‘SWINE FLU: PANDEMIC IMMINENT?’

The title of this post was the chyron on my TV screen a little while ago as MSNBC interviewed Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano about the Media Panic Of The Week. Meanwhile, Joe Biden is warning citizens to avoid subways and planes. (What about AmTrak, Joe?) And in watching last night’s White House press conference, I was struck by the number of questions Obama got about swine flu.

WTF? Not since the Great Alar Apple Scare of 1989 have so many media alarmists spread so much panic to so many about so little. Jim Harper of Cato has noted the absurdity of treating a (largely potential) flu pandemic as a “national security” issue. What’s going on here? Two things, basically:

  • Women and old folks — Health news is consumed mainly by women and the elderly. Healthy men in the prime of life tend to consider themselves invulnerable to disease. Every real guy learns at an early age that only wussie-boys fret over germs. Real guys instinctively loathe the neurasthenic wimp who explains his latest case of the sniffles by whining, “It’s my allergies.” Women, however, seem to have an inherent predisposition toward hypochondria. For example, women are the prime market for hand sanitizer; it’s like they have a self-esteem issue about their immune systems. And old folks, of course, spend 80% of their waking hours worrying about their health, carefully monitoring themselves for “regularity” and visiting the doctor weekly to demand diagnoses and treatment for their various aches and pains. This is why Medicare is threatening to bankrupt America: Going to the doctor is actually a hobby for the elderly. Old folks love to collect things, and now they’re collecting prescriptions at taxpayer expense. (Honestly: Go look at your Grandma’s medicine cabinet.)
  • The illusion of executive competence — One thing certain about swine flu: The panic will eventually end. A week or two from now, the outbreak will have run its course and people will stop worrying about it. But the ubiquitous image of Barack Obama on TV, speaking calmly in his resonant baritone about government measures to combat The Dreaded Swine Flu Menace, will have had their intended effect of conveying the idea that he is The Man In Charge, the calm at the eye of the storm, the antithesis of how George W. Bush was perceived during Hurricane Katrina.

Not coincidentally, if you scratch the surface of those polls showing how popular Obama is, you’ll see that women, old folks and neurasthenic wussie-boys are his strongest constituencies. Ask Grandma — if you can catch her between her taxpayer-funded visits to the doctor — what she thinks of how Obama has handled The Dreaded Swine Flu Menace.

Obama’s lackeys in the media know exactly what they’re doing. Turning an ordinary virus into a Code Orange national-security threat is political gold for Obama.

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