Gadarene swine flu
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.