Twiting swine flu and Asia

Paul Bograd

Posted on May 4, 2009

I would like to suggest an alternative view of why Asia has been largely spared from the recent so-called “Pandemic” of Swine Flu.

I can sum up the reason in 4 simple words:

“Asia Don’t Twit Much”

Yes, that’s it… You heard it here first.

Consider the following:

In today’s headlines the leading news providers and international health organizations are grudgingly and with no small sense of disappointment; advising that the great “Swine Flu” pandemic of April 2009 may have been really more of “Swine Twit” than a real Pandemic.

They are all kind of looking for a face saving way out of the false panic they created.

Of course the petty bureaucrat in some of them is scrambling to be sure they can keep the hundreds of millions of dollars, euros, RMBs, Yen, Pesos etc. that they guilted legislatures and governments to give them with no bids, public hearings or transparency.

And they are trying to be sure they can get to keep their 15 minutes of fame, as so-called news programs so desperate for entertaining or shocking news has been willing to interview anyone who will wear a surgical mask while being interviewed.

And of course last but not least the “News” networks will have to find a good use for the Swine Flu …Day 14 “logotypes” and stage sets they have created in a desperate competitive grab for ratings at the expense of the fears and human flaws of their viewers… Who are by the way actually hoping (in vain) to get the “mythical and elusive” facts and news from the networks.

So what does Twitter have to do with all this and why is Asia relatively spared because it does not Twit much?

Well by many news accounts; the multinational World Health Organization, the multiple Centres for Disease control, as well as many national governmental health and first response agencies as well as millions of presumably well intentioned individuals sounded the global “Swine Flu” alert via millions of “Twitter” and “Twitter” like messages.

Now information as important, complex, nuanced and subject to exploitation and panicked response was sent to millions of unsuspecting adults and children via a medium largely designed for monosyllabic, narcissistic messaging to let your “twitter” buddies know that you forgot to wear underwear this morning or some such other entertaining “twits”.

Fortunately for Asia; Twitting has not yet taken hold to the degree of celebrity that it has in the West; so most Asians had to get their information about Swine Flu in more complete, contextual, nuanced and responsible form and mediums. (Of course that did not stop the Hong Kong Authorities from locking up several hundred healthy travellers in bizarre and panicked hotel quarantine.)

I am not for a single second denigrating the commitment and competence of the global and national health care institutions. When the real Pandemic comes…and it will; their knowledge will be our only weapon of defence. And I will save my comments on Twitter for another day.

But if we learn anything from the great “Swine Twit” of 2009, we should learn that twitting is no substitute for real knowledge and to “Twit” is not to communicate.

At the risk of over intellectualizing; we should all remember that René Descartes wrote “I Think, Therefore I Am.” I am sure he did not mean “I Twit, Therefore I Am.”

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