My wife is dealing with her yearly, almost-springtime sinus infection. You can set the time to set forward the clocks by it. She is a medical assistant in a doctor’s office and despite sinus infections not being one of the symptoms of the coronavirus (which, BTW, three weeks ago was not a word that was in Autocorrect, but now is – who makes these day-to-day calls?) she’s dealing with the hype and has actually had patients who did not want her to help them.
We had a discussion about this last night, because it reminded both of us when I was arrested, the incorrect news reports, and needless hype it caused.
I don’t want anyone to think that I believe coronavirus isn’t an important thing to keep a close eye on, but I think the most startling part about it is that it’s revealing just how many people don’t wash their hands or use hand sanitizer. There should not be empty store shelves where hand soap and sanitizer once sat. Shelves are empty because demand wasn’t there previously. Let’s hope that people’s hygiene continues to stay at improved levels once this hype is over.
There’s a universal truth in this world that the media and politicians understand. Scared people provide the best word-of-mouth. Once you’re scared, you don’t concern yourself, nor scrutinize the facts of a situation. In doomsday mode, you just prepare for and expect the worse.
In North Dakota, there hasn’t been one confirmed case of coronavirus this year. As of three days ago, there has been 9,979 cases of influenza, with 88 hospitalizations. Thankfully, nobody has died, but 9,979 is a bit more than 0. However, because it’s not been decided that it’s a good news story that will make money for media companies, and it’s not been prioritized by politicians seeking attention from those media companies, the flu is just something that happens.
Vice President Mike Pence was put in charge of doing something about coronavirus. A lot of people got angry because he made some dumb comment about cigarette smoking not killing people years ago. Yeah, it was an ignorant thing to say, but dumber yet is that we don’t seem to care that the Center for Disease Control says cigarette smoking kills 480,000 Americans every year (worldwide estimates are about 6 million people). Coronavirus, as of Thursday night, has killed 12 Americans.
Does anybody remember last year when 12 people died in the UK because of a rare outbreak of a bacterial infection that was a cousin of strep throat? No? The American media didn’t jump on that one, so nobody cared, yet the same number of people died.
Far more children will be accidentally killed this year in incidents involving their backyard pool than in accidental household gun deaths, yet the National Swimming Pool Association (if there even is a group like that) doesn’t have to battle public hype like the National Rifle Association because the public – following the lead of the media and politicians, haven’t decided accidental pool deaths are an important cause.
With 12 Americans dead of the coronavirus, the Senate passed an emergency $8.3 billion bill to fight the spread of the virus. You probably won’t be shocked to hear that the Senate only approved $5.9 billion in the 2020 budget for the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, despite the fact that drugs and mental health conditions have killed far, far, far more people than the coronavirus. You don’t get your picture on CNN or FOX News when you’re funding mental health. You do when you fund what the media wants you to think is the next plague.
When I was arrested six years ago, there were two photos of a topless teenage girl found by police on my computer. I’m not going to rationalize or defend that, but it was far less than the hundreds of photos of children under 12 that was reported in the media. It was months before that was ever corrected, and it wasn’t even called to attention that the previous reporting was wrong. Yet guess what I was convicted of? Two photos. It was reported I couldn’t be around my children, which was clearly wrong as I could not only be around them, I was still living with them through my legal ordeal. I don’t think the police, nor the media really cared if the information they shared was accurate.
What did that misinformation cause? Many, many people taking on social media locally, tearing me apart based on wrong information that was spun and hyped and spun and hyped. Reading those comments was like reading about somebody else it was that incorrect. There were people who I’m pretty sure thought I was snatching little kids directly off playgrounds. When public hype spins already incorrect information, there’s little anybody can do to bring things under control.
About four years ago, I wrote an op-ed for the local newspaper giving very rational, science-based reasons why a proposed rules change on where former sex offenders could live didn’t make sense for the city next to the one I live in. It was obvious that it would made getting help and certain resources that the lowest socio-economic demographic of sex offenders needed even more difficult, and statistics prove that hands-on offenders know their victims more than 90% of the time. It actually has nothing to do with how close to a school or church they live. Ultimately, the needless, tighter restrictions were approved 7-0 by the City Council. Isn’t it nice when Democrats and Republicans can get together on something because it’s easier to wave a finger at and demonize sex offenders than understand anything actually true about them? It also looks better the next morning in the newspaper to the readers who aren’t going to be bothered to understand nuance.
My wife is off to work again this morning. She’s not contagious, yet I still have a feeling I may see her by lunch, being sent home not because of good science, but because politicians and the media have whipped people into a frenzy about a virus that has hit 19 states – and only 3 states have more than 6 cases. Maine is not one of those 19 states, BTW.
Wash your hands. Take care of yourself. Be careful with kids around the pool. Lock up your guns. Don’t smoke. Understand sex offenders are people, too. Make your health decisions and reactions based on fact, not hype and scare tactics. And don’t perpetuate anything that isn’t true. Memes do enough of that already.