Manipulation via Rhetoric: How the Left Uses ‘Global Pandemic’ Language to Escalate Outrage

In "the middle of a global pandemic," never let a good crisis go to waste.

By Tom Gilson Published on April 13, 2020

Never let a good crisis go to waste, the leftist hero Saul Alinsky said, and there’s no crisis quite like the current one. In the middle of a global pandemic, the left has discovered a new catch-phrase for manipulating opinion: “in the middle of a global pandemic.”

Raw Story leads a recent piece with, “President Donald Trump in a private conference call on Wednesday with 10,000 leaders from his most-devoted base, the religious right, in the middle of a global pandemic, urged them to help him win re-election.”

Right Wing Watch opens another, “Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, and David Brody, Christian Broadcasting Network’s Trump-infatuated chief political analyst, are concerned about increased traffic to porn websites during the COVID-19 coronavirus​ pandemic.”

It doesn’t matter if it’s right, as long as it works. The Left sure hates letting a good crisis go to waste.

Politico charged Donald Trump with a “sideshow,” “closing out a personal vendetta in the middle of a global pandemic that has already claimed more than 8,000 American lives.”

The message they’re aiming at in each case: There’s a pandemic going on! What’s wrong with these people? Don’t they care?

Sad to say, I expect it will work with some readers. Others will read the real message: There’s a pandemic going on! Let’s milk it for all it’s worth!

Coronavirus… Coronavirus… Coronavirus…

Or you could also read it this way: What’s wrong with these conservatives? We’re in the middle of a global pandemic, and they still haven’t morphed into good little leftists!

Donald Trump still wants to be re-elected in November. In the middle of a global pandemic? The nerve of him!

It raises the question, when should he campaign? Next year? Yes, they’d like that, obviously. It galls them that he wants to be re-elected at all. They should be used to it by now, and of course they are, even if they hate it. Still there’s rhetorical gold for them if they can convince the public Trump ought not be doing anything except ending the pandemic. Nothing.

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The Politico headline complains, “Trump pursues a non-virus agenda.” As if nothing else in the whole world even matters. The article adds, “In the weeks since the coronavirus first hit the U.S., Trump has continued to pursue pet projects dating back to his 2016 campaign such as rolling back Obama-era regulations, building the border wall and fighting with the Federal Reserve.”

I guess what he really ought to do instead is put on a white lab coat and help research vaccines. Then he’d be fighting the real battle, the way a president ought to fight it! Because the world is nothing but Coronavirus… coronavirus… coronavirus…

Meanwhile Joe Biden keeps on campaigning. He’s even complaining that Trump isn’t opening up Obamacare enrollment “in the middle of a global pandemic.”

Manipulative Anti-Religion Message

Right Wing Watch thinks it’s outrageous that Christians would care about porn in the middle of a global pandemic. In particular, this is the wrong time to care about a major porn site’s decision to open its doors wide for the duration of the pandemic. Apparently Christian leaders shouldn’t complain about those open doors until after the porn site is ready to close them anyway.

Or maybe the Christian leaders should only be doing the proper, Left-approved approved churchy pandemic things, like giving away food and housing the homeless. That, plus telling everyone God loves them and they can do whatever they want because that’s what the Left thinks God would do if there was a God.

Transparent Tactic

Rationally, the complaint “in the middle of a global pandemic” makes no sense. I opened this article noting the Left was doing this in the middle of a global pandemic. It was intentional irony: When else would they? When else would Trump be campaigning, except for during an election year? When else would Christian leaders express concern for how a porn site is responding to the pandemic?

It needn’t be rational, though; not as long as it works. The tactic is transparent: The Left is using scare words to escalate outrage. If they can’t rouse their base enough by saying, “Trump talked to religious leaders about his re-election,” or, “Christian leaders oppose porn,” then they’ll add, “in the middle of a global pandemic,” as if that were the wrong time.

But we have a name for using irrational scare tactics to manipulate emotions that way. More than one name, actually. I’ve already mentioned manipulative. I could also include dishonest and reprehensible.

And yet not a bit unexpected. Keep an eye out for this as a talking point. It doesn’t matter if it’s right, as long as it works. The Left sure hates letting a good crisis go to waste.


Tom Gilson (@TomGilsonAuthor) is a senior editor with The Stream, and the author of A Christian Mind: Thoughts on Life and Truth in Jesus Christ and Critical Conversations: A Christian Parent’s Guide to Discussing Homosexuality with Teens, and the lead editor of True Reason: Confronting the Irrationality of the New Atheism.

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