Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Swine panic

The hysteria over swine flu is eerily similar to that stoked by fear-mongering politicians using wars on nouns for narrow political ends. Simon Jenkins is one of the few mainstream media commentators to call them on it:
Professional expertise is now overwhelmed by professional log-rolling. Risk aversion has trounced risk judgment. An obligation on public officials not to scare people or lead them to needless expense is overridden by the yearning for a higher budget or more profit. Health scares enable media-hungry doctors, public health officials and drugs companies to benefit by manipulating fright.

Lunatic risk assessment can seriously damage your health (and economy, and freedom).

2 comments:

Nick Anstead said...

I agree that the media coverage borders on the hysterically funny in its shrill excitement, but I don't think that Jenkins can be held up as a paragon of virtue, as he is equally guilty of conforming to a comment stereotype - namely, a curmudgeon. What we have ended up with are two sides shouting at each other, one saying "we are all going to die" and the other saying "pull yourselves together".

Neither position is terribly useful to efficient or accurate risk assessment, I would suggest.

Ian Brown said...

With so many hysterics around, I think we should prize our curmudgeons :)