Messages released by actors and entertainers during the coronavirus lock down have been hit or miss. Honestly, they’ve mostly been miss. Meanwhile late night hosts have been publishing versions of their shows from their homes over YouTube hoping viewers will decide they were an essential service. But today we learned that celebrities have joined with the World Health Organization to do something that might actually turn out to be useful. The plan involves a television special called “One World: Together At Home” that will air globally to raise money for medical workers who need supplies. It was announced today by Lady Gaga on a conference call:
“We are all so very grateful to all of the health-care professionals across the country and the world who are on the front lines during COVID-19,” she said on the call.
The event will be hosted by Jimmy Fallon, Jimmy Kimmel and Stephen Colbert and feature characters from “Sesame Street” as well as a number of musical guests.
The slate of artists includes: Alanis Morissette, Andrea Bocelli, Billie Eilish, Billie Joe Armstrong, Burna Boy, Chris Martin, David Beckham, Eddie Vedder, Elton John, FINNEAS, Idris and Sabrina Elba, J Balvin, John Legend, Kacey Musgraves, Keith Urban, Kerry Washington, Lang Lang, Lizzo, Maluma, Paul McCartney, Priyanka Chopra Jonas, Shah Rukh Khan and Stevie Wonder.
The official press release says this will be simulcast on all three major networks and will also air on networks around the world:
One World: Together At Home will be broadcast live on Saturday, 18 April 2020 at 5:00 p.m. PDT/8:00 p.m. EDT/12:00 a.m. GMT airing on ABC, NBC, ViacomCBS Networks, iHeartMedia and Bell Media networks and platforms in Canada. Internationally, BBC One will run the program on Sunday 19 April 2020. Additional international broadcasters include beIN Media Group, MultiChoice Group and RTE. The virtual broadcast will show unity among all people who are affected by COVID-19 and will also celebrate and support brave healthcare workers doing life-saving work on the front lines.
Hugh Evans, Co-Founder and CEO of Global Citizen, said “As we honor and support the heroic efforts of community health workers, ‘One World: Together At Home’ aims to serve as a source of unity and encouragement in the global fight to end COVID-19. Through music, entertainment and impact, the global live-cast will celebrate those who risk their own health to safeguard everyone else’s.”
There are several things going on here simultaneously. First, there is a genuine outpouring of appreciation for healthcare workers who are risking their health and even their lives and working long hours to deal with this crisis. I wrote about the cheers at shift change which can be heard every night at 7 pm in New York City. In England they have held a “Clap for Carers” which is basically the same thing. Similar outpourings have taken place in France, Spain, Italy, etc. So this concert seems like it really is capitalizing on a global trend of gratitude and use that to raise some money for PPE and other items the doctors and nurses need to stay healthy. That’s the positive part.
On the other hand, the WHO’s fawning praise of China throughout this crisis has been an embarrassment.
Taiwanese officials warned WHO on Dec. 31 that they had seen evidence that the virus could be transmitted human-to-human. But the agency, bowing to Beijing, doesn’t have a normal relationship with Taiwan. On Jan. 14 WHO tweeted, “Preliminary investigations conducted by the Chinese authorities have found no clear evidence of human-to-human transmission.” The agency took another week to reverse that misinformation.
The Wall Street Journal previously highlighted the way in which China delayed WHO’s global emergency declaration in January:
Some foreign government officials and public-health experts believe that Dr. Tedros, a former Ethiopian foreign minister, delayed declaring the global emergency last month partly in deference to China’s concerns…
The emergency committee failed to reach a consensus in a meeting on Jan. 22 and 23. Didier Houssin, the committee’s chair, told a news conference the body was divided “almost 50-50.” One side cited the increase in infections and the mounting evidence of the disease’s severity, he said, while the other cited the limited number of cases abroad and China’s countermeasures.
Ahead of the meeting’s second day, China locked down three cities at the center of the epidemic—Wuhan, Huanggang and Ezhou—covering some 20 million people. China pressed the committee not to recommend an emergency, according to a person familiar with its deliberations. Dr. Tedros said China explained its position but didn’t press. “Even if they did press, it wouldn’t change anything,” he said…
Dr. Tedros, who can override the committee, decided not to declare an emergency. The number of cases outside China was small, there was no evidence of human-to-human transmission outside China, and there were unanswered questions about the virus’s severity and transmissibility, he said. The committee recommended meeting again in 10 days.
“That was the mistake right there: It put them in the worst of all possible worlds,” said David Fidler, an expert on global health at the Council on Foreign Relations who has been a consultant for the WHO and is on a roster of experts who can be asked to join one of its emergency committees, but was not in this case. “It looks like they dragged their feet.”
The WHO was recommending nations keep borders open at this point. A global emergency was finally declared at the end of January. And it’s not just US conservatives who have noticed the WHO’s response seems to favor China: “A frustrated Japanese deputy prime minister called WHO the “Chinese Health Organization.”
And later, even as China’s propaganda organs were pumping out bilge about Italy and the U.S. as possible origin points of the virus, the WHO kept proclaiming the need for global consensus and working together. I think this new celebrity television special is part of the WHO effort to spread that message. To be fair, there have been some concerning incidents in which Asians have been targeted for abuse because of the coronavirus. Obviously, no one supports that.
But there has also been a global propaganda campaign by China which wants to escape responsibility for its handling of the crisis. I hope the underlying theme of “One World: Together At Home” isn’t that no one in the CCP is really to blame.
Update: I forgot to mention that the picture of Lady Gaga comes from the WHO press release: