Robert Stein 1924-2014

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Monday, April 27, 2009

Obama, Drudge and Swine Flu

As the Drudge Report hyperventilates with 18 headline links about swine flu, President Obama tells Americans the outbreak is "not a cause for alarm" and cites the current scare as an example of why investing in research is vital.

“Science is more essential for our prosperity, our security, our health, our environment and our quality of life than it has ever been before,” the President said today in a speech at the National Academy of Sciences. “If there was ever a day that reminded us of our shared stake in science and research, it is today.”

The contrast is more than a textbook example of sensationalism vs. responsibility but a reflection of something more basic in the current American mindset.

Drudge, who is always excited about earthquakes, floods and other natural disasters, thrives on stirring up primal emotions without regard to consequences, chalking up millions of web hits daily with irresistible appeals to fear, anger and other primal emotions.

In a 24/7 world of information overload, that's a formula for grabbing eyeballs which used to be the province of tabloid newspapers, now dying off like dinosaurs who just couldn't move fast enough as their environment evolved.

But the swine flu scare is also as good a time as any to emphasize the difference between news and infotainment.

We can get a daily rush from Drudge, but it's important to have Obama in the White House reminding us that "our capacity to deal with a public health challenge of this sort rests heavily on the work of our scientific and medical community" and setting a goal to "exceed the level achieved at the height of the space race, through policies that invest in basic and applied research, create new incentives for private innovation, promote breakthroughs in energy and medicine, and improve education in math and science."

If Drudge links to that, it will probably be headed SWINE FLU SPACE RACE.

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