Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Spin Doctoring Swine Flu: How the Media Could Make You Sick, Or Worse -- Die

The North American media is all buzzing about the various waves of H1N1 Swine Flu crashing through our communities.

Here in Canada, medical experts say the second wave of the constantly mutating virus has almost completed its run through the country, as reported cases are dropping.

As the numbers of serious cases declines, the media is losing their once strong headline grabber to cover. So, as the media often does, they are spinning the story to keep readers, listeners and viewers buying newspapers, listening to radio reports, and watching newscasts.

The latest spin in the media is squarely asking those who haven’t been vaccinated against H1N1 Swine Flu yet whether there is any need, as the virus isn’t infecting as many people across the country.

Fear is an excellent way to capture readers, listeners and viewers -- which is why the media loves quotes from infectious control experts, medical officers of health, and others in the medical field warning of the dangers of not getting the H1N1 Swine Flu vaccine.

Then they go to the street, getting so-called “streeters” – asking people if they have been vaccinated yet against the virus. Once they find someone who hasn’t, they pounce with:

Now that the numbers of cases of H1N1 Swine Flu have gone down, is it worth getting vaccinated?

Pork influenza / fluImage by R├ętrofuturs (Hulk4598) / St├ęphane Massa-Bidal via Flickr

That’s a leading question, which is typical of streeters. Reporters and their news directors, editors and producers are clever people. They never go to Joe Blow on the street, unless they know what they want to hear.

The question above is leading the person asked towards a “no” giving them the logical conclusion that it isn’t worth getting vaccinated, because the number of cases has gone down.

Sure, you’ll get people saying anything, but ask enough strangers on the street a leading question which hints at the answer, and it won’t be long before you get that sound bite or pull quote you’ve been longing to hear.

Some might argue that the media is just doing what they are supposed to do – be balanced and fair, by providing all sides to a story.

However, what the media is ignoring is their impact on the public good.

Whenever a pandemic has hit, medical experts after-the-fact have told us that if only we had a way of vaccinating people against the pandemic before it hit, the death toll wouldn’t be as high.


Here we have a rare opportunity, to vaccinate entire continents from a highly contagious, constantly mutating killer virus, and the news media is asking leading questions prompting people to say they don’t think it necessary to get the vaccine?

Doesn’t that smell a wee bit foul to you – or am I the only one sniffing the stink of a news media gone awry?

Sure, writing stories about how it is important to get vaccinated are biased – but when Liberal or Conservative news outlets cover candidates during an election, do you honestly think they are any less biased in their reporting of who they want to win and who they want to lose?

But the difference here isn’t which candidate gets into office, but whether or not huge numbers of people live or die.

The bubonic plague ravaged Europe in the 1400s, virtually eliminating the human race from that continent. This plague – often called the “Black Plague” or “the Great Plague” crossed continents, spreading across North America, killing thousands globally up until being wiped out by the 1900’s.

Main symptoms of pneumonic plague. Sources are...Image via Wikipedia

Vaccines have eliminated massive deaths to virus and diseases such as the Great Plague in modern times, such as the vaccine for regular flu.

Yes, much of the hype about the H1N1 Swine Flu is just that – hype. The numbers of those getting seriously sick, or dying from H1N1 Swine Flu in most of North America aren’t really that much different from incidents of serious illness or death from the regular flu.

But for years humanity has had vaccines for the regular flu – not so for the newer H1N1 Swine Flu, which first surfaced in Mexico earlier this year.

The media does the responsible thing during flu season, and promote the benefits of getting the annual flu shot for the regular flu. There’s no question about it – the more people vaccinated, the low

H1N1 VaccineImage by ghinson via Flickr

er the number of infections. This has been proven time and time again since governments worldwide have been making the regular flu vaccine available to their citizens.

H1N1 Swine Flu isn’t that much different from the regular flu – it just caught us off guard, and prompted the scientific alarm bells to scream “pandemic” as they should.

When the deadly virus was first discovered, scientists didn’t know about it, so they hadn’t any way to prevent it from killing off the human race.
But now, thanks to many of those same scientists, we now have a way to save ourselves, and in so doing, our race.

But our news media, more interested in their bottom lines than the greater good, is still hyping H1N1 Swine Flu as the next great plague, causing hysteria, confusion and worse in some cases – inaction.

By confusing people as to the real nature of H1N1 Swine Flu, the media is clouding the issues, causing people to delay or even to abstain from getting the latest flu-type vaccine.

And that could prove to be more harmful for humanity, as those who do not get vaccinated, put themselves – and those around them – at grave risk.

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