Friday, May 12, 2006

The Sky is Falling

Remember Chicken Little? He was the annoying bird that ran all through the barn warning animals that the sky was falling. His evidence…something had fallen and hit him in the head…must be the sky. I cannot help but feel that way in general about our media. More specifically I get the most irritated about the newest virus’, illnesses, and pandemic stories. The word pandemic irks me. I realize that our global community calls for larger scales of measure but what is wrong with epidemic?

First let me say that I do not want to belittle any particular illness, disease, or threat. None of the items I list are funny or completely absurd. But the real epidemic is fear. Fear is sold by the media like sex, drugs, murder, and scandal. And we, the consumer-minded public buy it like it’s in short supply and necessary for survival. I realize that it is logical and smart to be prepared. But I have known people that own Fallout Shelters for that big Armageddon event since the mid 70’s. Where is this event? Did we miss it? And if it happens and you manage to get in your shelter in time and then manage to stay there until all radiation has cleared the atmosphere, and emerge from your nest…what then? You will likely be the only person or family left on the planet…a modern day Noah charged with the duty of re-populating the world. Well…I guess that might be fun.

I am sure you can point out more examples than are listed here but let me give you an idea of how accurate these reports have been in the past:

  • Nuclear Destruction (Cold War) – If you were born early enough to remember the 50's, 60's, 70's, or 80’s then you know something about the Cold War. It was actually pretty scary but also a world-wide balance of power that no longer seems to exist. We (USA) were a super-power and so was the USSR. We had nukes. They had nukes. They hated and spied on us. We hated and spied on them. It was global tension that had media constantly warning us of devastating destruction. Could it have happened? Maybe. Did it? No. In fact the USSR no longer exists and when the Berlin Wall fell, so did the Communist regime of that region. It also revealed an impoverished Nation in horrible conditions. We were left thinking… “that is who we’ve been afraid of all this time?” It was like Toto from the Wizard of Oz pulling back the curtain of reality. Now we are faced with this threat yet again but with a different set of potential enemies. I will hold off for now on stockpiling foodstuffs but you go right ahead.
  • AIDS – Ok, let me preface this so I don’t get anybody in a huff. This disease is by far the most devastating of threats and is to be taken very seriously. By listing it, I do not wish to belittle its existence, effects, or the millions who suffer from it. The only reason I point it out is to illustrate the reports vs. the reality. Initially this disease was supposed to be the End of the World killer. It was spread quickly and mysteriously. It was something to hide from, something to fear, and something to prepare for. What happened? We researched it, educated ourselves, and after squelching the many lies (like this was God’s punishment of homosexuals and only homosexuals can get the disease) we began dealing with it’s true reality and started taking appropriate steps to prevent and fight.
  • Mad Cow – This one pops up every now and then. Inevitably a cow shows signs of the disease and has to be put down. The media then speculates that we likely have samples of infected meat circulating the shelves and need to be forewarned. Kentucky Fried Chicken then sees a spike in their profits for two months and its forgotten.
  • Y2K – So despite my first statement about not wanting to belittle any threat or nothing on this list being funny, I present you the one exception. The Y2K threat was hard to pinpoint as any one problem. Presumably this was going to shut down the world. It was going to trash every computer in every company and government agency. The result of this craziness would mean no food, no water, no utilities, no financial structure, etc., etc. In reality the computer companies sold record amounts of systems that were Y2K compatible and nothing happened. I mean nothing as in nothing happened to the new computers OR the old ones. I know this because I was a restaurant manager that worked for a very cheap owner who refused to get updated hardware or software. And when the dreaded day arrived…systems all go. This scare is one of the largest and most successful marketing ploys ever devised. If it were possible, I would love to see the Y3K hooplah. Too bad I will be long gone by then.
  • Anthrax – Post 911 we had several politicians and people of interest receiving white powder in the mail. Most of these were examined and determined to be fake but several were actual anthrax powder. Media outlets took this small fraction of events and globalized it to proportions that had you, the average Joe, wearing a space suit when going out to the mailbox. All military and government personnel scrambled for shots (which by the way contained anthrax and killed more people than the mailed version) to immunize themselves. The next time white powder shows up in your mailbox, consider calling the narcotics division before running for a gasmask.
  • Terrorism Preparations – One of my favorite news stories showed a reporter teaching us how to duct tape the frames of windows and doorways to prepare for fallout or potential chemical warfare. Duct tape? Hey, I am like any guy and swear by the stuff. But if that is my protection against annihilation, I really am scared. This is the Nuclear threat repackaged and presented to you in more modern terms. Instead of running to purchase fallout shelters, just tape your home up. It will work…I swear (wink, wink).
  • West Nile – Deadly mosquitos with radar systems built into their antennae are after you. They have been injected with a deadly virus and programmed to invade backyard picknics and reek havoc. That is quite an overstatement but not too far from the truth. From what I researched, a handful of people got this and survived…though it was no fun I’m sure. The only death counts made public was the occasional bird but more on them later.
  • SARS – As soon as I catch my breath and get this medical mask off my face, I will tell you all about it. Sorry, I just recently went to China and have been out of breath ever since. I am not sure what I have but it is probably contagious and easily spread through internet connections. So run out and get checked out by a doctor now…no really, now.
  • Avian Flu – This was that actual reason for this post. The “Bird Flu” as it is commonly called is making all sorts of headlines. It is the Pandemic waiting to happen. Forgive me for saying "Bah Humbug" but I present to you the evidence above. Let me put you at ease. When it is your time, it is your time. Your efforts to prolong life are only possible with some serious discussions with the Lord above, not quarantine, not duct tape, not flu vaccination, and not underground shelters. Fear this new headline if you wish. I for one, will continue living today just like I did the day before. The media has cried wolf one to many times for me to even bat my eyes at this one. Maybe this is just an effort to even out the playing field for MacDonald’s since that KFC spike when Mad Cow hit the papers. Cows are bad…no, no wait…birds (Chicken included) are bad…no, no wait.

    Can we please focus on a fuel solution so I can quit paying $3+ for a gallon of gas??


Mags said...

I can't agree with you more. Not only does the media and Government play up these "life/world ending" pandemics, most of society falls right into their greedy hands.

I have ALOT of very controversial opinions that people don't like to here but the truth is, they just "can't handle the truth"

Aids...please! Why is it that Magic Johnson is still around and completely healthy?? I'll tell you why...he has chosen NOT to take the oh so wonderful cocktail. The cocktail is what makes you sicker!! Yet he has had the virus for over 10 years.
Man, I can go on and on..all this stupid hype about bird flu and more recently the Mumps.
People need to open their eyes and brains! Get self-educated, don't just except what you hear. Where in the heck did common sense go!

It's good for you my daughter just woke up, otherwise I would continue the rambling!!

TheEdge said...

As I said above...AIDS is serious. But it was a far cry from the initial reports of galatic destruction.

Thanks for your thoughts. I am glad I got a rise out of someone.

Scholar07 said...

I saw an advertisement for a made-for-TV movie concerning the Avian Flu on ABC called 'Fatal Contact: Bird Flu in America'. I think how ridiculously it is to show something that is an exaggerated disaster. We all are equipped with imaginations capable of fathoming intricate scenarios of destruction, why make a movie about it? This is clearly a fear inducing tactic for something beyond what I can conceive. What will it achieve other than fear? My guess is NOTHING.

al fin said...

People are drawn to disasters and catastrophes--so much so that they have to make them up, if there isn't one handy. We have to be reminded of our morbid proclivities regularly, else we will fall back into that Chicken Little rut, inevitably.

As for Magic Johnson, I bet he takes his drugs faithfully. He has always been an intelligent person. HIV drugs, although with side effects like every drug, have prolonged the lives of millions. With HIV, you only stop your drugs if you want to die.

QatMan said...

I work in corporate security for a major oil company so terrorism gets talked about a lot. I have come to believe two things:

1. Almost every security conference and seminar I have ever attended is about one thing: money. The industry generates "concerns" and then provides the products to address it.

2. Much of what passes for "security" today, is intended as purely symbolic and emotional comfort. Most measures don't protect you against determined adversaries. They are designed to alleviate the fear generated by the media you discuss.

MTR said...

I suspect competing news media has something to do with it. I don't know if we really get news anymore. We get what sells, and fear sells.