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Monday, October 10, 2005

Worthy Of Worry I

While we are dealing with the news that the quake has left tens of thousands of Pakistanis and a lesser number of Indians dead, and at an absolute minimum, over one hundred thousand homeless and in desperate need of food, shelter and emergency medical care, it might be a good time to sort out what else is worth worrying about vs what is not. Genuine tragedy has a way of refocusing our vision. It's been a terrible year for natural disasters.

1) Over the weekend the news that Turkey and Romania both seem to have bird flu outbreaks hit. Turkey has confirmed that the flu is a type 5. Neither country has had a chance to confirm that it is H5N1, but the odds are extremely high that it is. Both countries are quarantining and culling. Turkey has taken one man who appears ill to the hospital for diagnosis and observation. Both Hungary and Bulgaria have moved into high alert and monitoring.

So should we panic about this? My answer is no. The countries are doing what they can do to control the spread and disclosing what they are doing. It was inevitable that this flu (which is being carried by wild birds, some of whom migrate long distances) would reach Europe. Nothing has changed. This is merely proof that some planning has been done and is working. This news is actually reassuring rather than threatening.

2) The BBC and other British newspapers spent some time imploding with anxiety last week over the news that George Bush invaded Afghanistan and Iraq because God told him to. How did they know this? Why, they heard it from Palestinian government ministers, at least one of whom has since denied it. (See Tim Blair)

And everyone knows that Palestinian government ministers are the most trustworthy and completely objective people in the world, right? BZZZZZT. That was the buzzer announcing the weakest link in the "worthy of worry" chain. I have been hoping for Howard Dean to make a speech about this, but so far no deal. On the other hand, it does make me worry that British newspapers would be so credulous. A yapping pack of deluded press hounds might really be something to worry about, and Pedro The Quietist resents being subjected to collective academic hysteria about this:
While the BBC is backing off claims that President Bush told a Palestinian minister that "God told him to invade Iraq," those eager to believe such things aren't going to let the fact that it's untrue keep them from getting together for a collective sigh and disappointed head shake at Bush's ludicrous medieval worldview.

The emails are already circulating within my department at the university smirking at how stupid our president is, or expressing outrage. My question is, how can people that sneer at the credulity of the religious be so damn credulous themselves? Do they recognize it? Will they send emails later today saying, "never mind, it wasn't true, I take back what I said..."
He thinks not. I think the BBC should read MEMRI and see what these people say about Jews and the great American cabal. That might assist these "journalists" in assessing the credibility of their sources. Okay, I will move this to my "worthy of worry" column under the heading of "fake but accurate" journalists spreading hysteria and misinformation.

I'll continue this series later, because I find the news and people's worries increasingly bizarre. Why, I keep asking myself, am I worrying about things that are so different than the issues that seem to concern most other people? Clearly I'm wrong or they are, and if I'm wrong I want to figure out why.

The truth comes first. You don't need any facts since they aren't relevant to the truth.

It's a bizarre method of thought, but I think it is becoming the norm, and even worse, it's being encouraged.
So how is that different than religion?

Just asking. I keep reading that religion should be "kept out of the public square", but I don't see how the position is justified.
Well I don't see why religion should be kept out of the public square. I always interpret that thought as saying "people who disagree with me should be kept out of the public square."

But the thought process is the same, with the exception that when discussing religious beliefs faith is an acceptable (perhaps even preferred) answer as to why. When discussing politics or science (and a lot of other things too), one should not be placing faith ahead of the facts.
The shortest distance between two lines really is a straight line.

Your reference to reading and consulting MEMRI is laser-like.
I wish the BBC would take your advice! MEMRI is must reading.
It ought to be a requirement!
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