Thursday, May 07, 2009

"All of humanity under threat" from pandemic of bullsh*t

One week ago today I sat in a dentist's waiting room with the flat screen TV there tuned to CNN. On it a series of serious, foreign-looking persons spoke ominously from across a conference table, as the banner "All of Humanity Under Threat" ran under their images. As in....

'All of humanity under threat', WHO warns

The World Health Organisation has warned that "all of humanity is under threat" from a potential swine flu pandemic and called for "global solidarity" to combat the virus.

The plea came as the WHO raised the swine flu threat awareness level to 5 out of 6, indicating that the world is on the brink of a pandemic ... [Telegraph]
Well .... not so much, eh?

The "normal" flu every year infects as many as 60 million Americans, hospitalizes 200,000, and kills about 36,000, says the CDC.

The dread Mexican Swine Flu world-wide epidemic, at this writing -- one week after the world went to Global Level 5 Pandemic Alert -- has infected about 600 people in the US and killed zero (only one person who came here from Mexico for treatment). And it turns out that even in Mexico it wasn't nearly as bad as it was described, infecting only some hundreds of people in a nation of 100 million.

Yes ... it's turning out that the dread Mexican Swine Flu is both less contagious and less dangerous than the regular old-fashioned seasonal flu that Americans take in stride every year as just another thing in another day in the life. The number of infections in this "pandemic" compared to the normal number of annual seasonal flu infections has been 0.00%, rounded to the nearest 0.01%

So how do we get all these headlines proclaiming "All Humanity at Risk ... "Swine flu could kill up to 120 million" ... and "Vice President Biden says 'Don't Take the Subway'"?

I say, it's the price of freedom. When you have democracy and a free press, no politician or bureaucrat gains power and the spotlight, and no media outlet gains audience and advertising dollars, by saying: "This is all nothing folks, forget it. Slow news day." They gain by doing the exact opposite, over-hyping. And as they pay no penalty when it turns out they are wrong, there's nothing ever to contain them, except how much breath they can fit into their lungs before yelping out the next bit of hype.

A little while back I analyzed some poll numbers for a post I got distracted from completing. They took data from the Pew International surveys, conducted in nations around the world, which asked people to compare their own personal economic welfare to the economic condition of their country (as in: "I'm doing fine, but my country is collapsing" to "I'm suffering, but my country is doing fine"). Then I took each nation's ranking in the "freedom index" compiled by Freedom House, and used it as an axis on a chart on which I dropped the Pew poll results for each nation, and ran a best fit line through them all.

It's not hard to guess the results. The resulting line ran straight from, "Most free, I'm better off than ever, but my country is falling apart" to "Least free, I'm in misery, but my country is doing better than ever."

Conclusion: In free countries the politicians and press constantly bullsh*t the population into thinking things are worse than they are ... and in unfree countries the politicians and press constantly propagandize the population into thinking things are better than they are ... and in both cases, it works!

It brings to mind what Churchill said about democracy being a not very good form of government, except compared to the alternatives.

So, the next time you hear politicians and pundits telling you ... oil is on the way to $1,500 a barrel as it runs out ... the economy is about to become the worst since the Great Depression ... the next flu variant will be the worst plague since the Black Death ... and you need our wisdom to save the situation for you ... take it with a big shaker of salt, but be understanding and philosophical about it too. Things could be worse. You could be living in an unfree country.

"Bullsh*t ... It's the price of freedom."