Mass media hysteria doesn't ease a panic

As you are no doubt aware, there's been a swine flu outbreak - largely in Mexico, where it may be fairly called an epidemic, perhaps even a national emergency; 152 deaths and upward of 2,500 possible cases don't lie.

In the United States, however, there are an estimated 560 cases at most, and a single death of a Mexican girl who was previously sick before coming to the U.S.

To hear most of the media tell it, however, we're all going to die in a horrible 21st century Black Death that will sweep the world and open a new market for men with carts wandering the countryside yelling, "Bring out your dead!"

Employment opportunities for cynical Monty Python fans aside, the American media is engaging in fear mongering on an impressive scale. It's impossible to turn on a news channel, read a newspaper, go to any news outlet online or research recipes for a nice pork sandwich without hearing about swine flu and seeing somber looking people wearing comfort masks - even Oprah's in on the act.

It's sad that this is what mass media has come to. It isn't like it doesn't happen constantly: swine flu, SARS, bird flu, terrorism and weapons of mass destruction. All these things and others, too many others, have been used as fodder to scare the people because, for some reason, the media thinks that Americans need to be scared.

We've moved away from informing the people and have instead moved toward touching the nerves that sting most, finding the things that frighten people to the deepest places of their subconscious and exploiting those holes in confidence to sell product, in this case, ad space and newspaper copy.

All this does, though, is make the public jaded toward the preaching and information of the modern news media. Good job, peers in the media, your attempt to attract viewers and readers has left them disillusioned and cynical! Cheers!

It doesn't matter if the swine flu becomes a sweeping epidemic or, as seems more likely, a few people get sick and then get better. The media will still be there next week to jump on something else that frightens us. Perhaps they'll find that watching Jon Stewart actually does rot your brain. We won't be surprised.

Regardless, the staff of The Lamron is registering its dissent: Instead of fear mongering, we'll continue to recount the news as it happens. Have a good summer, Geneseo!

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