America gets its pandemic news the way it always would: outright falsehoods, cast in millennial pastels, delivered to our screens by a fancy dog. On Tuesday, Tom Brady shared someone’s low-effort Instagram meme, which buried an otherwise banal message about being nice under a lie about the death tolls of COVID-19 and suicide:
The National Center for Health Statistics reports an average of 4,026 suicides per month in 2018, the last year for which there is reliable data. COVID-19 has killed more than four times as many people in the United States per month, in recent months. The suicide rate would have had to have rapidly ballooned to close that gap. That claim is not supported by any evidence available to president of the American Association of Suicidology, Jonathan Singer, nor, presumably, to the starting quarterback of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. “There’s no way this can be true,” Singer told PolitiFact. “For this to be right, you would need a rise in the suicide rate that is just impossible.”
If Brady just wanted people to be considerate because times are tough, he could have said as much, but he had to go deeper. In its own way, this dogshit is a lot like the other lies you see online: indifferent to reality, but hellbent on finding a fresh angle that makes the reader Think About Things Differently and guarantees its recirculation.
From that perspective, this is the inspiring story of a useless meme that made it big after catching the eye of an incredibly famous and stupid man. I wish we lived in a country where this could go without saying, but please don’t rely on Tom Brady’s Instagram stories for your public health needs. The stakes were lower when he stuck to nightshades.