Frightened to Death: Why it's the scare stories that are the REAL menace

Frightened to Death: Why it's the scare stories that are the REAL menace (and yes, there's a paragraph about second hand smoke & global warming here, too).

Do you remember that day in 1996 when a Tory health minister stood up in the House of Commons to announce that there might after all be a link between BSE, "mad cow disease", and what seemed to be a new form of the human brain disease, CJD?
All hell broke loose. That evening, on BBC2's Newsnight, Jeremy Paxman egged on the government's chief scientific adviser on BSE, Dr John Pattison, to agree that, within a few years, the new form of CJD caught from eating beef could have killed half a million people. That weekend, The Observer gave a whole page to the predictions of another supposed guru of the time, Professor Richard Lacey, that by 2016 half a million Britons would be dying from CJD every year.

Alert: Experts said BSE could kill 500,000
Scared to death: But should we be more afraid of alarmist stories? Faced with this, the Channel Tunnel would long have been blocked by "five miles of French concrete" and the NHS would have disintegrated. BSE continued to dominate the news for months. The EU's worldwide ban on British exports of any beef-related product, even including wine gums which contain gelatin, set off our worst-ever row with our European "partners". For years to come, we would continue to pay billions of pounds for more than eight million cattle to be sent up in smoke, even though such a drastic step had never been recommended by any scientist. Then, scarcely a year after that original Commons statement, Dr Pattison announced that he had revised his estimate of how many people CJD would kill. He was no longer predicting those 500,000 deaths. He now thought the figure would not exceed . . . wait for it, 200. The BSE crisis of the 1990s was a classic example of what, in the past 20 years, has become one of the most damaging features of our modern world - the "scare".

Again and again we have seen supposed threats to our health and well-being which, in retrospect, can be seen to have been exaggerated out of all proportion - from Edwina Currie putting us all in a panic over salmonella in eggs; to the bird flu which we were officially told in 2005 would soon kill "150 million people"; to the Millennium Bug which was going to cause half the world's computers to crash, reducing cities to chaos and causing airliners to fall out of the sky. This week, with my co-author Dr Richard North, I publish a book, Scared To Death, which for the first time tells the inside story of each of the major scares of recent decades, showing how they have followed a startlingly consistent pattern. As with BSE, many scares begin with a genuine problem. However, where the supposed experts go off the rails is when they try to explain the problem and misread the scientific evidence - usually by putting two things together and theorising, wrongly, that one is the cause of the other. Naturally the idea that some terrifying new threat has emerged which could affect everyone's health makes a sensational story, so a very important role is then played by those sections of the media - all too often led by the BBC - who eagerly talk up the scare without looking too carefully at the facts.

The "tipping point" of any scare comes when it is taken up by the politicians. Confronted by the apparent threat, they and their officials invariably come up with what turns out to be an absurdly over-the-top response - and it is this which causes the real damage, leaving us all with a colossal bill which may well run into many billions of pounds.

Concerns: Fear of Salmonella
We first became familiar with the modern scare phenomenon with Mrs Currie's gaffe about eggs in 1988. As so often, this started with a genuine problem, an explosion in Britain's cases of food poisoning from salmonella. At the same time, it was noted that there was a serious problem with salmonella infecting broiler chickens, bred for eating. How this took off into a fully-fledged scare began when a senior government scientist became convinced that the rise in salmonella poisoning must somehow be caused by the bacteria getting inside chickens' eggs. Edwina Currie, as an ambitious but not very bright junior health minister, fell for his theory and made a fateful announcement on TV which sent the egg scare into orbit. Only four years later, after millions of chickens had been slaughtered and thousands of small egg producers put out of business, did the Government reverse its policy, tacitly acknowledging that eggs had not been the problem after all.

Concerns: Fear of Mad Cow
A similar scientific blunder lay at the heart of the BSE scare in the mid 1990s. Already the possibility that humans might catch "mad cow disease" had attracted obsessive speculation in the media, and when government scientists thought they had discovered a new form of CJD, this panicked them into agreeing that it might after all be caused by eating beef. By the time it emerged that they had got it wrong, the damage was done, leaving Britain with a bill for

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BRING THE TROOPS HOME-NOW!

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"They keep talking about drafting a constitution for Iraq.Why don't we give them ours? It was written by a lot of really smart guys, and we're not using it any more".

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'I used to have compassion, but they taxed it and legislated it out of existence.'

My fear is anyone tht can't make a point in less than 300 words, preferably a lot less.

Darkseid, Any more brilliant comments between your morning hacking lung pukes. Get a life you Rectal Sneeze!

brassmonkey - that article was long because it's a copy of a published article - I didn't write it. And I felt it was important enough to warrent the space. Nobody makes you read articles that are lengthy (fry your brain, did it?) Very easy to simply scroll on past them - or, hey, here's an idea - if you see it's a thread I posted, simply don't read it at all!!!!!!!!!!! Novel idea.

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How'd y'all do with that there bird flu, by the way? I never knew anybody that got it. Our own Dr. Gross Man tells us it isn't a big deal, anyway. He says the same about the monster staph infection and the new super-cold virus, too-laughs on TV and poo-poohs them-but don't dare light up a smoke. Now, THAT he takes seriously. F*&^*ng lying, hypocrite bastards.

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BRING THE TROOPS HOME-NOW!

_________________
"They keep talking about drafting a constitution for Iraq.Why don't we give them ours? It was written by a lot of really smart guys, and we're not using it any more".

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'I used to have compassion, but they taxed it and legislated it out of existence.'

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I'll say it again. If you don't like her threads, simply stay out of them. Easy enough. I'm frightened by smug ,sarcastic c*%^suckers, myself. They seem to be taking over the country.

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BRING THE TROOPS HOME-NOW!

_________________
"They keep talking about drafting a constitution for Iraq.Why don't we give them ours? It was written by a lot of really smart guys, and we're not using it any more".

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'I used to have compassion, but they taxed it and legislated it out of existence.'

You are a miserable excuse for a human being, Assmonkey,you obnoxious self-centered slimeball. I light a cigar in the hope your death will be soon, the human race will be so much better for it when it happens.

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BRING THE TROOPS HOME-NOW!

_________________
"They keep talking about drafting a constitution for Iraq.Why don't we give them ours? It was written by a lot of really smart guys, and we're not using it any more".

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'I used to have compassion, but they taxed it and legislated it out of existence.'

since they couldn't start the insults against you if they stayed out. Unlike you, though, Star, I give it right back. I'm not eating these trolls shit any more. They act like they own the board.

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BRING THE TROOPS HOME-NOW!

_________________
"They keep talking about drafting a constitution for Iraq.Why don't we give them ours? It was written by a lot of really smart guys, and we're not using it any more".

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'I used to have compassion, but they taxed it and legislated it out of existence.'

Darkseid, let me guess....anger management escapes you. Star - I'm sorry to vent my daily work frustrations on to you in regards to long e-mails / v-mails.

I'm sorry to vent my daily work frustrations on to you in regards to long e-mails / v-mails

Ive got the same problem at work - but at work Ive got no choice but to read them - here I can opt to ignore long ones rather than whine about em.

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