Nigel Tufnel, Franklin Roosevelt, coronavirus and the media.

by Pseud O'Nym

I’ve been as good as my word, insofar as I’ve studiously avoided whenever possible all news reports, news websites and anything else that might distract me from more important concerns. But last night I was struck by the thought that instead of having the pips to herald the imminent arrival of the news on Radio Four, they should instead prepare the listener for the misery to follow with the first few notes of the funeral march. Or better yet, the boom-boom-bo-bo-boom of the ‘Eastenders’ theme. That’d set the mood nicely.

At his Inauguration address as President, Franklin Roosevelt uttered words that today have as much resonance now as they did nearly eighty years ago when he said ‘The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.’

Last week my housemate’s daughter’s school was visited by the Coronavirus fear. Not the Coronavirus itself you understand, but the fear of it. This was in the form of a parent of a child had tested positive. No one was quite sure if anyone else in the family was affected but given the current climate the school had decided that they needed to close on the Thursday in order to do a deep clean ready to re-open on the Friday. To anyone trusted enough to write with more than crayons this raises some questions. First of all, how deep is a deep clean going to be if it can be done in one day? Most schools comprise of multiple buildings and so presumably a deep clean would not be a quick process. Why not keep it closed, do a really thorough job of it and re-open for the start of the new school week. Secondly, who would evaluate how effective such a clean would be? Or is it the case of a school marking its own homework? However, much more concerning to me is that no one saw this as an over-reaction, so premature that if it were a foetus, it’d be just past the sperm fertilizing the egg stage.

But in this current climate of media inflated hysteria, what can one expect? Far from being calming and restrained in its reporting, the media has helped create they very fear that leads people to clear supermarket shelves of toilet paper! Talk about the shits getting people so shit scared they stock up on shit rags! In fact, just a few moments ago one of housemates has just returned from our local Sainsbury’s with nothing more a cabbage, some peppers and loads of ‘photo’s of aisle upon aisle of empty shelves’. On Wednesday, my housemate who seems almost glued to her ‘phone for ever more depressing ‘facts’ showed me a thing on the government webshite whereby you see exactly how many cases had occurred within a specific geographical area and learning that London had the most by quite a large margin, it allowed one to zoom in and see how many cases in each borough.

It is worth bearing in mind that 4 out every 5 people who get Coronavirus will only get a mild illness. The other 1 might die. But as most deaths of any flu occur to those that are elderly, with weakened immune systems and respiratory problems, is it really a ‘killer virus’? Or an inevitable consequence of living far too long? As the BBC reported yesterday;

Ten more people in the UK have died in the last 24 hours after testing positive for coronavirus, bringing the total number of deaths to 21.

The UK government’s chief medical adviser said the patients were all in “at-risk” groups from across England.

The total number of confirmed cases in the UK has reached 1,140 while 37,746 people have been tested.

So hang on! If my maths are correct, less than 5% of those tested for the virus actually have it, and of that 5%, less than 2% had died. That means therefore that not only are the chances of getting the virus smaller, even smaller still is the likelihood of one dying from it. But that was yesterday. Anything could happen between the time I post this –  12.38pm on Sunday 15th March – and the time you read this and quite possibly will. Besides why let pesky facts get in the way of of fear and irrationality.

The media has created a snowball effect of fear which builds and builds, and the more it builds, the more politicians and health officials wish to appear to have some degree of control, whereas in actuality, they can only react to events and increasingly react to the way the media chooses to portray those events. Were can the media go from here?

My mind inevitably turns to Nigel Tufnel, the eponymous guitarist from Spinal Tap, who, when proudly showing off his custom-made amplifier to Marty Diberg, announced that it went up to 11. When Marty quizzed him about why it went up to 11, Nigel replied that when you needed an extra push, and you are on 10, where can you go? Nowhere. But on his custom made one, you could go to 11. It is the same with the media’s coverage of Coronavirus. They need an 11, a 12, a 13….

Remember ‘the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.’