Thursday, April 30, 2009

Pandemic or Media Distraction?

While the mainstream media remains squarely focused on what the World Health Organization considers a growing threat of universal outbreak of swine flu, even in Mexico, the nucleus of the disease, confirmed cases number somewhere around one-tenth of one percent. Still, there is no reprieve in sight for America's weary TV news junkies who, for the past few days, have seen little else. Fear, it seems, is this country's number one cash crop.

If the world is to face another pandemic, arguably on the calibre of the one back in 1918, what better time than now when extremist groups in Afghanistan and Pakistan become increasingly more virulent. At a time, too, when al Qaeda is said to have crossed to border into Afghanistan, and is reportedly using the terrain that separates Pakistan from Afghanistan "as a safe haven to hide, train terrorists... and send fighters to support the insurgency in Afghanistan," according to the National Counterterrorism Center. The question of who has been funneling funds into the ISI, and through Islamabad, with the help of Musharraf, has been partially addressed by the National Security Archive.

But, when the Joint Chief of Staff chairman, Adm. Michael Mullen, averages one trip per week to Pakistan, and acknowledges his growing state of alarm by what he and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton call the "existential threat" of Taliban gains there, how does what Adm. Mullen considers the increasing danger of extremists taking control of a heavily endowed nuclear country manage to escape the airwaves?

Afghanistan, too, is reportedly plagued by the kind of insurgency that is currently overwhelming Pakistan, and President Obama has expressed concern about the possibility of instability in the region resulting in another so-called terrorist incident in the U.S..

Military strikes continue in Pakistan under Obama as they did under Bush, but while Bush started it, Obama now owns it. Correction: we, taxpayers, now own it. The war on terror has cost us dearly and, so far, the only ones who appear to have benefitted from it are the oil companies, the banks, and the military contractors. Nothing new here.

What is scary is the thought that, unlike back in 1918, we now have technology that enables us to communicate with each other over thousands of miles in less than an instant, and we're using that technology not to inform, and raise consciousness about the ongoing existential threat posed by our own militarism, but instead a mutant virus that has been around for more than a generation.

Even if it's just about the ratings, the media bears responsibility for having successfully managed to deflect attention away from an imminent all out war in Pakistan which will, more than likely, cost many more lives than the pandemic of ignorance and fear which is spreading now.