ANALYSIS: Media Suddenly Less Hysterical Over Large Gatherings

June 3, 2020

When Florida governor Ron DeSantis and other Republican governors moved to gradually ease lockdown measures imposed to limit the spread of coronavirus, the media reacted in hysterical fashion. Some Democratic governors took similar steps to reopen, but for some reason, they were not similarly accused of having blood on their hands.

But the media's hysteria over large public gatherings in the midst of the pandemic has suddenly abated. Several cities have started to enforce curfews, primarily because peaceful protests related to the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis have been accompanied by outbursts of violence and looting.

The prevailing reaction from the pundit class has been, shall we say, significantly less hysterical than its reaction to the crowds of people who decided to go to the beach. Nikole Hannah-Jones, a Pulitzer Prize-winning correspondent for the New York Times Magazine, recently suggested that the destruction or theft of property "is not violence."

If anything, the media have turned against measures to limit gatherings and curb violence. Atlantic staff writer Amanda Mull, for example, complained on Tuesday about New York City's "insane" 8 p.m. curfew in response to the unrest. In late April, she accused Gov. Brian Kemp (R., Ga.) of conducting an "experiment in human sacrifice" by taking steps to reopen the economy.

No one took more criticism than DeSantis. "Ron DeSantis, Why the #@*! Are Florida's Beaches Still Open?" read one Daily Beast headline from mid-March. Columnist Matt Lewis cited Florida's open beaches as "the one glaring exception" to an otherwise strong showing of leadership from America's governors and wondered, "Where are the adults?"

DeSantis ultimately closed the beaches. When he moved to reopen them weeks later, and the crowds returned, the media's hysteria ramped up again. "One of the many lessons this pandemic has provided is to never forget that Florida is run by idiots,"  journalist/comedian Cristian Moreno tweeted on April 16 in response to an article about the reopening of Florida beaches. "They are pushing seriously for dumbest state in the nation."

A Miami Herald columnist was forced to apologize after tweeting that the packed beaches "should work nicely to thin the ranks" of DeSantis supporters. Noted Trump nemesis Bette Midler also chimed in to suggest that the crowds returning to the beaches made "perfect Florida-sense. To try to get a little sun so you look healthy at your funeral."