Conspiracy-theorist-in-chief Glenn Back at Fox News has spent much of the week railing against the World Health Organization and the Obama administration, saying they've hyped the swine flu pandemic and the merits of a $3 billion vaccination program.
Bottom line from Mr. Beck: Perhaps Americans' safest option is to do the opposite of what the government wants them to do.
But the much-beloved/much-reviled host was uncharacteristically coy about his own vaccination plans during an hour-long show about the swine flu Thursday night: He’s refusing to say whether he will get the shot. “I’m trying to give you the facts tonight, with no opinion,” Beck said at the top of the show.
That stance contrasts sharply with his statements on a show Sept. 29, when he said his inclination was to attend a "flu party" where people deliberately expose themselves to the virus. (The thinking behind that unorthodox idea is that in this way people will strengthen their immune systems -- what they see as a sort of natural vaccination.)
"People just feel in their gut, 'I don't trust these people any more', ” Beck said Sept. 2 of the government and its representatives. “They think our government could be so incompetent that they don't have any clue as to what they are doing."
The to-vaccinate-or-not-to-vaccinate debate has been raging for weeks in the blogosphere, at water coolers, and among parents -- even causing the Centers for Disease Control to deploy "myth busters" to try to quell the public's concerns. It's a serious issue with serious implications about people's rights and responsibilities, but it's also become made-for-TV theater.
At Fox, Beck antagonist Bill O’Reilly chided him during Thursday night’s “Beck and Call” segment, noting that it’s a rare day when Beck doesn’t say exactly what he thinks.
But he didn't stop there. Mr. O’Reilly also suggested that Beck's intense focus on swine flu is somewhat ridiculous. Instead of spending an hour of TV time “debunking” myths about it, as Beck explained was his intent, O’Reilly said his own show "would spend two seconds debunking it [by saying] 'That’s nuts!' And that’s that, we’re finished with it.”
Some suggest that Beck’s sidestepping of the question about his own vaccination choice shows a softer side to the fiery TV host.
Alex Koppelman at Salon’s War Room says Beck was, in fact, in a debunking mood, shooting down, for example, the fringe theme that the US government plans to use the shots to inject a tracking chip into Americans.
“[W]atching the show, it seemed like there was something else at work: It seemed like Beck was leaning towards the pro-vaccination side, that he, for once, doesn't believe the conspiracy theories,” Mr. Koppelman writes.
In a rare realignment of the ideological stars, the conservative Beck seems to share the "antivax" views of several bloggers at the liberal Huffington Post, notes Gawker’s Ryan Tate. Several HuffPo bloggers have outright told people to say "No!" to the vaccine.
“Combine two dashes of the Huffington's culty, medicine-fearing ‘Living’ section and one dash of Fox News' craziest host, and you've got 'Love in the Time of Swine Flu,' ” writes Mr. Tate.
In the US, a pervasive wariness of the swine flu vaccine. What's up?
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