April 27, 2009

The Swine Flu

Man, if this happened during the Bush Administration, I would have been extremely paranoid that this was a plot to halt immigration from Mexico. Now Obama’s in power so I can be more reasonable. But there’s something very mysterious about this. How often do you think about SARS and the bird flu? For a moment, it was the next terrifying thing. Now it’s an afterthought. Too many of these crying wolf situations and people are going to stop caring. 35,000 people die from the flu every year. So the dozens who have died from this do not seem like something to fear. More people will die from car accidents today. Certainly, this is a bad strain of the flu – and as someone with a health problems (been meaning to write a long post about that) and a daughter in a school of 500 – it is worrisome. But the story behind this is not the flu itself but the strange and immediate media frenzy, as if that’s the real disease we should be worried about.

On some level, people like to be afraid. It’s fun, it makes life seem larger than life, so long as you’re not dying. It triggers adrenaline and endorphins. It’s why people like going to horror movies. So the media plays into that. But the idea that the media triggers fear to up the ratings seems insufficient to me. Because it’s so dangerous for our general well-being: it will keep people from traveling, hurting the already-suffering travel business, it’ll increase the distance between people, make people more suspicious of each other. Why the media would want this is really a mystery.

I can understand Drudge rolling with this story. He seems to actively want to halt progress. He’s a really dark force in this country; truly. Huffington Post, the liberal Drudge, but more reasonable and more varied, has been just as bad, screaming terrifying headlines. It will just trigger hysteria and hostility, not vigilance.

Found at Gotcha Media, this ain’t new:

Why does this always happen? I guess Occam’s Razor is the reason: follow the money. This will lead to increased viewership and lines around the block waiting to get a shot or buy over the counter products. Ironically, the thing that may have led to swine flu – factory farming – is the same instinct that fuels media hysteria: money. Maybe one day we’ll look to sustainability over profit. Right now, this is a swine flu on many levels: spread by pigs of industry.


painter ofblue said...

As someone with my own health issues, I just can't seem to get worked up about these various flu scares. My experience of illness as a spiritual process has left me with profound doubts that anyone can catch or avoid anything. We are given the health we need; it's a path for our progress as a human beings not a random or "caught" circumstance.

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