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Chcialbym podzielic sie z Wami swoimi spostrzezeniami na temat wplywu mediow na zachowania ludzi na przykladzie "Scare campaign"zwiazanej ze Swine Flu.
Swine Flu Media Scare
Ever since the H1N1 virus, better known as swine flu, was discovered several weeks ago, the media has all but exploded with constantly updated coverage, which by its vast amount of media attention has suggested a full-blown international crisis.
With the non-stop news updates, front-page capitalized headlines and daily deteriorating reports of the World Health Organization, chaos and paranoia has swept the population. People are chaotically fretting over the overwhelming amount of media attention that is being paid to the pandemic.
Is the real cause of panic and trepidation the virus itself, or are people hysterical due to the mass media blowing the issue out of proportion?
It’s generally well known and understood it is media’s job to captivate the public, and the more sensational the issue they make, the more viewers it will attract. Nevertheless, people are getting carried away by fear, and paranoia; parents are keeping their kids out of school and hurrying to the clinics while their raising concern and confusion is being constantly reinforced by media’s mass coverage. "We have a tendency to reach for the apocalyptic, but the apocalypse hasn't reached us yet," asserts Fielder, reminiscing about past flu scares that had been sensationalized by the media. The question we should ask ourselves is where do we draw the line between caution and blind paranoia?
The press does their share to further ignite the panic with big headlines. “Two billion could catch swine flu if Pandemic Develops” said The Herald. “Nation braces for the worst as new strain emerges” announced USA Today. The media continues to further incite the issue by looking at it from different angles: How will the swine flu affect the stock market? Are the celebrities in danger of being infected? How will it impact the travel? The topic is the latest number one discussion of every news update.
Where H1N1 death toll goes up one number, the media is sure to list the number of the next potential fatalities.
The media is directly responsible for the way we perceive the swine flu pandemic. From the very beginning the press chose to present H1N1 as a full-blown crisis. The combined effect of massive television exposure by viewers and continuously updated coverage exacerbated the terror of the people, causing them to react to the pandemic with unnecessary trepidation. The London’s free Metro newspaper started the Sunday’s coverage with a front page article announcing “ Swine flu could kill up to 120m” over the picture of Mexican Police with face masks and machine guns. After the announcement, many cable news channels have spent a good amount of time overreacting, consequentially causing the public to hyperventilate.
Furthermore, the population’s fright is daily reinforced by the public health officials around the world who constantly overreact trying to stress that we should be preparing for the world emergency, which is soon to materialize. The World Health Organization on 29th of May announced the most sensational statement on the day the UN raised the six-stage pandemic to phase 5, leading the world to fret about the “imminent” pandemic. The representative of the WHO urged all countries to ``immediately activate their pandemic preparedness plans,” stating that, ``It really is all of humanity that is under threat during a pandemic''.
Few years ago, such diseases as SARS and the avian flu had also generated big headlines and have caused the world to panic. In fact in both cases WHO has proven to be an unreliable source speculating that bird flu would kill up to 100 million. The SARS scare has cost Canada’s economy $1.5 billion dollars. Despite their previous failures the media still uses the updates of World health organization as a clear, credible evidence of H1N1 being our certain doom. The “threat to humanity” quote triggered a response of an enormous scale that hit the newscast around the world generating a new wave of alarm and panic.
On 11th of May 2009, a total of 30 countries have reported cases of the flu, and currently it has killed people in Canada, US, Costa Rica and Mexico. The latest report also announced that the death toll in Mexico has reached 56. As the panic rises along with the number of causalities, we should remind ourselves that seasonal flues kill 36,000 each year, which s far more than the deaths caused by H1N1.
The number of fatalities from Mexico might be rationalized, if not justified by a number of colligating factors; large areas of the country lack clean water and basic sanitation making the population vulnerable and largely exposed to catching an easily transmittable disease and the health care in Mexico is absolutely inadequate.
Certainly, the smart thing to do would be to avoid large crowds or direct contact on airports or in countries where the swine flu is a bigger concern. Then again, we need to remember that it is media’s job, however immoral, to provoke a response that would sustain our interest, keep us on our toes. The reporters know that the populace longs for updates and wants to be immediately informed about any sensational issue. People want tragedy and despair, which is why the media tries to maintain and cultivate that culture of fear; so far it has been succeeding.
By Agata Krawczyk.