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World Panics Over New Media-Borne Virus

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of

When I first heard about Pigmageddon – the latest phenomenon set to wipe us all out, yet again – I was ironically just leaving a relatively empty screening of the new movie “Earth”, featuring dying polar bears, elephants lost in the ever-growing deserts, and great white sharks which, if you believe what you read at peak slow-news times, were only taking a brief respite from ravaging tourist beaches to earn their actor’s union card. Tough luck, DisneyNature – no one cares about “climate change” right now.

Our attention deficient culture has some new disaster porn, and it’s getting better TV ratings because, unlike the global warming phenomenon previously known as “seasons”, a virus actually kills people. This disaster even has its own international scoreboard. Every day, you can compare your national immunity with other countries’. You can’t do that with the average flu! This one’s special, because it hasn’t killed enough people yet to lose count.

The disease is striking hard in major world centers. By this, I mean anywhere a government press conference is taking place on the issue. And where there’s government involvement, there’s political sensitivity.

Israel is calling it the “Mexican flu”, because this virus apparently came from Mexico, where nearly all the deaths have occurred. Well, that’s just not nice! Obama’s administration wants to call it the “H1N1 virus”, and others have suggested “North American virus”. The European Commission is calling it “novel flu”, which sounds like something you pick up during a visit to Barnes and Noble.

But branding is everything, and no one really wants to die from a virus with a loser name. How about just so-subtly calling it “pig flu”, in Spanish? La Gripe De Puerco! If the Mexicans don’t like it, or the Spanish feel it could be misattributed to them, let them take it up with the United Nations, or the International Criminal Court, or whatever useless bureaucratic entity has some free space on its schedule before we all get wiped out.

Speaking of which -- who’s going to save us? Why, the United Nations’ health department: The World Health Organization! So hang tight, they’re holding meetings. April 27th’s chin-pulling session determined that the best course of action is to raise the worldwide panic (ie “pandemic alert”) level from 3 to 4, and NOT to close borders or restrict international travel.

France’s President Nicolas Sarkozy, responded by asking the entire European Union to restrict flights to Mexico. Although judging by the speed at which this media-borne virus is spreading, by the time he gets an answer, he could have zombies knocking at the door of the Elysee.

Meanwhile, the border between America and Mexico remains wide open. President Obama says it’s a “serious situation”, then did what comes naturally to him in stressful situations: He reached into America’s piggy bank for $1.5 billion. For what exactly? Who knows. But apparently the cure for this thing, like many other problems in life, is just a little retail therapy.

How seriously is Mexico taking this? Very! You can tell by all the Mexicans running around in paper masks from the dollar store in front of CNN’s medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, who is apparently risking life and death to bring you the media coolness you have come to expect, by taking his off and slinging it around his neck whenever the red camera light goes on.

Remember the last time you got sick with the flu and remembered, “Damn, I should never have let that guy on the subway cough straight into my mouth! I should have known better from last year when that guy sneezed right into my face and up my nose!” That’s what those masks are meant to prevent. If they were any more useful, the Center for Disease Control would be kicking itself right now for investing all that money on respirators and full suits for their researchers.

But I’m sure your biggest concern with this media-borne quagmire is, “How is Hollywood handling all of this?” Only a couple of weeks ago, Ashton Kutcher (backed by his wife Demi Moore and his friend P. Diddy) was in a death match with CNN and Larry King in their race to a million followers on the social networking website, Twitter. In the process, they raised tens of thousands of dollars for malaria-countering bed nets in Africa. Even Oprah pitched in.

That must really be a difficult thing to deal with – being so out of vogue, literally overnight, in their world-saving efforts. Psyched out by malaria-carrying mosquitoes. I wonder how George Clooney feels about sleeping with a pet pot-bellied pig all those years? Does he feel some responsibility for coddling the enemy? Kind of like when Rumsfeld shook Saddam Hussein’s hand back when Iraq was an ally, isn’t it, George?

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