In US News and World Report, Mortimer Zuckerman offers a nightmare scenario about the spread of avian flu. It's not a bad summary of the situation, but it includes a line that made me lose my temper:
The Bush administration must think of this as terrorism to the nth degree and immediately set up a senior-level emergency task force to develop a strategy.
Last night I posted a rather snarky comment about this, and then, on reflection, erased the post. This is not a situation where the use of cheap shots is warranted.
But Zuckerman's comment has been itching at me all day, because it implies a perception of the US government (and people) that is as worrying as avian flu itself: The government (and people) don't get it. A pandemic that could kill a third of a billion human beings doesn't really register with them, so logical, fact-based warnings are a waste of time. Like getting the attention of a mule with a well-swung two by four, we have to compare the pandemic to 9/11 or we will get nowhere.
Maybe Zuckerman is right. Stupidity was in generous supply in 1918-19, and clearly added to the death toll. Four score and seven years later, we have no grounds for supposing human intelligence has risen sharply. But it is discouraging to think that we must deal with university-educated, politically experienced adults through emotional manipulation rather than simple presentation of documented facts and their implications.