by AL Whitney © copyround 2014
Permission is granted for redistribution if linked to original and the AntiCorruption Society is acknowledged
Example of playbook style propaganda can be identified in NYT piece: Selling a pandemic threat . . . again!
“Fear appeals have had bad press, but the research evidence that they work is overwhelming”.
“We can’t scare people enough . . . “.
The following is an excerpt from Dr Tenpenny’s amazing book, Fowl: Chapter 6 – The New Playbook Arrives. Researcher, author, Dr Sherri Tenpenny exposes how a pandemic is organized, using SARS as the example.
SARS: The warm-up dance
The first reported case of the “mysterious flu” was reported in South China in November 2002. Naming it SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome), the WHO issued its first global alerts in early March 2003. Teams of experts were sent to investigate the outbreak. The hysteria grew quickly and within weeks the Hong Kong Department of Health issued an unprecedented quarantine order-keeping residents inside their homes. Shortly thereafter, Mainland China followed suit, closing public schools, cinemas, and libraries in an attempt to stop the spread of the virus.
Scientists went into high gear to determine the cause of SARS, and on April 16, 2003, the WHO announced that the infectant was discovered. It was a member of the coronavirus family, “never previously seen in humans.” As more cases began to be reported in Toronto, Canadian health officials warned residents to quarantine themselves, wear masks, and in some cases, just stay home.
Over the six months of the “epidemic”, 8,049 people had tested positive for the virus. The vast majority of cases occurred in China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan (7,248) with 774 deaths, or close to 10 percent of known cases. But since the total number of cases represented only those ill enough to seek medical help, the actual death rate is unknown and may have been far less.
As for economic impact, even in Canada – where fewer people were affected (251) and even fewer (43) died – the Canadian Tourism Board estimated that the SARS scare cost the nation’s economy $419 million. The Ontario health minister reported that the cost to the province’s healthcare system, including money spent to develop special clinics and stock them with supplies to protect healthcare workers, was nearly $730 million.
SARS also had a significant, adverse effect on global travel, particularly the airline industry. Flight to Asia and the Pacific Rim decreased by 45 percent, and the number of flights between Hong Kong and the United States fell 69 percent. Singapore Airlines, the world’s second-largest airline by market value after U.S. budget carrier Southwest Airlines, lost $6 million each day during April and May when SARS choked off intra- and inter-Asian travel.
Other less obvious industries throughout the region that suffered during the outbreak were retail sales, hotels, and restaurants. Additional losses resulted from workplace absenteeism. The WHO estimates that the economic consequences of SARS totaled more than $40 billion worldwide. Undeniable, there is a genuine downside to issuing warning that turn out to be unnecessary hype.
Unfortunately, avian influenza has inflicted similar economic consequences. Since the beginning of 2004, more than 200 million domestic birds have been killed in more than 10 countries, even if they were not known to be infected by the virus. The cost to various local economies is estimated to be in the tens of millions of dollars. And based on information being pumped out through every possible medium on a daily basis, the bird flu pandemic is still predicted to cause the “next great depression” and “then end of life as we know it”.
Keeping the heat on the hype
But if the apocalypse is coming, only a few seem overly concerned. People seem to be mostly ignoring the gloomy scenarios being portrayed by the CDC and the WHO. Officials need to somehow capture the attention of the public, motivate participation in preparedness planning, and at the same time maintain credibility.
Enter risk communication.
The field of risk communication is relatively new. Dating from the early 1980s, it evolved from several different fields of study: health education, public relations, psychology, risk perception and risk assessment. Risk communication figured prominently in the CDC’s commissions of a new recipe, crafted by Princeton-based risk communication experts Peter M. Sandman, PhD and his wife, Jody Lanard, MD. Published in Perspectives in Health, their plan is based on the following three principles of risk communication:
- Precaution advocacy (“Watch out!”: How to alert people to serious hazards when they are unduly apathetic.
- Outrage management (“Calm down!”): How to reassure people about minor hazards when they are unduly upset.
- Crisis communication (“We’ll get through it together!”): How to guide people through serious hazards when they are appropriately upset (or even in denial).
By blending the work of Nowak,with the plan set forth by the risk communicators, the improved “Ten step Playbook” is available to get the nation ready for the coming pandemic.
Step 1: Start where your audience is
Officials are advised to start with empathy. Instead of scolding people for their lack of concern, make “common cause with the public” and then talk about how horrible the pandemic is likely to be. Don’t tell them the answer: lead them to the conclusion.
Step 2: Don’t be afraid to frighten people
Sandman and Lanard advise the “fear appeals have had bad press, but the research evidence that they work is overwhelming”. That said, they advise, “We can’t scare people enough about H5N1”.
Step 3: Acknowledge uncertainty
Sandman gives an example of a senior veterinary official from Thailand’s public health department who stated, “We know it is H5, but we’re hoping it won’t be H5N1”, as an example of two addition risk communication principles: acknowledge uncertainty and don’t overly reassure. The CDC has been saying since the 1980s that we are “way overdue” for another pandemic. The mass media has apparently been given a green light to magnify this latest health concern by creating ominous warnings with headlines way out of proportion to the risks.
Step 4: Share dilemmas
In crisis communication, the intent of dilemma sharing is to humanize the organization making the decision and give people the impression they are participating in the planning process. Successful use of this strategy will “reduce the outrage if you turn out to be wrong”.
Step 5: Give people things to do
In January 2005, Canadian infectious disease expert Richard Schabas told The Wall Street Journal, “Scaring people about avian influenza accomplished nothing, because we’re not asking people to do anything about it”. The author’s suggestion for giving people something to do includes making a plan for catastrophic, global business disruptions. They even suggest having “cognitive and emotional rehearsals – learning about H5N1 and thinking about what a pandemic might be like and how to cope”.
Practicing for disaster is meant to give a “sense of empowerment”, but may have little practical value. (The images of school children hiding under their desks during nuclear drills in the 1950s come to mind.) In addition, nearly every religious tradition and many researchers, including Drs. Deepak Chopra, Larry Dossey, Wayne Dyer, and Pastor Joel Osteen have defined a consistent, clear message: “You get what you think about”. Could collective, global “cognitive and emotional rehearsals”, anticipating the worst case for the disaster, actually make the situation happen? Perhaps visualizing a safe, clean, healthy world, free of all illnesses for humans, birds and animals, is a better form of “cognitive rehearsal”.
Steps 6, 7 and 8 are specific suggestions on how warnings should stress the magnitude of the coming calamity, focusing on “how bad things could get”.
Step 9: “Guide the adjustment reaction”, boils down to using the information to manipulate people into a place called a “new normal”, one of continual concern and impending doom.
Steps 6 through 9 serve to accentuate Step 2: Don’t be afraid to frighten people. Get people revved up. Make them really worried. Get them motivated to fear the coming pandemics: stockpile drugs, push for vaccines, and store water and food. We didn’t see a disaster at the millennium – or with swine flue or with smallpox – but a global environmental disaster is just around the next corner. Pass laws to protect the public. Call out the military. It’s coming any minute. Soon. We’re due. We’re doomed.
The last step, Step 10, is to “inform the public early and aim for total candor and transparency”. Sandman argues that it’s almost impossible for the government to be too candid and warns against declining to answer questions by using the “security excuse”. These last suggestions are the most difficult for government to adopt, especially in the U.S. The government has collaborated with its agencies to hide so many things from its citizens – from vaccine cover-ups about thimerosal to known problems about Vioxx – that it has lost trustworthiness.
Do government officials have the ability to be transparent?
On October 20, 2005, the CDC director, Dr Julie Gerberding, returned from a 10-day avian flu “fact-finding trip” in Asia saying she feared a backlash for “crying wolf” if the flu pandemic doesn’t materialize in the near future. Gerberding, who was accompanied by Secretary of Health and Human Services Michael Leavitt and other public health officials, voiced concerns about the “precarious downside” of overly raising the international alarms about the dangers of avian flu. “We’re focusing a lot of attention on avian influenza”, she said. “But [human-to-human transmission of the disease] hasn’t happened – and it may not happen”. Gerberding stated that the avian flu may turn out to be a repeat of the 1977 swine flu scare, or it may become the medical equivalent ot the “millennium bug” that was widely expected to paralyze the world’s computer networks at the beginning of 2000.
Is this government transparency?
More likely she is using the new playbook as a guide, carefully following Step 6: Give warning that include worst-case scenarios and “always acknowledge that it could turn out to be wrong”. Gerberding has reason to hedge: One of her predecessors at the CDC, Dr David Sencer, lost his job over the swine flu fiasco. If she doesn’t follow the rules – and watch her back – her job could be the next one on the chopping block.
Now that the new plan is out in the open, be mindful of the rhetoric. Pay – attention – the news stations and government press releases are playing straight by the book. Even though the “world-saving” bird flu vaccine is clearly more than a year away from release, watch for the upcoming “normal” flu seasons to be the launching pad for a new – and quite possibly mandatory – flu shot that may be coming.
To purchase Dr Tenpenny’s book Fowl go to:
Review of 2009 swine flu ‘pandemic’: Pandemic Pandemonium and Profiteering
Vaccine-Induced Disease Epidemic Outbreaks by Dr Tru Ott
Book: Vaccination – The Silent Killer