Friday, November 6, 2009

This Is a Rant

I make no apologies for what I'm about to write; just as newspapers right now are producing blatant material with no apologies. I call it manufacturing terror, and it sure does lead to manufacturing. Profit margins are looking pretty sweet right now for big pharmaceuticals and others indirectly involved in the sale of terror, as H1N1 ravages populations. "Hey! fat boy. Yeah, I'm talkin' to you," to quote Lucy Liu in Payback. And like the big sellers right now, I'm going to quote from real people who have done real studies, and I'm going to be vague about it because I want to sell my opinion.

As threats and dark warnings raged through the corridors of the WHO, periodically coming out as cautiously written newspaper headlines: H1N1 KILLS ANOTHER, a young lad in a town somewhere in Ontario quietly tabulated figures. He shook his head once and looked at the screen again. "So," he silently mouthed, "In three months Swine flu has killed as many people as the regular flu kills in five days..." Hence the headlines: AN other. An individual. Not, "Another Town Wiped Out".) But wait. It's a pandemic, right?

What does this word mean? According to's
Cultural definition, pandemic: "A widespread epidemic affecting a large part of the population."* Okay, that's pretty ominous, and vague. Kinda like, We're in an ideological battle to stop the spread of communism, 'cause the Russians and Chinese are trying to take over the world. Not, We're in an ideological battle because it keeps our economies rolling and our respective governments in power. Not quite fair, but then WHO said this was about playing fair? Let's see if Random House can narrow the definition down.

–adjective 1. (of a disease) prevalent throughout an entire country, continent, or the whole world; epidemic over a large area.
2. general; universal: pandemic fear of atomic war.
–noun 3. a pandemic disease.

Hmm. By the definitions the media are using, the common cold is also a pandemic, and so is the "average" flu strain. But in other years sane parents aren't plugging up ERs because their child has the sniffles. It seems that definition two is the one most purveyors of information are trying to get across. But before we entirely write off the risk, the word "pandemic" depends on another word.

Again, the Cultural definition. Epidemic: "A contagious disease that spreads rapidly and widely among the population in an area. Immunisation and quarantine are two of the methods used to control an epidemic."

Ah. Now it's starting to make sense. So that's why the pharmaceuticals rushed out a half-baked, improperly-tested vaccine with known, harmful ingredients. The alternative must be far worse. They do, of course, have historical precedent. In the past they've done the same thing, and the vaccine proved worse than the virus. Medical personnel have told me that the physical reactions to the early H1N1 vaccine are proving to be quite severe.**

I'm changing gears after reading this. Specifically this part:

We know, too, that this early, patchy picture can change very quickly. The virus writes the rules and this one, like all influenza viruses, can change the rules, without rhyme or reason, at any time.
Globally, we have good reason to believe that this pandemic, at least in its early days, will be of moderate severity. As we know from experience, severity can vary, depending on many factors, from one country to another.
On present evidence, the overwhelming majority of patients experience mild symptoms and make a rapid and full recovery, often in the absence of any form of medical treatment.
Worldwide, the number of deaths is small. Each and every one of these deaths is tragic, and we have to brace ourselves to see more. However, we do not expect to see a sudden and dramatic jump in the number of severe or fatal infections.

Did you read that carefully? Pretty balanced, isn't it? And produced by the WHO, which up to this point I had thought was merely a tool in the hands of Big Pharmaceutical. And even if they are, the nature of that quote has been ignored by the major media outlets which I've seen.

Not that it changes the nature of this rant, but it certainly challenges my assumptions. What is a rant, anyway? It is a popularising argument based on a little information. I certainly find that the more information I possess, the less able I am to produce a savage rant. They are best written in the heat of the moment, passionate diatribes against some perceived threat, or more commonly, irritation. Although I try to keep mine from becoming too one-sided, it is impossible to do that by their very nature. You might as well tell an influenza virus to start healing people with pneumonia. (Note that satire is not the same thing as a rant.)

There's no excuse not to do your own research today. "A weekly edition of the New York Times contains more information than the average person was likely to come across in a lifetime in seventeenth-century England."*** While information overload is a well-documented issue, the real problem isn't the information. It's the lack of ability to filter that information. Besides, we all just want to get on with our lives, right? Who has time to sift through it all? I'm usually able to scan quickly and often find relevant research in a matter of minutes. But I know that's not everybody. Most of us don't have the time, so we settle for the media. And that's why we become helpless. It's all too easy to settle for a simplistic viewpoint when the reality is complex.

If I was to go by the calming headlines which every paper I've seen is printing, I would freak. But then I come across factual information.

A new opinion emerging?
Relevant details which are anything but panic inducing?

So who is benefitting from the spread of manufactured fear? The answer is patently obvious. We don't have to be conspiracy theorist to check financial reports or see if we even have a pulse.

You can find additional info and sources on influenza here and here (among others). While we don't have the time or inclination to carefully study everything which comes across our path in life, we should pay attention to those things which shape our thinking. Depending on your reading and absorbing skill, 15-20 minutes of your day may open your eyes. At least check the "2009 flu pandemic" entry and read the opening. Also read the opening of section 7. "Vaccination and prevention", all of section 7.4 Facial masks, and all of 8. "Treatment".

Fear caused by ignorance has got to be the most dangerous, mob-inducing thing. I personally believe that it's responsible for more stupidity and tragedy in world history than anything else. I do not have kind thoughts for the population willing to put itself in chains over such fear when so much information is freely available.

(Yes, yes. You hate wikipedia because "anyone" can edit it. It's remarkably quality-controlled today and is often an excellent source of further research. Besides which, what makes the editors of magazines and newspapers paragons of wisdom and insight? Their primary goal is to sell, right? We all need to continuously develop the ability to filter information.)

* The American Heritage® New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition (Used from
** I will work at getting the exact specifics for you. In the meantime, do yourself the obvious favour.
*** Wurman, Richard Saul. Information Anxiety. New York & Toronto: Doubleday, 1989.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Do it, do it! Leave that glowing comment while your mind reels with the portent of what you just read.