Tuesday, April 28, 2009

It's an epigemic!

I'm sorry. I just can't take this seriously. I do apologise but the British press are just going bonkers over this - where's your stiff upper lip guys? Some random person on the radio just said they were "calm"... urgh.... good? Unless you have a reason to think you're going to die of swine flu you have no reason to think you are going to die of swine flu. End of.

For example, I think the normally sane and rational Daily Mail is guilty of irresponsible fear mongering when it says 40% might die by the weekend and that "Face masks could prove useless in combating the killer swine flu virus, experts have warned." Please, please, please get back to the high quality journalism Mail.

The Guardian coverage has been mixed. Tanya Hyde was rather interesting, placing the flu outbreak in some sort of context. Whilst Mike Davis writes one of the stupidest articles I've seen for some time, and I can assure you there's a lot of competition! I suppose they are trying to cater to everyone - from people interested in the news to facile idiots who enjoy end of the world scenarios. The whole spectrum.

Gold star goes to The Independent who not only have the best coverage today (both in tone and content) but are also the only national newspaper not to have the porcine plague as a lead story on their front page. Kudos.

On the other hand Aaron has written a great post giving everyone sensible advise on how to cope with the aporkalypse. James points to a great 70's swine flu propaganda film they could re-use. Classic.

XKCD has the illustrated guide that no one should be without and this photo shows how swine flu got into the human population. It is "safe for work" but still disgusting!

Interesting bit of news: Israel has said it should be renamed Mexican flu because it's better to offend Mexicans than pigs, or something.

Phil writes a much more measured and level headed piece that doesn't down play the seriousness of dying of flu but heavily critiques the way the press has dealt with it. Too sensible by half in my book.

Many a happy hour did I spend listening to the Subhumans in my teenage years. Never has their song The Pig Man (3 mins 46 secs) seemed more appropriate. Enjoy.


Sue said...

And the Daily Mail dissed Deptford this week, the scumbags! Local blogosphere is up in arms (or typing furiously, or smthg).

Benjamin Solah said...

I guess it might be a bit more serious in Mexico but I doubt it'll affect the UK or Australia.

Good fodder for horror stories though ;)

Oh one thing I hate about the media in Australia is focussing on all the Australians even if they're not that at risk. Like repeating in headlines about how many Australians have been tested, how many are at risk, how many haven't died - as if the Mexican death count doesn't matter was much coz they're coloured people.

Jim Jay said...

Same here Ben - same here

Strategist said...

Jim, Quite harsh words on the Mike Davis article - is this your professional area of expertise?

I'm not an expert, but surely Davis is right to flag that we are brewing up a big future problem when the worst type of industrial pig farming gets globalised to relatively poor countries which might have weak inspection regimes? If this outbreak isn't "the big one" - and of course it is far too early to say - then that does not mean that "the big one" isn't coming. And the same goes for avian flu and the factory farming of chickens.

I'm sure some people think it's quite cool to sit in San Francisco and be unruffled when everyone else panics over an earth tremor, but they themselves would be foolish to disregard the fact that the big one will indeed come one day.

The difference between earthquakes and factory farming being that we can do something about stopping the latter?

Jim Jay said...

Strat: the problem I have with Mike D's piece is that it makes a whole load of assumptions that may feed into people's prejudice but actually are not proved when it comes to swine flu.

We don't know the source, we can't simply blame factory farming for these specifc events unless we have proof - and that we do not have.

So the piece ends up being part of the apocolyptic media storm rather than helping people come to a calm and rational appraisal of the situation.

Whilst I can't say he's wrong what he can't do is say he's actually right - it's just what he reckons is at the root of it. I think that's quite irresponsible.

Strategist said...

Thanks Jim. I'm very happy to agree that it is far too early to say anything definitive about this particular outbreak (I did say that) - but that also goes for Benjamin's "I doubt it'll affect the UK or Australia" as much as it goes for Mike Davis's "factory farming did this".

My question for you is, do you believe that one day, there will be "a big one", that could have been preventable had we not been so keen on factory farming?

Obviously there have been a number of pandemic false alarms (Ebola, SARS and avian flu spring to mind), but clearly they do happen occasionally, and it seems logical that we are making them more likely with our vile animal rearing practices.

Benjamin Solah said...

I personally think the factory farming conditions driven by capitalist competition breed disease. These pigs are wallowing in their own shit, full of bacteria. That could like cause a huge outbreak, even if it isn't this time around.

And then if you look at the health systems we all have, their totally inadequate to deal with such an outbreak. This goes for developed nations, but imagine third world nations in Africa, where there are already pandemics of disease but no one gives a shit about them anyway. Poor black people can't pay for drugs so drug companies don't care, they can just drop dead as far as those guys are concerned.

Jim Jay said...

I think that a very serious pandemic could happen. After all they have in the past and there is no reason to think that we've done anything that might eradicate them.

I guess my worry about the piece was that it was designed to feed prejudices rather than inform debate with facts, unfortunately something that journalism - ro one branch of it seems to be specialising recently.

Let's just say Mike's right - I think I'm asking myself has he helped the situation? I don't think so - but if he's wrong he's been very unhelpful for when an actual pandemic does occur.

One last thing - I read Frank Skinner in the Times yesterday oon this and I thought he was bloody brilliant - I probably should reappraise my views :)