This is Part Two of my never-ending series on the fiction that is the "Bird Flu Pandemic."
Part One was my first blog post on this site several months ago, when the administration was pushing Bird Flu hard. Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt called H5N1 "one of the most terrible threats to life that this world has ever faced." Um, really, Mike? A virus that's been around for about a decade and killed 109 people? Almost all of whom live in chicken coops in third world countries? Of course, he said this at the time to detract from the breaking Abramoff scandal, as well as to help boost Roche's earnings 17% in the third quarter, thanks almost entirely to sudden demand for Tamiflu.
The only problem with Tamiflu was that it started proving ineffective to the virus, although this provided the PR bonus of adding the phrase "Drug Resistant!" to the spectacular Bird Flu stories, which were eagerly disseminated by the administration, pharmaceutical companies, and lapped up by the 24 hour News 'n Fear channels.
But today even the Financial Times had to call bullshit. The chances of a bird flu pandemic are "very low," according to the UK's chief scientific adviser. He also said the idea that the virus would inevitably mutate and go human-to-human was "totally misleading." I guess the Brits are tired of being part of the U.S. led Coalition of the Misleading. Good for them.
Guess who's not tired of misleading? The press. The latest offender is today's Boston Globe that ran an inane fright piece on what soccer moms should do when the pandemic hits. The kindest thing that can be said of such "journalism" is that it is repetitive, hypothetical hackery. A darker view might question who is backing such stories. Perhaps the sleazy writers of Page Six aren't the only ones accepting favors for good press?
Look, most of us know we cannot expect the administration to level with us. We know Bush asked for the "military option" to deal with a pandemic, so he can quarantine the Blue States. We have some vague idea that Rumsfeld was on the board of most of the companies getting rich from this "imminent threat." But where the hell are the real reporters on this story? Instead of giving us a list of what to horde and when it's okay to feed the ducks in the park, why don't these alleged journalists investigate where the money is going for this non-pandemic? Hundreds of millions have been spent, and over a billion more pledged by governments around the world. What do we have to show for it? A partial stockpile of a not-always-effective drug and an evacuation plan for Seattle? And when does it stop? At what point should Congress acknowledge this virus may never mutate? Or do we keep spending indefinitely? Fighting an unseen enemy, a mythical threat, just in case...? Come on guys, we've been down this path before. This time, why not try to get ahead of the story?