As is perhaps to be expected in this day and age, everywhere you look at the moment there’s football, football, football. The World Cup is more than just a spectacle, it’s a regular event and therefore presents an opportunity. An advert which doesn’t in some way link the Beautiful Game to washing powder, mortgages or anti-wrinkle cream is almost refreshing. Of course, the World Cup would not be so all-pervasive without the weight of corporate advertising and media on the bandwagon, but there are some underlying psychological effects, which are being harnessed as only corporate business knows how.
Just think how many millions view the games, particurlarly of the home nation; viewing figures suggest around 19 million households tuned in to watch the England v Portugal match, and that number masks the people watching with friends, at home or in public. Of course, cutting away the naturally avid football fans leaves a significant number simply watching to support their national side, but how does this turn into something of a fever? The rampant nationalism provoked at times staggers belief, and often goes far beyond the football itself. Finding sensible criticism of England’s performance at the World Cup is some achievement, whilst in the immediate aftermath of England’s exit, jingoistic slurs against Portuguese players and Argentine referees were on the tip of many tongues.
The recent furor over Avian Flu has no doubt led many of us to believe that a dangerous worldwide pandemic looms on the horizon. There is little doubt in the scientific community that should the H5N1 strain of the virus mutate into a form easily communicable between humans, the virus will show much greater potency than current pathogenic influenza viruses, owing to the lack of immunity within the population of this new ‘avian’ form.
Yet just what can governments and scientific bodies do to allay fears and combat the disease? In the latter regard, there is precious little which can be done beyond monitoring the condition in the bird populations. So why then is the disease so readily in the popular news? Are we seeing the same variety of overhyped scare-mongering that accompanied the BSE/vCJD crisis of the previous decade? In 2000, the BBC used the headline CJD deaths ‘quadrupled since 1995’to illustrate a meagre rise in the real term numbers of cases (unfortunately the page can no longer be found on the BBC website, the link uses Google’s cache). Of course, given the way that particular disease manifested itself there was every chance that should an epidemic result, the clock would already be ticking for a vast section of the population.
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