A segment in the morning news rotation on cnn TV today is blasting politicians for, you know, playing politics with Ebola. Which is only noteworthy because of how cnn has itself been playing, um, well, media, with Ebola for days now.
The voiceover leading into the segment that I saw in the 10 a.m. Eastern hour noted that the U.S. population is around 319 million, and there have been two confirmed cases of Ebola among patients who contracted the virus within the borders of the U.S. The factoid is just as true now, of course, as it was last week when cnn went 24-7 with Ebola, featuring endless segments of so-called experts, broadcasting live every press conference it could and even taking live in one instance a conference call with reporters, including the awkward reminders to reporters to mute their lines before asking questions that mark such broadcast-unworthy occasions.
But now it’s politicians who are the bad guys for doing what politicians do. Politicians play politics the same way football players play football: to win. And the same as football players have a playbook that dictates positioning and movement on the field, politicians have a playbook that dictates certain things that they need to do based on situation. The bread and butter play in any politician’s playbook is, If the media is talking about something endlessly, latch on.
CNN, to be sure, is hardly the only news entity playing up two U.S. Ebola cases as being some sort of epidemic. Even the respected Augusta Free Press has done more than its share of reporting on Ebola, including statements from politicos and primers from state agencies and local hospitals. But you can’t have it both ways, going on and on about Ebola being on the verge of pandemic, and expect people not to respond in kind.
Maybe we should take the reminders – I use the plural because as I type this, CNN, on the big TV in the office this morning, has repeated the line about two cases in 319 million people in the U.S. a couple more times – as the beginning of a change in tone. Maybe somebody in the editorial office realized, Geez, yeah, we’re scaring the hell out of people, might need to dial that back a bit.
Whatever is going on there, don’t blame the pols for jumping on the bandwagon when you’re the one driving.
– Column by Chris Graham