Here we are two days into the Swine Flu Panic of '09, and dead bodies have yet to be stacked up like cordwood on the streets of American cities. Face it: this story is dumb.
1. The actual "news" part of it is boring: A new case of swine flu in New Zealand. A new case in Queens. On and on ad infinitum. Do you know what immediate worldwide reporting of single flu cases does not add up to? An interesting and newsworthy story. It adds up to scaremongering! Reporting every single new case of anything will make it appear to be a grave threat. See: Crime reporting on local news networks.
And try this test: Are new cases of deadly disease X emerging at a slow enough rate that they can each be reported in individual news stories? Then it's not much of a pandemic! When might it actually become a pandemic that sweeps the globe? Maybe next week, maybe never! Stay tuned for by-the-minute updates, until you starve to death.
2. Tedious images: Pictures of people wearing masks. It's only funny for one day. It would be more interesting if someone explained how these magical flimsy paper masks kept humans safe from germs. What's their secret???
3. Scare tactic overload: Because there's little actual news going on here, every TV news anchor is forced to use the "scare voice" to make this story seem important enough to justify the hours it's filling. The "scare voice" applied to less-than-apocalyptic stories is the prime reason people think cable news is full of shit, generally.
Maybe the print media is better? A little. But not completely. Hey, check out this CNN story on "what the world might see if there is another pandemic":
World health Organization officials believe as many as 1.5 billion people around the globe would seek medical care and nearly 30 million would seek hospitalization. Based on the last pandemic and current world population, as many as 7 million people could die, epidemiologists said.
"Hospitals will become overcrowded, schools will close, businesses will close, airports will be empty," Dr. Lo said.
Will there be an accompanying zombie war? Wait another day or two and CNN will tell us!
4. No good heroes or villains: Faceless low-level health workers versus a microscopic virus? It's a failure of drama. If Bin Laden and Jack Bauer are found to be involved though, watch out!
5. No incentive for news outlets to cut down on the bullshit: Panic is great for the media. Ideally for media outlets, the population would be in a state of low-level panic at all times, punctuated only by frequent crises that boost us into a higher level of panic. Even news people who realize something is bullshit also know that Panic=Attention to News People. For example: Media antihero Michael Wolff is writing columns about what a bullshit story this is. His columns appear on Newser right next to HUGE LEAD STORIES about the Deadly Swine Flu Epidemic.
Wake us up when we're all dead.