Spalding and Deeping MP Sir John Hayes: 'The Government is striking the right note with sensible coronavirus precautions'
Our lives are a miraculous drama – each a unique story marked by joy and sorrow, wonder and despair. Inevitably, with each day that passes in a world inhabited by seven billion people, innumerable personal experiences will, contrastingly, be enlivened by smiles and soaked with tears.
Sadly, in our age, our collective perspective has become badly distorted. Rather than a measured, reasonable consideration of unavoidable risks, elements of the national media and much of social media whips events into hyperbolic emergencies. Relentless, 24-hour coverage focused almost exclusively on extremes - death, destruction and ‘worst-case scenarios’ plays to the darkest aspects of human nature.
The simple truth is this - in our sanitised world in which some drift through life without a clear sense of purpose, death is at odds with popular consciousness, with their demise as a distant prospect being the most that many can bear to accept. Yet, paradoxically, when faced by the inescapable certainty of their eventual passing, the fear of souls without perspective leads to a fetishistic obsession with death, easily manipulated by those with ratings to boost or an addiction to social media to feed.
There can be little doubt that horror sells. In times of uncertainty and upheaval such media outlets acquire a new authority. However, when the public seeks reassurance, what they too often find is a self-perpetuating cycle of morbid speculation.
For some in the online world, Coronavirus has become a constant spectre of doom. Take the re-emergence on the internet of a video, years old, showing the removal of bats from a house in Florida, subsequently shared thousands of times as supposed ‘evidence’ of the disease’s origin in China. Similarly, it turns out that a map, shared widely by mainstream media outlets, allegedly showing the predicted spread of the virus actually showed routine air travel routes from years ago. Hysteria, perpetrated too readily by social media, causes fear and panic.
There is a better way. National and, in particular, social media types must stop prioritising short term gain and begin to present information with measured nuance based on facts and evidence. In times of heightened anxiety, the national media have a duty to prevent the exaggeration, atomisation and division to which widespread panic gives licence. We should, of course, take anything that has killed 3,500 people in four months very seriously, which is exactly what ministers are doing, but comparisons with the 20th Century’s wars are reckless and wrong. The Government is striking the right note, with sensible precautions being executed and more measures being prepared.
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I hope that from now on all those that frame the language of national conversation take time to emulate Boris Johnson’s ministers’, reassessing the importance of tone in the communication of information. Whilst it will always be tempting to simplify and dramatise, it is measured and informative discourse that will see us through.We can all take simple steps through straightforward precautions like hand washing and self-isolation when ill. Through the ages at times of collective stress a fundamental aspect of mankind usually wins through – the resolve to keep calm and carry on.
Regardless of circumstance and challenge, each of us is infinitely blessed to experience the miracle of life, the beauty of creation and the joy of relationships. Ultimately, the victory over fear is found only in what we share.
Together, there is little that cannot be overcome.
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