"Help! Papal blog posts needed," writes a desperate Jeff Jarvis. "MSNBC just changed the show to do a full hour on the Pope, and I need any blog posts or sites about this. Please, please give me comments here." [A full hour? It's been three hours, now, and it's all tracheotomy all the time. What about our minute-by-minute update on the Michael Jackson jury, fergossake?] As it happens, we'd just been incubating a blog post about the MSM's uncritical acceptance of "the flu" as an explanation for whatever:
Isn't it time for "the flu" to sue someone? First Michael Jackson (who?) gets out of going to court last week on account of the mysterious ailment, and now, for the second time in the last couple of weeks the estimable Pope John Paul has been rushed off to the hospital on account of it. We're not buying.
Influenza burst into the national consciousness in 1918 with "the worst epidemic the United States has ever known." It first surfaced in Fort Riley, Kansas in March, but by August it had reared its ugly head in our own back yard:
Around the 27th of the month, sailors stationed on board the Receiving Ship at Commonwealth Pier in Boston begin reporting to sick-bay with the usual symptoms of the grippe. By August 30, over 60 sailors were sick. Soon, Commonwealth Pier was overwhelmed and 50 cases had to be transferred to Chelsea Naval Hospital. Flu sufferers commonly described feeling like they "had been beaten all over with a club."
The latest scare tactic from the medical community for the last few years has been that old folks -- "seniors" -- absolutely HAD to get their flu shots. When there was a shortage of the vaccine last year, our own Goomp, who had gotten a shot annually for years, was beside himself with worry. Then, out of the blue, there was enough vaccine after all. The latest thing we heard, the medical community was saying maybe "seniors" shouldn't be getting flu shots as a matter of course. We have many bones to pick with said community. Stop jerking us around, good doctors.
The use of "the flu" as a reason for celebrities' suddenly not keeping up with their public duties strikes us as very much akin to politicians' suddenly stepping down "to spend more time with their families." We think it's time for the media -- whether mainstream elites or pajama pundits like ourselves -- to take a look behind the flu screen.