Media Resource Center: Lies or Incompetence, They’re Still Going to Get People Killed.

Media Resource Center is creating memes that are either lying – and people will die as a result of their lies – or they are grossly incompetent. [1] And I can show it with three graphs and some basic math.

THIS IMAGE IS INCORRECT AND MISLEADING.
THIS IMAGE IS MISLEADING AND WRONG.

I saw this image on Facebook recently. You may have seen it as well; this is the backlash from the news that the United States death toll from COVID-19 is greater than the death toll from the Vietnam War. It was apparently created (or watermarked at least) by “Media Research Center“, a pretty blatantly right-wing organization that claims that it’s a “media watchdog”.

It seems compelling, doesn’t it?

Too bad they can’t do basic math.

See, here’s the thing. Their numbers (which are a little off across the board) claim to be “deaths per year”. Except in their biggest two examples, they are not.

The Vietnam War lasted from November 1955 to the end of April 1975. Yeah, that’s from Wikipedia, but they also cite about the same number of deaths (58,209) during the entire war. That’s over 19 and a half years. Adjusted for the length of the war, that’s an average [2] of 2970 deaths a year.

In contrast, those 72,860 COVID-19 deaths are currently counted from January 2020 to the beginning of May 2020, so it’s only four months, or a third of a year. That means that if things stay the same as they are right now, by the end of the year we will have at least 242,867 US deaths per year from COVID-19.

The difference is pretty clear, the math is pretty basic. And it means that – just using their own numbers – it was designed to mislead.

But it gets worse. As I’ve been saying, an “average” isn’t a great measure. Over the two decades of Vietnam, the death rate wasn’t level at all. But at least it’s over two decades. It is far, far worse when you average out COVID-19’s death rate. Here’s the graph of the US death rate from COVID-19 over time [3]:

See how that’s still going up? According to leaked US government documents, while we’re currently seeing 1,750 deaths per day, that is expected to rise to 3000 deaths per day in a month.

So what could that look like? Let’s use these assumptions: That during May, we will have the current level of 1,750 deaths per day (52,500 people a month), then 3,000 a month (90,000 people a month) afterward. To show a lower bound, let’s also see what it might look like if deaths “only” stay at 52,500 people a month.

This is VERY simplified back-of-the-envelope math. It doesn’t take into account things like the rate of transmission, which given the data we have now and the insistence on “opening up”, will probably go up. Still, even with this simplified and almost certainly low projection, COVID-19 deaths for this year will pass diabetes by the end of this month. They could pass deaths from smoking by mid-June. They could pass cancer death rates by August.

Even the low “only 52,500 people die a month” is catching up to smoking by August.

I realize those numbers are a little hard to grasp. That’s almost twice the number of people in my hometown. Put another way, 75% of cities, towns, and villages have populations of less than 50,000. Wipe one (or more!) of them completely off the map each month.

That is what this misinformation by “Media Research Center” is not only ignoring, but helping to create.

It’s either that, or that conservative non-profit thinks the Vietnam War only took one year, can’t use a calendar, or do basic math.

So tell me: would you still trust a thing they had to say after knowing that?

Featured Photo by Macau Photo Agency on Unsplash

[1] Not just them. The same principle applies to other COVID misinformation.
[2] An average isn’t ideal here either, but it’s still more accurate than what was originally presented. Also, I round to the nearest whole number in what I write here, but not in the math that was used.
[3] That data is a little bit older, but you see the slope of the graph.

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