The Balance of Lives
George Bush is ready to spend .5 billion dollars to protect the US from a disease that currently poses no danger and has so far killed no Americans, and only 62 people worldwide. Meanwhile, Bill Gates, much maligned by the media and internet geeks, is spending over 8 million in research toward Malaria, a disease which kills 1.2 million every year.
Of the 8 million that Mr. Gates is spending, 7 million will go towards accelerating the development of a Malaria vaccine. The added money could lead to the development of a vaccine within 6 years. Experts estimate that a malaria vaccine will cut the number of Malaria deaths in half. In other words, it will save 600,000 lives a year, most of them children.
Bill Gates is quoted in the Washington Post:
“It’s really a tragedy that the world has done so little to stop this disease that kills 2,000 African children every day,” Gates said in a conference call with reporters. “If those children were in rich countries, we’d have headlines, we’d take action, and we wouldn’t rest until every child was protected.”
Exactly right, Mr. Gates. So why would we spend .5 billion to fight a disease that maybe, someday, sorta, could possibly become a pandemic that will, at its worst, do no more damage in total than Malaria does every single year? Why would we not spend a fraction of that money to save 600,000 children every year? Some Liberal pundits would cry racism or classism, but that answer is too simplistic. The real answer is: The Media.
Quite simply, there is a media frenzy around the Bird Flu, and there isn’t a media frenzy around Malaria. Even the leaders of the world are susceptible to influence by the media, and they will spend their time, resources, and money fighting perceived threats while ignoring real, but hidden, threats.
So why is the media doing this? why is there more coverage of the Bird Flu, which has only killed 62 people, than there was of the earthquake in Pakistan, which killed tens of thousands? Because panic sells. Alarmism sells. The only thing that sells more media viewing time than a disaster, is a disaster that hasn’t happened yet.
There is hope. Eventually, people will tire of hearing about the Bird Flu, and in 6 months you won’t hear a peep about it. The Bird Flu will go the way of Anthrax letters, Ebola virus, flesh-eating bacteria, and a host of other medical disasters that never quite managed to manifest.