Great, Here Comes That Bird Flu Overhype Again
Posted by Alan Edwards
My wife and I saw the preview for Contagion a few weeks back when we saw Captain America: Other Words Go Here in the theater (which I LOVED by the way, loved loved loved loved loved. The look was right, it was mostly true to the comics, I didn’t even think about the Red Skull saying “Mr. Anderson”, it just rocked. Anyway.). After the preview was over I sighed and said to my wife, “Great. Now that bird flu bullshit is about to start all over again.”
And today, there is a series on Slate.com about Contagion and bird flu. The Atlantic has articles about Contagion and bird flu. I hear actors – fucking actors, of course, those budding fucking pathologists – telling us that it’s not a matter of IF but WHEN. I want to grab the throat of every single talking head asswipe that says that sentence and slowly squeeze until their tracheas crumple like thin aluminum cans.
Sorry about that. Bird flu gets me a little worked up.
You see, I have personal history with the whole Bird Flu Hype Machine. Bird Flu Hype went pandemic among larger US corporations about 3 or so years ago. Suddenly, every company that wanted to act like it was a Fortune 500 company began seriously addressing the dangers of bird flu to their businesses. One company would draft an Action Plan, their asshole CEO would mention it casually to the boards he serves on with a bunch of other dickwad CEOs, and then suddenly they’ve got the hype, and they start going to overseas conventions and spreading the disease of Preparedness around to every other CEO around the world until they’re all running around demanding to have measures taken and documentation added and money spent on something that hadn’t yet actually transferred to a human.
It hit our company, and it hit us hard.
I was pulled into the Initial Planning Committee for drafting a response to an outbreak of bird flu. We were presented with charts and maps and scary-sounding statistics and all kinds of overblown bullshit hype. Yes, we even had a slide on the Powerpoint presentation that was given to us that said “It’s not a question of IF but WHEN.” Our task: to measure what effect an outbreak would have on our business.
Now, at this time, the company had no business disaster plan in place whatsoever. We didn’t have anything planned for, say, flooding, despite the fact that I can see the river from my building. Fire? C’mon. Hurricane? Nope. Extended power outage? Nah. SARS? Pffft. There was absolutely ZERO disaster plan in place here. But by god, we were going to draft a plan specifically related to the fucking bird flu.
Of course, we didn’t have any basis to use for the planning. How long does the average person have the bird flu? No idea – no one’s gotten it before. What is the transmission rate? Who knows. What will be the official state response to an outbreak? Dunno. So, with this plethora of hard scientific facts behind us, a group of 8 or so unlucky bastards who didn’t have enough clout to get out of the task sat down to draft a timeline for a plan. That’s right – not a plan, just a timeline and summary and recommendations.
So, with how I am, I said, great, let’s draft a timeline, a summary, and a list of recommendations. Sadly, there were just enough brown-nosing shiteaters on the team that they knew we needed to go FARTHER, HIGHER, BETTER. So this project grew and expanded with Powerpoint presentations and glossy handouts and all kinds of horseshit. The recommendation: draft a bird flu plan IMMEDIATELY. Now, my recommendation was to focus instead on general efforts around business disaster planning, which would give us the flexibility to deal with anything from an overblown pandemic to actual incidents that might disrupt the business. That didn’t get past committee – it wasn’t what we were asked for. Sigh.
So the determination was made to build a Bird Flu Disaster Plan committee, and again, I was picked for it due to all the good hard work I’d put into it already. I pondered taking a ballpeen hammer to both of my knees to get me out of the task, but instead elected to suffer through it. All of it. The brainstorming sessions. The drafting of lists and charts. All of it. Months and months. I suffered through plans like bringing in a stockpile of Tamiflu to administer to employees and their families in case a pandemic breaks out (I objected because of a) cost and b) it being a bad idea for an insurance company to begin administering medications to employees willy-nilly. You can imagine how well my odious objections were received.) and the immediate distribution of Purel hand sanitizer to all employees as well as the installation of hand sanitizer containers at all hall intersections. Those happened. I’m looking at my own Purel bottle right now, 3 years later. Hey, maybe it saved us all from a pandemic.
This shit went on for months. Then, suddenly, it ended. No plan in place. Just stopped. 6 months later, the company decided to create a general Business Continuity Plan to deal with a wide range of possible business interruptions (and yes, I was dragged into that too). So instead of 1 hyper-focused and specific plan to deal with a fucking disease no one has (but it’s not a matter of IF but WHEN) we ended up with an overblown but wide-ranging plan to deal with a multitude of situations.
But that’s no thanks to you, Bird Flu Hype Disease. I hate you. And I hate Contagion for starting this whole stupid thing up all over again and reminding me of those fucking meetings that lasted forever. So I hope that movie dies a horrible painful spittle-choking death at the box office, although I know it won’t. Because we’ve just given CNN and Fox News and MSNBC and every fucking other pseudo-news organization carte blanche to dust off their old Bird Flu graphics and start telling us, in hushed, authoritarian whispers, that it’s not a matter of IF, but WHEN.
Fuck you, bird flu.