Monday, April 27, 2009

Responsibility or Fear Mongering?

It is necessary, of course, for the Board of Health to notify people when a contagious disease has manifested itself in one's country, state or city; Swine flu has emerged with the suddenness that illness often uses to ambush the seemingly strong public immune system. People are healthy and then, in an instant, some of them are not.

So I understand the tv news, the internet headlines, the newspaper accounts, updating us about the flu and the precautions one should take. But I wonder, just as people always wonder when the media inundates us with one idea--how much is TOO much footage of the masked and frightened people in Mexico? When does one cross the line between responsible journalism and fomented fear?

My sons, who had never seen such a thing but were born into a world that faced the potential threat of germ warfare or "new" plagues, were terrified last night and couldn't sleep. They wanted reassurance that this had happened before and would happen again. They wanted me to tell them it was normal.

And, when I think about it, it is. We have had other outbreaks; we have faced plagues in other forms; and we have had times in recent history where we watched the news and looked out our own windows with the gloom of people who wondered if the world was coming to an end. In recent days, between our sagging economy and its attendant layoffs, the endless warnings about terrorism, and now a weird illness named after pigs, we must once again try to find a sane place amidst the visual rhetoric that suggests potential chaos.

Sometimes, as Robert Frost sagaciously suggested, we must focus on a distant star to escape into objectivity. Sometimes, the world is too close for us to see it in focus.

(image: not a star, but the full moon, last month).


Eric Mayer said...

That's a shame. News has become overly sensationalized and there's no sense of perspective. I suspect most the "panic" the news outlets are blaring about is of their own creation. I'm still waiting for that bird flu to do us all in. Where's that? I'm glad I'm not raising young kids at home any longer.

Julia Buckley said...

You're right, Eric--and I remember reading some pretty scary articles about the bird flu.

Perspective is the key word. You should be in charge. :)

Karen Brees said...

Chester, love the swine flu tag. The conversation is great. I like the humor and the ease of flow. Good job.