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Jewish World Review
April 30, 2009
/ 6 Iyar
The Sties Have It
When I first heard the news that a highly contagious pathogen was rapidly spreading among the public, threatening to infect a large segment of the population, I admit I wasn't too worried. At this time of year, I figured, who doesn't come down with a case of NBA Playoffs Fever? But once the thrilling seven-game Bulls-Celtics playoff series was over and I switched channels, I discovered that the media had gone absolutely hog wild (ha!) over Swine Flu.
In their initial reports, the TV news programs took their typically reserved, even-handed approach to the story, reassuring viewers that the severity of the flu outbreak was still mild and, by taking proper precautions, members of the public would likely be able to avoid infection. Unless, that is, one of your coworkers had it. Or a neighbor. Or maybe one of the other kids at your children's school. I mean, who knows where those urchins have been sticking their grubby little fingers, right? In which case, NOTHING CAN STOP IT! WAIT, WHAT WAS THAT NOISE? DID SOMEONE SNEEZE? AAUGH, THE PIGS ARE COMING FOR US! WE'RE DOOMED!"
Thankfully, we were reassured to hear that more news would be forthcoming at eleven, assuming we lived that long. Perhaps we should just be glad the TV news shows covered the story at all, considering that not even one young, attractive blonde appears to have been infected.
Federal officials, meanwhile, were a little more sober-minded, with top officials going on TV to tell us that now is not the time to panic. "Once those of us in the government are all safely ensconced in our secret, hermetically sealed, flu-free subterranean complex, then you can panic all you want," was the implied message.
The unfortunate reality, however, is that these days, scaring the living daylights out of us is practically the only way to spur Americans to do anything. Take the Y2K "crisis." In the months leading up to December 31, 1999, experts warned us that unless we mobilized a massive nerd army to reprogram a bunch of old computers, a horrific technological Armageddon straight out of the Terminator movies would inevitably ensue. Then, come the morning of January 1, 2000, we all awoke to find that nothing had changed, except that many of us were suffering from millennial-sized hangovers. The nerds had saved us, it turned out.
Or maybe they hadn't. We'll never know what would have happened if we had just ignored the warnings, and not bothered to go back and add a "19" to the date tags in all those old programs. Nothing maybe. But then again, the doomsayers might have been proven right, and all the world's machines would have risen up in unison and enslaved us in some sort of post-apocalyptic Dystopia, ruled over by a muscle-bound cyborg with a thick Austrian accent intent on destroying our economy and undermining the foundation of human civilization. Hey, wait a minute…
But part of the reason that we have to be terrified into action is that the American public has the average attention span of a hyperactive ferret. Sure, we can get all up in arms about the latest crisis for a little while, but soon enough some other shiny object is going to catch our eye. The Iraq War is a good example. Unquestionably, we are the only nation in modern history to be engaged in a major, prolonged military conflict with a mostly apathetic public. In a recent public opinion poll of national priorities, "winning the war" came in behind "the economy," "global warming," "healthcare reform" and "getting to the bottom of this whole Miss California-gay marriage controversy."
Of course, the fact that this strain of swine flu originated in Mexico only exacerbated the problem, feeding into existing stereotypes about our neighbors to the south. Anti-immigrant groups in particular seized on the episode to decry Mexican pig hygiene standards and called on the government to build a border fence, lest more Mexican pathogens come streaming into the country to take jobs away from hard-working, American-born infectious agents.
But overall, now that the swine flu threat seems to be subsiding, I have to credit the American public for not giving in to widespread panic. We didn't refuse to leave the house wearing anything short of a full-body biohazard suit, we didn't launch a nuclear attack against Mexico and we didn't react to anyone who sniffled in public by pointing and shouting, "He's got it, he's got the pig disease! Kill him!" (OK, maybe I did that, but only a couple times).
And just to show that there's no longer any reason to fear, our government officials are already leading the way, as they begin to emerge from hiding and instantly resume their long love affair with pork.
JWR contributor Malcolm Fleschner is a humor columnist for The DC Examiner. Let him know what you think by clicking here.
04/30/09: Planning of the Apes
04/08/09: No more phoning it in
02/26/09: Tuning in to the English Channel
02/19/09: 25 AND COUNTING
02/13/09: A new life, dead ahead
01/29/09: NOW STARRING ... EVERYBODY!
01/15/09: You know the type
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11/20/08: Hotels go for the green
11/06/08: Something does not compute
10/30/08: Early adopters tech their chances
10/21/08: Cyberspace invaders
10/21/08: Keeping up disappearances
09/17/08: Victims of math hysteria
08/07/08: My newfound sense of self (promotion)
06/24/08: Getting the brand back together
05/29/08: Phrased and confused
05/13/08: Take this job and love it
04/17/08: News you can (re)use
04/02/08: Commercial (over)load
02/20/08: An overdose of reality
02/14/08: A developing situation
01/30/08: I can tech it or leave it
01/02/08: Confessions of a coke addict
01/02/08: Our bills are due
12/13/07: Going (to lunch) once, going twice…
11/28/07: Out with the old
11/06/07: My latest pet project
11/06/07: Can't tune it out
10/23/07: Something special in the hair
09/12/07: Can I have your attention, please?
09/12/07: Houston, we have an image problem
08/21/07: In the heat of fashion
08/09/07: Let's get in the game
06/13/07: You gonna eat that?
05/08/07: That's disinter-tainment
05/02/07:You Are (not) Getting Sleepy...
04/18/07: No time like Father Time
03/15/07: Deface the Nation
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02/22/07: Relationships can be such a chore
12/05/06: Who's calling the shots?
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10/27/06: Some skills are beyond repair
10/18/06: You can't tech it with you
10/04/06: Award to the wise
08/24/06: Phrased and Confused
08/09/06: We're Gonna Party Like it's $19.99
07/19/06: Just Singing in the Brain
05/24/06: Who says you can't go home again?
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04/26/06: Cents and sensibility: A thought for your pennies
03/16/06: The day the Muzak died
02/23/06: Checkbook diplomacy begins at home
02/15/06: Today's toys: Where learning means earning
© 2006, Malcolm Fleschner
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