Daniel C. Hallin, University of California, San Diego
Keith W. Strandberg, Webster University, Geneva
Sophie Furley, Editor
Frank Sesno, Director, George Washington University School of Media and Public Affairs
Timothy V. Klein, Louisiana State University
*Affiliations listed for identification only.