Monday, April 27, 2009

Dread, The Book, Versus Fear

On April 22 Jon Stewart's guest on The Daily Show was a mild mannered professor from Hunter college by the name of Philip Alcabes. As with many of Stewart's guests, he was there to promote his book, Dread.

Mr. Alcabes specialty is Epidemiology, the study of controlling infectious and communicable diseases. His book is about how our complacent, easy lifestyles has led to our susceptibility to over reaction of happenings in our lives. It could not have been a more timely interview had only the administration watched the show or read the book prior to the outbreak of the new strain of swine flu. It exemplifies perfectly his premise.

I'm not downplaying the seriousness of the flu. I am saying the government and the media are creating a frenzy regarding an outcome that has yet to be known. Consider how much of the news is filled with nothing but people walking the streets wearing masks. How many news cycles will this last?

Realizing we have yet to have a new Secretary of Health and Human Services, I do have to ask why the Secretary of Homeland Security, Janet Napolitano, has been the designated spokesperson. Is it because the disease has had a huge impact in Mexico? Is the implication that it is being carried across the borders by the illegals? This woman who misspeaks on so many issues, from returning veterans being potential terror threats to thinking the 9/11 bombers entered this country through Canada, is not the person I'd have put forward. What she knows about homeland security is questionable at best. What she knows about health issues is even more suspect! Why not someone from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC)? At least I'd be more comfortable thinking they may actually know the facts.

The military is monitoring the situation, we're told. Should they or should they not release their stockpiles of vaccine? Should the border be closed? The EU is advising against travel to the U.S. and Mexico, Russia is going to check every incoming flight from the U.S., and on and on it goes.

The fact that three strains of flu virus have morphed into a new one is true. Testing has really just begun on people who have the flu to see which strain they actually have. At the moment there is no definitive answer.

You have to listen closely to learn that only 40 cases have been identified in the United States. You have to listen even more closely to hear that only one has been hospitalized and that all the others have recovered. There are no details about the one hospitalized either. Old, young, frail? What?

We criticized the Bush administration for governing by fear. This one is doing the same thing on an even larger scale. Fear that the banks will fail, fear that the auto companies will fail, fear that if we aren't already we'll soon be out of our homes. And yes, fear that we all are going to perish. It's almost becoming the "Fear of the Week" administration.

We all might do well to curl up with a nice warm cup of tea and read Mr. Alcabes book. Don't forget to first wash your hands.

Footnote: For those of you interested in this, follow the link to Philip Alcabes Website. You'll find it interesting reading. Thank you to Judith Baumel for the heads up!


Peggy said...

This is scary, we think so much alike, but scary good!
I also think that showing people wearing masks and talking about a pandemic should be shelved for now. We'll know more in the next few days!
Love your blog!

Dogwalkmusings said...

Peggy, I'm always happy to have a reader who thinks like I do! Now I've got to dig into your blog! : )

Judith Baumel said...

Hi Dogwalkmusings! I think you really got what Alcabes was saying on The Daily Show. As a friend of PA, I am interested to see how his point about the value of ordinary public health has come to be even more important as the Swine Flu events unfold. Check out a blog by author of *Dread* Philip Alcabes. He says swineflu is not a pandemic. WHO, CDC are doing sound public health and we should avoid a panic paradigm:

Dogwalkmusings said...


Thank you! I've added a footnote to the post with the link to Philip Alcabes' website.

Betty said...

It's the media trying to scare everyone. By the way, I could always be wrong, but I don't think the HHS Secretary has yet been confirmed. The lat I heard, some cowardly Republican has put an anonymous hold on it.

Rinkly Rimes said...

Somebody recently described this sort of over-reaction as Disaster Porn! I tend to agree. But it's not new.

When I lived in what is now Zimbabwe, we listened to the BBC Overseas news one night and heard that 'Rioting had broken out in Bulawayo'. We were all young and silly so we thought we'd go in search of the riots, since we were living in Bulawayo. We found policeman, one police dog and one broken window!!!

Word Tosser said...

the Media must be disperate. the so over blow everything. As I have said before..there are over 100,000 people who died of the common flu EVERY YEAR!. There are thousands who die from the common cold. So the fact that 40-50 or so have it. geesh... talk about chicken little, the sky is falling.

Word Tosser said...

oh, and I forgot.. maybe the reason why Mexico has so much is the same reason why China had so much of the bird flu... Sanitation is not exact a buzz word for either place.