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Governments at all levels and of all stripes, with the help of a compliant media just love to scare ordinary people

The cost of the H1N1 Scare Tactics

By —— Bio and Archives--April 12, 2010

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Figures have recently been released that show how much money the government of Canada spent on the H1N1 flu pandemic. The feds spent $37 million on advertising and communications. This was more than was spent on anti-virals ($14 million), preparing emergency responses ($8.6 million) and outbreak management ($21 million).

After the figures were released, Dr. Richard Schabas, a former Ontario medical officer of health, renewed his criticism that the government spent too much money after the flu outbreak had finished. In the end, although the H1N1 did qualify as a worldwide pandemic, its effect on the vast majority of those who caught it was mild. Many people had this particular strain of flu and didn’t even know it. The number of people who died from H1N1 was about one tenth of the number of Canadians who die each year from ordinary flu.

There is nothing unusual in the fact that the government spent so much money advertising in order to tell people where they should go and get their flu shots. It was perfectly consistent with the way democratic governments operate in the 21st century.

It is often said that the most important duty of a government is to protect its citizens. While this may have been true at one time, today a government’s primary function is to protect itself and its members. Even if the government had known for a fact that there was only a one in a billion chance that H1N1 would become a major health problem for the country, they still would have spent the same amount of money including that spent on advertising. It’s not like they were spending their own money. And since other countries were doing the same thing, Canada would have looked bad if the government failed to tell its citizens day after day after day to go and get their flu shots and the one in a billion chance became a reality.

Having acquired a lot of the vaccine, it then became imperative to get rid of as much of it as possible, lest the government be accused of waste. And advertising as much as possible was necessary in order to accomplish this. So no one including Dr. Schabas should be surprised that the advertising and dire warnings about not getting a flu shot continued well after the pandemic and the possible danger had ended.

A more disturbing aspect of governments today is their willingness to scare the citizenry into compliance and to make them more dependent upon those who are in power. The Conservatives are far from the worst offenders of this practice but the constant advertising after the threat that H1N1posed had gone shows that they are willing to scare the population to prevent themselves from looking bad. Governments at all levels and of all stripes, with the help of a compliant media just love to scare ordinary people so that they can pat themselves on the back and show how competent they are. We are all going to die; we just don’t know from what. Yet we are constantly being told that we will die from smog or from climate change or from certain things that we do that we should have a right to do. And this tactic works; we have become a nation of wimps.

The best example of the fear tactic can be seen in the way the media reports the weather. Notwithstanding global warming, it still snows in Canada. Every time it is expected to snow, the media leads with it, warning that the roads will be slippery and it will take longer to get from Point A to Point B. There was a time when this sort of reporting was reserved for major snowstorms, not the little bit of snow that usually follows these dire warnings. Today, every little thing is a crisis.

What Dr. Schabas complains of is just the ordinary way that governments operate these days. What he is really saying, without actually saying it, is that the private sector would have acted more responsibly had they been in charge of the flu pandemic and of course they would have. But you can’t blame a government for acting like a government any more than you can blame a dog for, well, acting like a dog.

Arthur Weinreb -- Bio and Archives | Comments

Arthur Weinreb is an author, columnist and Associate Editor of Canada Free Press. Arthur’s latest book, Ford Nation: Why hundreds of thousands of Torontonians supported their conservative crack-smoking mayor is available at Amazon. Racism and the Death of Trayvon Martin is also available at Smashwords. His work has appeared on,  Drudge Report,

Older articles (2007) by Arthur Weinreb

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