Cease and Desist

 
Dr. Fauci invents a mask that will save millions of lives. Twitter photo
 
As Trump's coronavirus lies and boasts and potentially deadly fictions mount, so does the urge to shut him up. As of Thursday evening, the U.S. had 82,404 cases, the most in the world - a number representing a 22% jump in what his foul administration insists should be called the "Wuhan" virus but which in all historical accuracy should be renamed the Trump Virus, given that, at this rate, there will be 250,000 cases by Easter, when he wants to see all those beautiful, packed, virulently toxic churches. Right now, our mortality rate is 1.4%, but there is virtual consensus among health experts it will get much worse. Still, the lies keep flowing: "The mortality rate, in my opinion, is way down," "America continues to gain ground," "nobody knew there'd be a pandemic," chloroquine will be “available almost immediately” and it won't kill you, the "LameStream media wants to keep our country closed" to mess with "my election success" but "the real people want to get back to work ASAP," except for the 75% who say that's insane, "We have done one hell of a job," and, "No one has done the job that we have done." (Well, that one might be true.)
 
For days, push-back to increasingly rabid, rambling, fact-free press briefings dubbed "a clown show" has grown, especially when a jabbering Trump takes over from medical sources like Dr. Anthony Fauci or, worse, inexplicably replaces him with William 'I Know Nothing About Viruses But God Is Good' Barr. "There is no public benefit to this briefing," tweeted an exasperated Joe Scarborough on that day. "No science, no doctors, no Fauci. Just Trump's Roy Cohn." Around the same time, KUOW, a Seattle public radio station, likewise decided the briefings "offer no public benefit" and announced it would no longer cover them due to "false or misleading information provided that cannot be fact checked in real time." After airing the briefings for two weeks, the station later explained, "a pattern of false information and exaggeration increasingly had many at KUOW questioning whether these briefings were in the best service of our mission - to create and serve a more informed public. Of even greater concern was the potential impact of false information on the health and safety of our community." In "a very fluid situation," they will daily revisit the issue, monitor the briefings for actual news, and share "relevant information." Except for a couple of "Nazi" charges, most listeners said they were grateful for "a light in the darkness."
 
Other media outlets continue to struggle with how to respond to the avalanche of bluster and misinformation that leans increasingly into odious propaganda. Broadcast and cable news networks began by covering the briefings live, but this week they've begun to evolve and move away: NBC, CBS and ABC have started switching to regular evening newscasts after about 20 minutes, while CNN and MSNBC cut away at different points; MSNBC explains they've made the call when "the information no longer appeared to be valuable." News staffers are reportedly unhappy with higher-ups continuing to cover what have become "open-mic" nights with a bad amateur at center stage; others argue a "Trump unleashed" is his own worst enemy, and fact-checking could alleviate his worst lies. Handle Trump like the virus, one suggests: "He has to be contained and quarantined and his falsehoods have to be scrubbed," though in the tragic end people in need of life-or-death information are getting "self-aggrandizement..media-bashing..exaggeration and outright lies.” In our opinion, some of the best antidotes are The Guardian's expansive, relentless coverage - with fact-checking in real time - and Aaron Rupar's tireless Twitter coverage. Late Thursday night, he was still at it, as Trump on Hannity blamed the virus on Obama, Canadian steel and blue states for being ill-prepared. It's horrifying, but Rupar is there for it.
 
How much longer such truth-telling can survive is anybody's bet. This week, in "a frightening assault on free speech," Trump's campaign goons decided to strong-arm local TV stations running an ad they didn't like because they evidently couldn't find anything else going on in the world to focus their energy on. A cease-and-desist letter from Alex Cannon, special counsel to Donald J. Trump for President, threatened to sue and/or yank the licenses of stations airing an ad by Democratic Super PAC Priorities USA that accurately quotes Trump's unhinged rants and lies and bungles about the coronavirus "hoax," even as the deadly numbers soar. Cannon's surreal letter charges the short, grim ad is "patently false, misleading and deceptive" because it "fraudulently and maliciously" implies Trump called the outbreak "a hoax" when "facts show beyond reasonable doubt that he was talking about the Democrat's (sic) politicization of the outbreak when he used the word 'hoax.'" Besides, the ad came from "Obama loyalists" - also, Fox News ominously notes, dark money liberals, Clinton advisers and don't forget George Soros - so they need to stop airing it now "to serve the public interest." Bullshit, responded Guy Cecil, head of Priorities USA, who says the point of the letter is also the monstrous point of Trump: "He doesn't want Americans to know the truth."
 
That truth, in the inimitable words of Jeff Tiedrich:

he said it was a hoax
he said China had contained it
he said we were prepared for it
he said it would disappear like a 'miracle'
he said he had a 'hunch' it wasn't all that deadly
he said that 15 cases would soon be down to zero

PLEASE STOP LISTENING TO THIS STUPID FUCKING MORON

 https://t.co/TmCKkdGVyt pic.twitter.com/2nBvsNtDhT

— MichaelRapaport (@MichaelRapaport) March 25, 2020

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