Won't somebody think of the millions

One of things about writing a blog that is the source of much fun and often a deal of frustration is the process of deciding what to write about. Obviously, when you’re a politics anorak like myself there are the major political topics of the day. Occasionally, however, there’s just nothing that pokes your imagination with a sharp stick. You look at the news web sites and it’s wall-to-wall scandal involving some celebrity or royal or politician. If the streets are littered with journalists writhing in the throes of orgasmic ecstasy you can assume a particularly salacious story has broken involving one or more individuals combining the essential attributes of substantial wealth, unearned privilege, elected office and an uncommon (preferably unnameable) sexual peccadillo. That sort of stuff leaves me cold.

Then there’s the situation we have just now, What I call a mono-crisis. As the term suggests, and as is illustrated by the COVID-19 megafuss, this refers to the sort of incident or development that comes to occupy all the top spots on the news pages. The sort of thing that quickly becomes a hook on which to hang any and every piece of reporting and writing. When you scroll down a bit from Coronavirus death toll and find Coronavirus recipes you know you’ve got a mono-crisis.

Somewhere between these extremes you get the single-issue campaigns and hobby-horse issues trying to piggy-back on the mono-crisis frenzy while it lasts as well as the well-meaning advice and the ‘Lovejoys’ – collectively known a the colon pieces. (I hasten to point out that this refers to the punctuation mark and not the lower intestine.) Here’s an example from today’s Sunday National – Coronavirus: ‘We need new ways to protect women from violence’. This is not to diminish the issue of domestic violence. It is merely to illustrate a piggy-backing colon piece headline. No judgement on the article itself is implied or, indeed, possible given that I haven’t yet read it. There’s bound to be an article somewhere in today’s papers that brings together coronavirus and climate change and/or coronavirus and nuclear disarmament and/or coronavirus and some other hobby-horse issue. Often involving an appeal for charitable giving. Again, no judgement.

The Sunday National also provides an example of the advice variety of colon piece, although this time the colon is implied. How can you take care of your emotional well-being during COVID-19? In a lesser publication, this might well be a quick rewrite of a piece that appeared last November or early December under the headline How can you take care of your emotional well-being during the Festive Season?

What about the ‘Lovejoys’? Named for the character in The Simpsons this refers to the appeals to consider a particular demographic or special interest group. The line ‘Won’t somebody please think of the children!’ has passed into everyday language, often replacing ‘children’ with some other specific category of people. Recently, for instance, we’ve heard ‘Won’t somebody please think of the self-employed!’. You can probably think of your own examples. Again, I am obliged to state that these may well be deserving groups of individuals. I’m talking here about media, not people.

The point is that a mono-crisis breeds predictable offshoots of various sorts which pack the media and push everything else out of sight. Which may suit some people just fine.

One last mention of a particular type of offshoot – the gesture. This is the pieces urging people to make a common gesture to mark, celebrate or memorialise a date event or person. You know the sort of thing – ‘Put a candle in your window as an expression of the nation’s gratitude for the work done by candle manufacturers!’. That sort of thing.

The focus of the mono-crisis becomes almost like a commodity or a brand. Or even a celebrity. It is attached to all manner of things either to pique he interest of browsers or to fill the spaces between advertising material. Coronavirus/COVID-19 is no different. It gets used. It gets exploited in diverse ways. That’s neither necessarily a good thing nor a bad thing. It’s just the way people work. And the way the media work. It can be a good thing if it leads to people being better informed and more aware. It can be a bad thing if it trivialises a serious issue or misleads people.

The latter is an aspect of the mono-crisis phenomenon which is a significant concern. The mono-crisis can drag on for weeks or months or years. People being what they are, interest wanes. So there is always the temptation to embellish mono-crisis-related stories to make them more titillating. Just yesterday, I encountered some buffoon on Facebook talking about the population being “wiped out”. We may dismiss this as being of no consequence both because it is such an obvious and ludicrous exaggeration and because it’s on Facebook – where stupid goes to get a lobotomy. Research that I’ve just made up has shown that your IQ drops by one point for every hour spent on Facebook. The guy ranting about coronavirus wiping out populations had obviously been on Facebook for several days.

Early estimates put the case mortality rate no higher than 1%. That’s a much smaller percentage of all infections, around 80% of which will result in only mild symptoms and may not even be noticed. At population level the impact is negligible.*

It would be good if we could dismiss such nonsense. But how often have we found that today’s social media drivel is tomorrow’s Herald headline? One Facebook reference is enough foundation for some ‘journalist’ to author a piece ‘asking the question’ as to whether there is growing panic about mass deaths. The sort of article that offers solemn warnings about irresponsible exaggeration spiced with lurid language of the kind it purports to be condemning. MILLIONS WILL DIE! has the same effect as WILL MILLIONS DIE? when shouted from headlines.

I was thinking all this as I perused the papers looking for inspiration. The train of thought was prompted, in part, by Mike Russell’s comment piece in the Sunday National, the gist of which may be gathered from the headline – Politicians are solely focused on Covid-19 fight. That headline caught my attention. It is interesting, not so much for what it says, but for the reaction it is likely to prompt. It’s surely safe to assume that most people seeing that statement would feel reassured. They’d think it a good thing and a proper thing that politicians should be exclusively focused on the public health emergency. It is a mono-crisis, after all. We all know what ‘mono’ implies from common expressions such as ‘monotonous’, monosyllabic and ‘monomaniacal’. And we all know what a crisis is because there is never a time when we aren’t in the midst of a crisis, just recovering from a crisis or preparing for an imminent crisis. It’s appropriate that our politicians should be “solely focused” on the current mono-crisis. Isn’t it?

A few people – probably very few – would look at that headline and think to themselves that this exclusive focus on a single matter was extremely irresponsible. No matter how serious the issue, there are always other issues. Some of these are chronic and will deteriorate rapidly if not properly managed and overseen. We don’t elect politicians to deal with a single issue. We elect them to manage all the nation’s affairs. ALL the nation’s affairs! Either Mike Russell is indulging in a bit of rhetorical micturation or our elected representatives are being derelict in their duty.

Context is essential to a proper understanding of any situation. It allows us to bring to bear a sense of proportion. Of course, it is right that there should be concern for those affected by COVID-19. But what about the 99.997% of the population who will not die from coronavirus-related causes? Do they not deserve some consideration also? Should our politicians not be focusing at least partially on the future beyond this mono-crisis?

Another thing that nudged my neurons when considering what to write about today was a comment on a previous blog article. The individual posting the comment gave the impression of being incandescent with indignant out rage calling me “inhumane” and suggesting that articles such as mine should be the target of some kind of official censorship. My offence? Apparently, I am a monster because I wrote about the pandemic from the perspective of a political commentator rather than from the point of view of someone actually witnessing the suffering of the afflicted. It seems that this is the only perspective that is permissible. To even entertain in one’s private thoughts, never mind one’s published writing, the wider implications of the pandemic equates to some kind of heresy. Context is prohibited. A sense of proportion is forbidden. Proper understanding is improper. It all lends a new and ominous meaning to the term mono-crisis. Not only must we focus solely on the one issue, we must see it in only one way.

This comment had a profound effect on me. I decided not to write about coronavirus.

* https://www.vox.com/2020/3/5/21165973/coronavirus-death-rate-explained



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4 thoughts on “Won't somebody think of the millions

  1. Actually that vox.com article is worth a read as, down at the bottom, after most people have gotten bored and clicked away to see what their latest facebook notification is, there is a nice graphic which shows, based on data from China, what the mortality rate is for various age groups. This is probably the most useful piece of information I’ve come across from all the millions of words of utter nonsense that have been written so far. So:

    If you’re under 10 your survival is guaranteed.

    If you’re under 50 your survival is pretty much guaranteed.

    If you’re over 80 with a heart condition and lying in a hospital in a country where the health service is at breaking point or beyond then it’s probably time you made your peace with your maker.

    The point of all this is that if I am a “journalist” on a deadline with 500 words to file in 2 hours and a marketing department to keep happy and a job I have to keep then I’m really not going to bother trying to put things into perspective and provide a detailed insights on what is happening. Nope, I’m jumping on the hysteria bandwagon with both feet.

    Which is why leadership and common-sense from government is what exactly is needed to counteract the hype and attention-seeking that is required in modern media. Except government long ago decided it was a media outlet also. Doubly so, with the clowns in the Bumbling Boris Administration.

    Coronavirus: We need new ways to protect ourselves from incompetent idiots, special interest groups and people with ulterior motives.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Despite all the hype and craziness there are several good reasons why the current situation is serious:

      1. People are contagious long before they have symptoms so the virus spreads extremely fast. The chances of vulnerable groups escaping it are pretty slim.

      2. If hospitals are inundated with people who need intensive treatment and a lot of resources then, with current levels of preparedness and funding, the system simply breaks. The physical and mental toil on doctors means the health services are likely to sustain long-term damage.

      3. If hospitals are full of dying patients then stroke victims, who with care an timely intervention would survive, start dying too. That broken leg might not get looked at right way and a secondary infection sets in and takes that productive 40 year-old long before their time.

      4. Finally and most importantly. For every person the virus passes through there is the chance it mutates. The next mutation might be the one that kills the infected person in 12 hours after they’ve already been spreading it for the previous 5 days. The chances of that are extremely small but given enough opportunities, small probabilities can become large ones.

      As you can imagine all this takes time to explain and who has time for that?

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Brilliant and witty!
    We do have a major problem here, tho.
    What I see is the 1930s happening all over again!
    By which I mean, that folks wonder how it could be, that sensible modern nation like Germany could have an idiot madman like Hitler in charge!
    The Cardinal Archbishop of Chicago in the 1930s actually did say that in public and being of Germanic origin, he was obviously a little more concerned than some others in USA were at the time, and the German leadership wasn’t happy! They were frothing at the mouth and complaining bitterly to the Pope, etc.
    But soon everyone else was paying attention.
    We saw the greater part of a nation turn on their neighbors. The Jews were especially targeted, then it was the Gays, then Disabled, then Romas,, then Czechoslovakia, then Poland, which sparked it all off across the rest of Europe.
    We wonder today, how it was possible for such a thing to happen. That folks could just so suddenly denounce their neighbors they had lived with and spoken with for years on end.
    We wonder how it was, entire peoples could so be led astray by their Governments, or be forced into some totalitarian regime so easily with precious little resistance at the time, until it was too late, and resistance was all but futile.
    With the Covid19, thing, we are witnessing something similar. Anyone who still aims for Independence here and now, gets denounced as being “utras”. Anyone seen walking about even, is denounced as being a danger to everyone else.
    Anyone going to say as church for a service is denounced, and so on and son on.
    Of course, there are some who deserve to be denounced, such as those who buy up half a supermarket, or those who use this Pandemic to make a fast buck.
    But we are seeing anyone who might have a cough being condemned if they go out.
    I heard of complaints of old folks seen going to the shops, and they were even talking with each other, out on the streets…..… tut,, tut. how dangerous that was!!
    Some folks, however have no choice but to go out. They have no one to get anything for them. Others have work to go to. Others have the DWP to go to, and if they don’t get to that signing appointment, they will have an awful lot more than a virus to worry about. as UK Govt has not suspended signings, but leaves it up to the discretion of each DWP adviser. That isn’t very helpful to anyone. And as so many DWP Jobcenters have shut, folks need to get on those buses to get to them.
    And some wonder why we need Independence!?!
    But suddenly, those going out, are seen as dangers to others.
    They are in danger of being denounced. Anyone who questions this over reaction on the part of Governments are denounced in turn.
    It is that, which I see as being too similar to the 1930s. for one’s liking.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I wrote this on my blog, CHIMES OF FREEDOM, in March 2019. No sooner had I posted it on FB but the SNP Happy Clappers ganged-up and got my blog banned. It remains banned for no reason. You can still access it through Google:

    “Here they come in their almost goose-stepping arrogance, anger and intolerance.

    Here they come, following their Saviour and boasting nationalistic purity, ready for another kind of cleansing; if yer no wi’ us, yer agin us and I judge yer ter be agin us for not following our Leader! Oh boy! What are the rest of us letting ourselves in for??

    Is this the New Scotland we wish to see come about? Where there is one view and only one, where those of a different view (however slight it may be) are simply not to be tolerated, to be made into non-persons? And how do we deal with this home-grown fascism that thrives all around us among the fanatics?”

    Like

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