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When fear-mongering becomes an industry

When fear-mongering becomes an industry

Doomsday warnings have always been a good business. A few decades ago, it was AIDS; now it is COVID-19.

The New York City health commissioner, Dr. Stephen C. Joseph, said in July 1988 that the number of the persons carrying the HIV-AIDS was 200,000 and not 400,000 as estimated earlier. AIDS bodies and gay rights groups denounced him of lying, of underestimating the ‘epidemic’; the denunciation was so fierce that he had to be given police protection. He got death threats.

Eventually, he was proven wrong—for having overestimating the occurrence! In its report in 2001, the American Council on Science and Health, a science advocacy group, said that the AIDS cases New York City during 1981-early 2000 were fewer than 120,000.

In June 2008, Professor James Chin, a former senior Aids official with the World Health Organization, alleged that the United Nations had been systematically overestimating the number of AIDS patients. It led to the waste of billions of dollars on spreading awareness about the disease who were not likely to get infected. Some folks must have made fortunes.

Now we have media-anointed experts who make cavalierly frightening forecasts. There is a guy called Ramanan Laxminarayan, the founder and director of the Washington-based Center for Disease Dynamics, Economics & Policy (CDDEP) and lecturer at Princeton University. In a number of interviews, he predicted apocalypse for India. In the worst-case scenario, Dr Laxminarayan claimed up to 80 crore people could infected with the coronavirus. It turnd out that ‘Dr’ Laxminarayan was not a medical doctor but PhD, for neither the CDDEP nor Princeton mention about his medical degree, if he has one.

Later, he offered lame excuses for making alarmist projections. He brought down the number to 30 crore; even that was high. In an interview to Outlook Money, he said, “Basically, I said 300 million, if you don’t do anything at all. These are moving estimates and why are they moving? Because when I said 200 to 300 million, nothing was happening, literally, there was no action at that point in time. The government was saying there is no community transmission, and we’ve stopped the borders. So, at that stage, that was the model. Now, when the government announced a lockdown, we have a more optimistic scenario, which takes that number further down.”

If you don’t do anything at all! Can anybody with even an iota of commonsense make such an assumption? There is not one government in the world, democratic or authoritarian, which isn’t doing anything at all against COVID-19? It is okay for liberals to dislike Prime Minister Narendra Modi and criticize his policies, but to assume that he and his government would do nothing to fight the coronavirus smacks of not dislike but pathological hatred for him.

Liberals just hate everybody on the Right for every possible reason—Modi in India because he has announced a complete nationwide lockdown, President Donald Trump in the US because he hasn’t.

And they love anybody, even if he is a nobody like Laxminarayan, who tells them that the coronavirus will end mankind. A study by the Imperial College London, another result of modeling, earlier said that COVID-19 may kill 22 lakh people in the US and more than 5 lakh in the UK.

The mainstream media widely reported it. A few days later, the same institute said that, well, the number in the UK was not above 5 lakh, but below 20,000.

It may be impossible to find out how much the findings of flawed modeling influenced decision making all over the world, including in India, what kind of costs, human and economic, they imposed on mankind. All this misery because some experts were careless and sloppy.

While all sectors of the economy are suffering, the industry of fear-mongering is thriving. From media-appointed experts to the mainstream media, everybody is terrorizing us. They tell us that the coronavirus cases have crossed the 10,000-mark and 358 have died; they don’t tell us that 1,181 persons have recovered (Worldometers portal).

All over the world, 1,912,438 are corona positive, 441,232 have recovered, and 118,683 have died. They also don’t tell us that the number of Indian fatalities is 0.3 per cent of the global fatalities, whereas India’s population is almost 17 per cent of the world’s.

Thanks to doom-peddling experts and their scary predictions, people in India are living in fear..