I’m not going into the symptoms of Ebola; if you want you can read that here. No, I’m talking about the Talking Head syndrome we suffer from today, the advent of 24/7 news. As we know, in all apocalyptic stories, the problem starts with a small infection that goes ‘pandemic’. Do we really worry about this with Ebola? Should we?
The first question is: how does the public take to this scare-mongering?
Thirty years ago, before the current plethora of apocalyptic films, books, and constant news reporting I believe the population would be beside itself with driven fear of what, apparently, was coming. Now, though, with highly paid Talking Heads adding to the white noise of induced fear (and most of these talk a load of crap, supposition, and assumption based on almost no information – what better anaesthetic for thought can there be?) I think that a certain amount of immunity to bad news has developed in people’s minds. With the horror of wars, the shooting down of passenger planes, murders, rapes, and religious fervour being piped into our homes, how can Ebola compete with this?
The second question is: how bad does it have to be before we are genuinely frightened rather than just concerned?
Before I look at this question, there is one thing I need to do, and that is define a few words. I’m not being patronising to you, my readers, but a lot of times words are used incorrectly in public reports and so people begin to associate a word with its incorrect usage. And I’ll be damned if I’m going to be one of those responsible for disinformation!
Definition 1, Pandemic: According to the World Health Organization (WHO), a pandemic must meet three conditions: A new virus emerges; it infects humans and causes severe symptoms; and it spreads easily from person to person.
Definition 2, Epidemic: an epidemic occurs when new cases of a certain (known) disease, in a given human population, and during a given period, substantially exceed what is expected based on recent experience. Epidemiologists often consider the term outbreak to be synonymous to epidemic, but the general public typically perceives outbreaks to be more local and less serious than epidemics (source: Wikipedia).
We’ve seen a lot of pandemics in recent years, to wit H1N1 (Swine Flu), SARS and Bird Flu. Fortunately for us, while they have been responsible for many deaths, the upside is that none of them have been on the same level as the Influenza (H1N1 related) pandemic of 1918-20, which killed between 50 and 100 million people. Even more capable than people at killing, that one. I think because of its relation to Influenza, Swine Flu scared us a lot more than Ebola. Why? Perhaps it’s because enough of us have watched films like Congo where it showed how simple it was to manufacture the cure for Ebola quickly. Plus our favourite movies stars survived (almost, poor old Kevin Spacey). Maybe it’s also because we try not to think about getting infected with the Ebola virus, the 90% death rate and the ghastly slopification (not a real word, I know but it describes well the internal effects) of our innards precludes close contemplation.
So, when do we start to react as a population? When we hear about the first case in a hospital on our shores? When it rises to ten, twenty, fifty? For my money I don’t think it has much to do with numbers; the fear will come when several cases are announced at different locations in our country.
Next question: how will we react when we do become scared?
The reaction will be varied. As with immigration, there are a lot of people who will relate the problem with foreigners, because it’s the easiest hook to hang their hat upon – even if it was a local who might have brought the disease into the country. Overall though, the population will be split into a couple of camps, those who soldier on because they see their business as more important (and possibly disbelieve reports), and those who will avoid high population centres in the potentially vain attempt to avoid infection.
Final question: With the white noise of information and disinformation about disease, will we (Joe Public) miss the real danger of pandemics?
Over the years there has been a battle of words about the bias of reporting. Everything from Zionist domination, political left-wing bias of the BBC, to single person control of whole news organisations makes us doubt or at least be sceptical of significant reports, especially if it is not in line with our expectations or beliefs. Will we ever truly believe reports without seeing evidence on our streets?
Over-reporting: I am not singling out the Daily Mail in particular for attack, it’s just one example of many papers that feed us with so much information that it may cause us to fail to realise the true situation or even ignore what is going on around us. When I first began researching this blog, I did a search on the word ‘Ebola’ on the DM’s website and came up with approximately 120 articles written since the beginning of June this year. We know of the power of desensitising people to things such as violence by the repeated showing of it on the telly. It has to be the same with other topics, no matter how horrifying they are in reality.
How many lives will be lost due to this desensitising process? For me, watching a zombie film now fails to truly horrify; of course mayhem, blood, guts and disease is entertaining, and not frightening, isn’t it? After all, who can honestly say that a zombie apocalypse is more than just fiction? Maybe.
What do you think?
I’ve just found an interesting article linked to this subject, worth a look and a laugh!
The Common Cold: A Zombie Chronicle
The Common Cold: A Zombie Chronicle – Cabin Fever (Sequel)
Return Of A King: A Zombie Chronicle
Return Of A King: A Zombie Chronicle – Z Factor