Bug report, pig sick

Conspiracy theories from http://xkcd.com/258/

Conspiracy theories from http://xkcd.com/258/

In the spirit of this xkcd comic, I’d like to file a bug report on that section of the British public that Had its Say to the BBC on the swine flu epidemic.

You could basically construct almost any one of these farts-in-email format by perming any 3 items from the following list:

  • It was deliberately created in a military lab to cull the world’s population
  • It is a just media hype to sell papers
  • It is just a pharmaceutical industry hype to sell tamiflu
  • It is an imaginary disease dreamt up by the same media liberals who insist that climate change is a real danger.
  • Treatment is a waste of their precious public money
  • It’s just “flu” and, therefore, completely insignificant
  • It is completely out of control. (It’s actually possible to find this idea in the same email as the idea above)
  • I demand immediate access to the (so far purely conceptual) vaccination
  • The (so far purely conceptual) vaccination is poisonous and I refuse to take it.
  • The government has invented the epidemic to distract us from….

This example is a representative classic, in its mixture of selfishness, poor grasp of the English language and anti-labour government ranting.

I suppose we the Tax payer will be paying for the expensive drugs, the additional medical staff and rubbish propoganda material published by good old Gordo and his quango’s

Hmm, these HYS-armchair-generals-turned-medical-experts make me feel pig sick. Even if I didn’t have swine flu, which I apparently do.

Panic pandemics

A minor explosion of middle-class parenting angst (I reckon it’s their hormones) has followed the Myerson saga. For instance, families are now being torn apart by the skunk epidemic, according to the Observer. Yes, that was the Observer, not the Daily Mail. I checked. (Disease metaphors for society. Don’t you just love them?)

“It is the end of a taboo: articulate, middle-class parents are speaking out about the nightmare of seeing their children spiral into drug abuse and, all too often, mental illness. Many blame themselves for staying silent, assuming that modern strains of cannabis were little different from the pot that baby boomers smoked at college. The reality is very different” (from the Observer)

I’m going to skip past the embedded semiotics, because it’s boring and pretty blatant. (e.g. “at college” – the politician’s way of trying to imply a merging of excusable youthful folly and underlying respectability; “articulate middle class” as if no one else’s experience counts, and so on.) Basically, some “baby boomers” have grown old, changed their views and some have privileged access to the media. In the way of the world, they have become their parents, but – hopelessly self-indulgent – they don’t want to acknowledge this or accept that they themselves might have ever made mistakes. it was only purely innocent substances they didn’t inhale. So, it’s just the next generation who must be wrong.

A commenter (called ILoveMaxGogarty ) on Anne Perkins’ Guardian article made a sarcastic reference to the “skunk pandemic.” Great phrase.

But that particular moral panic is just one in the pandemic of pandemics that we are apparently facing. Alcohol and obesity are perennial favourites. Barely a day goes by without some hand-wringing and new initiative to deal with these. Both can apparently be addressed by taxing the poor more.

For example, there are plans for a minimum alcohol price and doctors calling for a chocolate tax.

Clearly, if you’re well off enough to pay more for alcohol and sweets, they don’t harm you. But , if you aren’t well off, they are really quite dangerous. I think we should follow this idea to its logical conclusion then. No tax on vintage champagnes or hand-made Swiss chocolates. £1000% taxes on cider and own-brand chocolate-flavour biscuits.

Ignore the complex combination of biological, psychological and social factors that shape our behaviour. Every social ill can be solved by blaming the victims, spending money on advertising and taxing the poor more.

Modern “epidemics” are so strange. These are the only epidemics where you can happily blame the victims, even express contempt for them without anyone thinking that you are morally reprehensible. It seems that we actually eat fewer calories than people did 50 years ago (according to the Office of National Statistics.)

But we can still view “obese” people as ravening gluttons, who deserve to die because of their sinfulness. And see ourselves as “good” because we didn’t take a slice of cake.

If only these medical ideas had been around in the middle ages. If only the rich had just taxed the peasants more heavily, the Black Death could have been eliminated. Ah, I understand now that the feudal landlords have been greatly misunderstood. They were really taxing the peasants on health grounds, to avoid the dangers of millet-related obesity or mead-binges. Throwing recalcitrant peasants off their land probably even qualifies as tough love, even.