What is needed here…

… is a strategy. After a burst of activity, the all too easy deathly silence has descended, only partly due the intrusions of daily life. Trying to find some time every dayish to report on the local news scene feels a bit like working for free, though I realize that is an old-fashioned reaction, based on soon to be outmoded economic models.

The easiest remedy is to shoot from the hip, and let opinion and adrenaline steer the agenda, writing about anything that actually propels one to the keyboard, rather than getting bogged down in all that fact-checking, digging and attempted ‘objectivity’ that makes up the working day. The spontaneous feels more blogworthy.

Even so, I didn’t find the time to vent about a Norwegian study that received much attention in the wake of the Pirate Bay trial in Sweden, despite feeling very strongly about almost every aspect of that story, being as angered by copyright violation, and by hordes of people who believe they are entitled to anything they want for free, as I am by  hamfisted attempts to strangle information flow and legislate without careful consideration of the rapidly changing times and the repercussions that can ensue from hotheaded regulation. The story, incidentally, was about a Norwegian study that was widely interpreted to indicate that pirates were also most likely to pay for downloaded content, a conclusion that could be disputed on any number of grounds – good science, it wasn’t.

One easy excuse for the lack of blog reportage here is that everything paled into insignificance recently as global hysteria erupted over swine flu, despite the disease being unable to cause a tiny fraction of the damage that regular home and garden human flu does.

The reaction here has been admirably calm, though Health Minister Bjarne Håkon Hanssen was cited as warning against the potential ‘breakdown of society’ in the case of a widespread flu epidemic. While this reasonably clearly meant that so many people would be at home, either ill or being tended to, that the wheels of commerce and services could suffer, as a phrase it seemed all too close to fueling the visions of plague ravaged destruction that much of the media was trying to portray.

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3 responses to “What is needed here…

  1. There’s a way to look at the current flu story epidemic which could have some value:

    Observe the current reactions and use that to speculate on how society will react if there ever is a really bad one. Then consider what your best choices would be in such a situation. Could come in useful on day, and in any case makes for better brain gymnastics than just sneering at the sheeps…

    (BTW: Links to the stuff you report on would be nice.)

    • Jonathan Tisdall

      Yes, links will probably be more of a routine, but I don’t expect most people to be able to read the sources – old News in English readers by definition not reading Norwegian by default, and that was the reason for getting started. Not to mention the reason I wrote this last entry was to muse over whether off the cuff ranting was a better way to get into the routine of posting regularly – one hopes that the better the routine, eventually the better the posting as well.

      I don’t think I was sneering at sheep necessarily, more reacting to the panic contest going on – one interesting item in that respect was a recent report that some Norwegian doctors were hoarding Tamiflu for themselves – but again, that strikes me as more sensationalism than relevance, at least until a lot of them start doing it.

      I think that the current state of readiness would clearly fail in a truly acute situation. But I wouldn’t want anyone to take my word for it: Recommendation: Read The Return of the Black Death, which is not only a bit of brilliant historical and medical detective work, it also clarifies the most important parameters for a deadly plague/pandemic, and it’s impact.

      Sobering reading – given the speed of spread and inability to test or restrain this flu quickly enough, the implications for something with the right combination of incubation time, contagion and fatality are pretty clear. As are the stats for H1N1 – if it can’t ‘outperform’ regular flu, what the hell is this hysteria about?

      And a link for new thinking on pandemic reaction and control.

  2. Thanks for the book recommendation, the pages I was allowed to read was very interesting (and frightening)!

    Here a good comment about (some of) the media flip-flopping for reader attention: http://www.badscience.net/2009/04/parmageddon/

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