Guardian columnist Simon Jenkins commenting today on media coverage of the swine flu outbreak says: "We have gone demented."
He writes: "Two Britons are or were (not very) ill from flu. "This could really explode," intones a reporter for BBC News. "London warned: it's here," cries the Evening Standard. Fear is said to be spreading "like a Mexican wave". It "could affect" three-quarters of a million Britons. It "could cost" three trillion dollars. The "danger", according to the radio, is that workers who are not ill will be "worried" (perhaps by the reporter) and fail to turn up at power stations and hospitals."
Jenkins argues: "The cause may lie in the national curriculum, the decline of "news" or the rise of blogs and concomitant, unmediated hysteria, but people seem helpless in navigating the gulf that separates public information from their daily round. They cannot set a statistic in context. They cannot relate bad news from Mexico to the risk that inevitably surrounds their lives. The risk of catching swine flu must be millions to one."
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