Wednesday, July 04, 2007
Clearing the Air
You no doubt remember last month's ridiculously over-hyped tuberculosis scare -- the one that had an already skittish America suddenly expected to trade in its surplus duct tape for one of those fashionable duck-billed surgical masks.
Well, it turns out it was all a big misunderstanding and, as such, the nation's Wanton Panic Alert Level has now been lowered to "Burnt Umber."
The Centers for Disease Control had apparently misdiagnosed intrepid world traveler Andrew Speaker from the very beginning, tagging him with the leper-like label of "Highly Feared, Drug-Resistant Tuberculosis Carrier," when in fact he merely suffers from the plain old, perfectly treatable brand of TB.
The mistake was uncovered by the National Jewish Medical and Research Center in Denver, which only proves that when it comes to knowing how to spot a hypochondriac, leave it to someone who grew up with a Jewish mother.
Last night, Speaker and his wife -- the apparent president-for-life of Atlanta's Junior League chapter as well as living proof that Dress Barn does, in fact, have an excellent selection of sweater sets -- appeared live on CNN's Anderson Cooper 360. They decried the CDC's initial diagnosis, saying that the center unnecessarily "created a huge international panic," and "scared millions of people around the world."
Except that it didn't.
True, the CDC made one very large mistake -- but it was the fear-mongering media that turned what, even in its original, incorrect form was always little more than a mild curiosity into a potentially apocalyptic spectacle that inundated the nightly news and daily papers for days on end, running the news cycle down until there was nothing left but bare rims and grinded gears.
As usual, Americans didn't even have the opportunity to turn to the Fourth Estate for calm, even-handed information before the Fourth Estate turned on them -- overwhelming the public with every kind of hyped-up and orgiastically delivered scare tactic in its considerable arsenal.
Speaker is asking for an apology from the CDC; he'll likely get it.
As for the American public getting one from the media?
Don't hold your breath.