I have what I call my Facebok focus group. It’s composed of people I know who live in Trump territory and their friends who comment on their posts. Many are relatives and people I grew up with in Anson County who now live across the state. I watch their posts to get a sense of what they’re thinking about state and national events. It helps keep me grounded in reality since I live in the bubble of the Triangle. 

Their response to the coronavirus is both worrying and illuminating. It’s worrying because they don’t believe it’s much of a threat. They believe it’s a hoax perpetrated by the government to see how easily it can manipulate people. Or they think it’s a Democratic plot to crash the economy to hurt Trump’s presidency. Some even believe it’s an assault on religion designed to keep people out of church. They are clearly taking limited precautions and resenting the ones they do take. 

It’s worrisome because they are hampering efforts to bend the curve and reduce the inevitable pressure on our health care system. It’s disturbing because it illustrates how susceptible they’ve been to years of disinformation spread by Fox News and talk radio. The right-wing media complex has created a massively uninformed public that is easily manipulated by lies and distortions while unable to sort fact from fiction. 

On Friday, Rush Limbaugh blasted the government for shutting down society over the “cold virus.” The dittoheads, as his followers call themselves, are nodding along as usual. Limbaugh’s rant is not just irresponsible. It’s immoral. The disease will spread faster because of his statements and more people will likely die. 

My brother calls the people who buy into Fox News and talk radio the aggressively ignorant. They believe propagandists over experts and lack the critical thinking skills to even protect their own self-interests. They actively promote harmful disinformation because they don’t know any better. In this case, their ignorance may help kill them or their loved ones. 

The irony is almost too much. They’ve been convinced that the one entity that can help them is their enemy. So when our elected leaders call for extreme measures, they balk, sure that the government is up to something nefarious. They’ll realize too late the seriousness of the situation. The lack of hospitals and health care providers in their areas will leave them less prepared to weather the impending storm. By the time they catch on, a lot of them will get sick and many will die. Then they’ll blame the Democrats. 

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