Irresponsible media - a blog, in 1000 Words or Less
I think every job has its pros and cons, even if we sometimes can’t see them from the outside looking in. I don’t know why anyone would choose a career in underwater welding, for instance. I’d need to talk someone in that line of work, to understand what acts as a counterbalance to such a dangerous and frightening job.
An upside of my job is the opportunity to visit cities in different countries around the world. One of my favourite cities is London. I’ve been there countless times and I’ve never grown bored with the place. Sprawling, noisy, crowded and expensive, it’s also interesting, photogenic, iconic and full of history.
I was in London with work in April, at the height of the Covid lockdown. When I checked into my hotel I was told nothing was open, other than pharmacies, grocery stores and some restaurants for takeout orders only. People were allowed outside their homes for essentials and exercise purposes. Otherwise they were encouraged to stay in.
I took my camera and went out for exercise and saw London as I’ve never seen it before…without hordes of vehicular traffic, pedestrians, tourists, overflowing pubs or crowded Tube stations. I was thrilled to photograph attractions without strangers photobombing them, something that is virtually impossible during “normal” times in London. As pleased as this made me, it didn’t take long before my mood changed. I couldn’t stop at a new pub for pint and a snack. I couldn’t duck into any of my favourite stores or kill time in one of the numerous museums. Finding an open restroom was next to impossible. The energy and vitality of the city was missing. It wasn’t London as I knew it and I didn’t much like it. I happily flew home the next day.
As we all know, the world came to a virtual halt in March. For some people, depending on where they live and how much attention they pay, the slow down was more of an inconvenience than an emergency. For one individual I know (and I’m sure there are many others), Covid represents an almost theoretical change…it doesn’t unduly bother him because his lifestyle hasn’t changed all that much. The crisis doesn’t significantly impact his job, his leisure time is spent outdoors and he doesn’t watch anything on television unless it is sports. Perhaps crucially, he pays almost no attention to the media—no newspapers, CBC, CNN, FOX or Facebook. He’s had to adjust, as we all have, but as far as I can tell, he’s not overly stressed.
As much as I want to avoid the headlines, what’s going on in the world impacts my life in a significant manner. And, once I jump into that media rabbit hole, after I’ve read the articles and listened to the reports that directly impact my family, friends and colleagues, I spiral off in other directions. I grow progressively more annoyed with each breathless anchor, who comes across shocked with the news she has to impart, all the while making sure to emphasize worst-case scenarios using words like “could” and “possibly” and “potentially.” I know the use of those words means they’ve transitioned from facts to speculation. Therefore, I should ignore their verbal diarrhea. But I can’t. I actually grow angrier with every subsequent report because the exaggerations, conjecture and lies-of-omission harm us all. They don’t move us into a positive future.
For most of us, the United States is at the front and center of the Covid crisis. The numbers are horrific. There’ve been 10 million infections and 240,000 deaths, with tens of thousands of new infections occurring every day. In a population of 330 million, that means:
3.0 percent of the population has been infected with the virus and of those infected, 2.4 percent have died with it, although not necessarily from it.
To look at it another way, of those 10 million infected people, close to 98 percent have recovered.
Wait…what’s that now?
In a country with possibly the worst, most chaotic response to the virus in the world, only a small percentage of the entire population have been infected and .07 percent have died. I’m in no way trying to diminish the memory of those who’ve passed away or minimize the emotional toll of those who’ve lost a loved one. I'm only asking if something so incredibly damaging to the world’s economy could have occurred on the strength of those numbers without the media’s negative input. I doubt it. Businesses large and small are failing, the unemployment rate has reached Great Depression levels, entire industries will take years to recover, mortgage defaults are at an all-time high… We all know what’s happening because the media keeps telling us, usually on the back of another report telling us how many infections occurred today compared with last month, but seldom within the confines of context ie., number of tests, demographics, location, density, etc.
Before social-media and instant internet news feeds, a person had time to process a headline, draw some conclusions, possibly seek supplemental information from the next day's newspaper. A person had a news cycle to calm down and make considered choices. The nature of relentlessly bad news from numerous sources all in a short of period of time is, at the very least, anxiety inducing. For some people, anxiety is too mild a word. The ensuing stress makes them incapable of good judgement or rational thought. We've all seen it:
The clerk at the dry-cleaners becomes unnecessarily agitated when you place a pair of slacks on her counter...and then hands you her pen to fill in the paperwork.
Policy makers invent non-sensical new rules. Don't get me started on the umpteen incomprehensible regulations BC Ferries has instituted in response to Covid.
Politicians say idiotic things...wear a mask while having sex? If Theresa Tam (Canada's top doctor), can say stupid shit like that, I guess I can willfully misinterpret her statement and ask if she means a mask like a Darth Vader's or Batman's or Jason's from Friday the Thirteenth.
There are countless examples.
China gave the world this virus, the WHO started the panic with its inaccurate modelling and ever since, the media has sprayed gasoline on the fire with second-by-second "updates," making a bad situation much worse. They don’t seem to want the crisis to improve. They enjoy using the word “outbreak” and uttering speculative phrases such as, “…could prompt another possible lockdown…” far too much. The resultant anxiety, frustration and anger so many people are living with right now isn't healthy or sustainable.
However, it is controllable.
If politicians to clerks begin thinking for themselves instead of allowing the headlines to force-feed them a list of negative ramifications, maybe cooler heads will prevail. Decisions will become more logical, based on common sense rather than borderline hysteria.
Next month, I’m going back to London. At this point, I’m uncertain if that is an upside or downside to my job. Either way, I plan on enjoying the city with my camera, assuming the restrictions allow it. I’ll explore without concern about contracting the virus. The numbers don’t bare that scenario out, no matter what the media says. On the other hand, despite what the Cheeto in the white house claims, Covid is a big deal, so I’ll exercise an abundance of caution. I’ll wear a face covering, use hand sanitizer obsessively, avoid crowded situations and socially distance as much as possible. If that means Skip the Dishes rather than a restaurant, that’s what I’ll do. I'm also going to pull a page from my friend’s play-book and aggressively control my media intake. The six o'clock news isn't helping me, or anyone else, weather the shit-storm.