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Gadarene swine flu

29 April 2009

Yesterday while I was doing some routine tasks on my computer I had the TV news running in the background. Sky News had nothing but swine flu. As far as they were concerned, nothing else was happening in the world. I switched to CNN, and found much the same thing, though they had some reporing of football, including the fact that matches were played in empty stadiums for fear of swine flu.

I switched to BBC, and found exactly the same thing there.Nothing but swine flu.

There were all these journalists talking to medical experts, saying in effect, “PLEASE tell us it’s a pandemic! PLEASE tell us we’re all gonna die! PLEASE tell us the hospitals can’t cope! PLEASE tell us that undertakers’ shares are the only ones doing well on the stock exchange! PLEASE order all governments to close their borders.”

The cameras would zoom up on people wearing surgical masks (did they have swine flu and were trying not to spread it? Or were they harassed medical personnel finding it difficult to cope with the thousands of expiring patients?)

And the medical experts were being most uncooperative, patiently explaining that though it was spreading rapidly, outside Mexico most of those infected seemed to be suffering from very mild symptoms, and that more people died of ordinary flu every year, and that a couple of people suffering from swine flu had been admitted to hospital but had been sent home, and that closing borders would not help.

It reminded me of the SARS scare a few years ago. Now that reminds me of something really scary. It’s around this time of year that SARS (the South African Revenue Service) sends out those dreaded income tax forms.

But it seems that there is a pandemic — a pandemic of the media desperately seeking an apocalyptic story to frighten readers with. Perhaps someone needs to kidnap a cricket team to take their minds off this unhealthy obsession.I really have never seen such an epidemic of journalistic hype.

The question is why? Why are the media so determined to hype this up into a pandemic?

Do they want to send every hypochondriac to clog up the medical facilities so that those who are really ill die because the staff are overworked? Or what?

Eventually I turned the sound off on the TV, and waited until there was some real news.

Click here for resources to combat swine flu hysteria.

Now, having said that, it would be just my luck in one of those ironies of life (or death) to be the first in South Africa to get swine flu, and the only one to die of it. Then everyone can write “I told you so” in the comments space below.

7 Comments leave one →
  1. firingsquid permalink
    29 April 2009 6:53 am

    The media hype sells newspapers, generates interest and gives power to governments to step in and make changes that they know would otherwise be unpopular.

    Even Spanish Flu had quite a low mortality rate in western countries (eg: 2:1000 in Australia), all the lower it will be today with more advanced hospital equipment, healthier people and better drugs.

    Still, fear is a very powerful business model. Some people stand to make a whole lot of money out of all this. Care to buy a useless paper surgical mask, perhaps?

  2. 29 April 2009 9:16 am

    Or could it be that they are testing people’s reflexes in case of a true pandemic? Or is it part of the game of the artificially made economical crisis that is ruining Mexico’s economy? And will we ever know whether all these illnesses are man made or man caused?

    One thing is for sure: That nowadays the Mass Media are being used in order to mislead and manipulate tha masses towards the direction their Big Bosses want to lead public the opinion and public reactions.

  3. 29 April 2009 10:57 pm

    It is part of the movement that originated around the First Gulf War (’91) to make News entertaining. (CNN started it). Now they have pushed it beyond all reason. But last night Jon Stewart’s “Daily Show” made a lot of fun of this tendency to the hysterical-entertaining newscast style.

  4. gailbhyatt permalink
    30 April 2009 4:58 am

    Very well said.

    My husband and I , for all practical purposes, stopped listening to the news media back in November when the same thing was happening over the economic crisis. The media was yelling, “Please tell we’re all going to be homeless and starve to death.” “Please tell us we need bigger government.”

    It was the best decision we’ve made in a long time. Every now and then we’ll slip and catch a news story. Doom and gloom and disaster. No thanks.

    I’d rather read blogs by people who have something helpful and hopeful to say.

    Thanks.

  5. 30 April 2009 5:11 am

    It’s truly sad. More people die every day in car accidence than have died from the swine flu. Now if this flu starts to spread and mutate like the 1918 flu did, then maybe journalists would be justified hyping it as a pandemic.

  6. 30 April 2009 8:45 pm

    Well, in Australia for example, the mortality rate for the Spanish flu of 1918 was close 1 per 1000 (population as a whole). Has anybody looked of late what the mortality rates of AIDS, Malaria and “little” civil wars are?

  7. 12 May 2009 5:14 pm

    What You Can Do to Stay Healthy
    There are everyday actions people can take to stay healthy.

    *Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. *Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it.
    *Wash your hands often with soap and water, especially after you cough or sneeze, before you touch your eyes, nose or mouth. Alcohol-based hands cleaners are also effective.
    *Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Germs spread that way. *Try to avoid close contact with sick people.

    Influenza is thought to spread mainly person-to-person through coughing or sneezing of infected people.

    If you get sick, CDC recommends that you stay home from work or school and limit contact with others to keep from infecting them.

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