The things they hear while we don't: What is the nature of tribalized news?
Consider the Lancet study. Also, consider the study in the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM).
The studies appeared in May. Especially in the liberal world, they received a lot of attention. As we look at the start of this New York Times report, we can quickly see why:
GRADY (5/23/20): The malaria drugs hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine did not help coronavirus patients and may have done harm, according to a new study based on the records of nearly 15,000 patients who received the drugs and 81,000 who did not.The Lancet is a very big deal; so is the NEJM. These studies seemed to blow a large hole in Mister Trump's Favorite Pharmaceutical, so they got major play on CNN and MSNBC.
Some were also given the antibiotic azithromycin, or a related medicine.
Hydroxychloroquine is the drug that President Trump has advocated, and that he said he has been taking in hopes of preventing coronavirus infection.
People who received the drugs were more likely to have abnormal heart rhythms, according to the study in the The Lancet. They were also more likely to die. But the findings were not definitive, because the study was observational, meaning that the patients were not picked at random to receive the drug or not, and may have had underlying differences that affected their outcomes.
We know that because we watched a bit of Laura Ingraham's program last night. When we flipped over, Laura was playing tape from some of our favorite cable shows and laughing at what had been said.
Laura Ingraham was blowing the whistle on The Lancet! Her source was a news report in yesterday's New York Times.
Uh-oh! The NEJM has now expressed doubts about the study it published. So too with The Lancet:
RABIN (6/3/20): Since the outbreak began, researchers have rushed to publish new findings about the coronavirus spreading swiftly through the world. On Tuesday, for the second time in recent days, a group of clinicians and researchers has questioned the data used in studies in two prominent medical journals.You can read yesterday's full report for yourselves. We don't know if those studies will be vindicated. Instead, our point is this:
A group of scientists who raised questions last week about a study in The Lancet about the use of antimalarial drugs in coronavirus patients have now objected to another paper about blood pressure medicines in the New England Journal of Medicine, which was published by some of the same authors and relied on the same data registry.
Moments after their open letter was posted online Tuesday morning, the editors of the N.E.J.M. posted an “expression of concern” about the paper, and said they had asked the paper’s authors to provide evidence that the data are reliable.
The Lancet followed later in the day with a statement about its own concerns regarding the malarial drugs paper, saying that the editors have commissioned an independent audit of the data.
Last evening, Fox viewers heard all about the problems with these studies. They got to laugh at the way cable hosts on CNN and MSNBC had touted the studies' findings, sometimes in a slightly triumphalist way..
On CNN and MSNBC, the walk-back by these major journals didn't get much play at all. This is the nature of tribalized "news" in a tribalized corporate news era.
Telling the news in a slanted fashion is now extremely big business. In such an environment, the facts will sometimes be misleading or wrong, and the logic may not be much better.
On Fox, they heard about the two journals' walk-backs. Over Here, not so much.