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24 Feb, 2020 19:46

Double standards: MSM goes with alarmist headlines over Russia’s coronavirus measures… which are milder than those in EU

Double standards: MSM goes with alarmist headlines over Russia’s coronavirus measures… which are milder than those in EU

As nations around the globe struggle to contain the coronavirus epidemic, Russia’s efforts are being undermined by the sensationalist MSM via poor online ‘journalism’, while stricter quarantine laws in Italy are applauded.

Editor's note: The original version of this story said the Mail Online and ABC News published oddly similar articles. Both outlets actually published a story authored by the Associated Press.

We all love a killer virus movie. That’s why Hollywood keeps churning them out: ‘Contagion’, ‘Outbreak’, ‘Patient Zero’, ‘Shivers’, ‘Death in Venice’… even ‘Rise of the Planet of the Apes’.

So addicted are we to these fictional journeys into the world of a seemingly unstoppable fatal virus that, when faced with something similar in real life, many immediately look for the black hats among the white hats as a way of coping. Welcome to Coronavirus: The Movie.

It’s not a very healthy approach when experts say COVID-19 is nearing the “tipping point” of becoming a global pandemic.

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Eleven towns in northern Italy, containing some 50,000 citizens, have been quarantined entirely – no-one in, no-one out – as police check cars for potential virus carriers following the reported death of a fifth sufferer.

At Milan’s airports, passengers are having their temperatures taken individually as they arrive, while football matches, churches and even the opera have all shut their doors in a bid to control the spread of the virus.

Despite these tight measures, no-one is suggesting these are sinister or exaggerated responses out of step with what needs to be done – but if there’s a chance for the MSM to fan the flames of hysteria, then this is certainly it.

So we have an unhelpful report by AP — uncritically reprinted by a number of outlets, such as the Mail Online and ABC News — trying to whip up a furor over what seems like an eminently sensible public health operation in Russia.

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Bearing in mind that the nation shares a 4,209km border in the east with China, and that the only two cases reported have been in Siberia – with both patients later given the all clear – the surprising thing is there haven’t been more.

While police in Italy are saluted for playing their part in checking cars for possible coronavirus carriers, in the city of Yekaterinburg in the Ural Mountains, teams of Cossacks – who often act like a neighborhood watch – are being ascribed sinister motives by the mainstream media as they hand out “medical masks, along with strong recommendations to visit a health clinic, to Chinese residents.” 

Much of the MSM reaction is based on a ‘leaked email’ – refuted by alleged sender Mosgortrans, which is in charge of public transport in Moscow – purportedly asking bus drivers to notify the police if Chinese passengers board their buses.

Not content with an official denial, the MSM fanned the flames here to create a ‘human rights’ issue, patronisingly declaring that racial profiling is not an effective way to deal with an epidemic.

In certain instances you may agree, but in the case of the coronavirus, which had a very clear ground zero in the Chinese city of Wuhan, you’d think it would make sense to identify and ask recent visitors to the area, or residents visiting from there, to either comply with an enforced quarantine – as was the case in the UK when planeloads of people were returned to its shores – or to self-isolate until they had the all-clear from a doctor.

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Why does this have to be a human rights thing?

Meanwhile, Moscow’s use of facial recognition in public spaces to monitor recent returnees from China is somehow intrinsically wrong because it is in Russia.

In the UK, where privacy campaigners have warned of an ‘epidemic’ of the covert use of facial recognition in shopping centres, museums, conference centres and other private spaces, most people are oddly indifferent, even though there are no legitimate grounds for such behaviour.

It is irritating that the MSM continues in its overarching role of suggesting an Orwellian (an overused term if ever there was one, apologies) motivation for any action by the Russian government, particularly when similar moves in other nations are applauded as sensible and measured.

Egregious hypocrisy is what springs to mind. Maybe a public warning is needed that, based on reporting by the MSM, it’s not the coronavirus we need to worry about; it’s sensationalism and fake news disguised as journalism that are the real cause for concern.

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The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.