Dear World – An Open Letter

Dear World,
I am writing to ask that you stop being so stupid. Your constant, idiotic shenanigans are causing me to lose my faith in humanity. Every day, I see the mindless masses reacting in the most illogical way to situations which are being sensationalized by the media, and the problem is getting worse. Allow me to use the current situation of this “swine flu pandemic” as an example.
As of 8:00am Eastern this morning, There were 64 confirmed cases of Swine Flu in the United States, and one death. The death was a 22-month old Mexican toddler that had been flown in for treatment, and I offer my most sincere condolences to the family. Now, I am certain that there are more than 64 cases, which have not yet been confirmed, but the reaction to these numbers is far overblown.
There are over 300 MILLION people in the United States. Even if there are as many as 10,000 infected citizens (and that’s not a number based on any statistic from the CDC or World Health Organization. I just made it up as a number grossly over-exaggerated than the factually stated count), that is less than one out of every 30,000 people. Now, for people who get sick, the rate of death can’t be calculated. Logic and Science dictates that the people at highest risk will be the elderly and the young.
According to news reports, “over a hundred” people are dead in Mexico City from this flu. Mexico City reported a population of over 8 Million people last year. Since the media gave us such an abstract number, but didn’t say over TWO hundred, let’s assume the number of deaths is 199. That’s a mortality rate of .002% of the population. (One out of every 5,000 people? My brain is starting to hurt from all this math.) But now stories are leaking out about how Mexico City isn’t responding to this flu correctly. (And, as an American, I can only report on the stereotypes of Mexican health care, not anything factual, so I will leave that aspect of this criticism untouched.)
I’m not saying the swine flu isn’t a threat. I’m just saying you’re more likely to be killed in a car accident than by it. (Odds of that, according to a 2003 survey, is one in 6,500. Over a 78 year lifespan, that’s about one in 83.) The swine flu numbers aren’t really important, however. You can look at the same sort of media coverage over the Bird Flu or a Mad Cow Disease outbreak or anything that can cause fear in the general populace. My point is that the media is sensationalizing the news.
Why would they do that? Because they have to. Today’s viewers don’t want a stodgy old man with a stone face delivering the facts. They want to feel involved. They want to be entertained. They need the magic box to keep their living room interesting, not bore them out of their minds. (If I were an avid conspiracy-theorist, I could even go so far as to say that the media is causing this fear on purpose, because a frightened population is easier to control, less likely to object to soldiers walking their streets in the name of safety. But I’ll leave that sort of speculation to the conspiracy theorists.)
But this letter isn’t addressed to the media. It’s addressed to the world. So, World, I am asking you to calm down and think. When the media starts talking about hundred of deaths, put it in perspective. It’s hundreds of people that you probably didn’t know, that probably didn’t know each other, and that were scattered across a very broad population. When they start talking about how deadly this new threat is, take a deep breath and realize that they aren’t telling you that the majority of these deaths are across elderly people, very young people, and people who didn’t bother going to the hospital over what they thought was just an annoying fever.
If you’ve read this, and agree with what I’m saying, then I ask that you do one last thing. I ask that you turn off your television tonight. The news will still be there in the morning. Eat dinner at the table with your family and talk to each other. If you don’t have family, go out to eat with your friends and talk with them. Stop worrying, and start living. You’ll find that it’s a lot more enjoyable.

4 thoughts on “Dear World – An Open Letter”

  1. It’s interesting – and a little scary – how alike we sometimes are. I was thinking the same thing about the swine flu and I had similar thoughts about the salmonella outbreaks that happened last year.
    I think your desire to get the world to stop behaving stupidly is ambitious. When you succeed, you’ll be the ultimate ruler – and can control the masses through the media.
    Whoa. There’s a thought.

  2. I don’t even switch it on lately 😉
    It’s amazing to see the difference between the objective reports of the Robert-Koch-Institute (a German state institution for infectious diseases) and the German media.

  3. If only the world will listen to your logic. Instead of publishing this on your blog, could you find a rooftop to shout it from?

  4. Though maybe the internet is a better choice. What you we need to do to make your blog the first hit when someone googles “swine flu”?

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