Have you ever heard of a movie called “Reefer Madness”? The basic premise is that it tells a story about how dangerous marijuana is by talking about how it destroyed the lives of some individuals who got addicted to “marijuana cigarettes”. It was a propaganda film and has been credited with scaring the living daylights out of large swathes of the population who came to believe that marijuana could turn the most mild mannered among us into hardened criminals. It had such an impact that this film made during the 30’s is still remembered today. It’s a stark reminder of how something can take a largely harmless issue and turn it into public hysteria.

The same thing is happening with the novel coronavirus.

Now understand, I’m not at all saying that the disease isn’t dangerous. Truly, every disease has an element of danger attached to it. After all, if there were no negative effects then it wouldn’t be a disease. But the level of panic, reaction and unrest brought about by this particular disease has been a serious departure from what we have considered reasonable in the past. When we look at the numbers we see a disease that bears a considerable similarity to the flu. Heightened dangers for the elderly and the young. Increased dangers for those with respiratory conditions like asthma. Increased chances of hospitalization and death to those in the aforementioned categories. Reading about them without the disease’s name attached would make it difficult to tell which you were looking at.

Yet, our responses, fear level and general perception of the two vary greatly. Why? Like so many other things it comes down to the news and our elected officials. As I’ve stated time and again, the news can’t thrive without viewers and nothing keeps you glued to the screen like an all-out panic. A new disease will make you tune in once but the discovery of this century’s plague will make you watch until you get the “all clear” from your most trusted news source. And politicians won’t stand idly by and miss opportunities for good sound bites, of course. Every time they can claim that “the other guy” is going to kill us all with their lackadaisical response or their policies that will destroy the economy not only keep you tuned in but scare you into undying loyalty at the same time. It’s a “two-fer”.

But let’s not forget the medical community. While it may not be immediately evident that they’d benefit from the panic associated with outbreak it’s a certainty. How many would know the name Fauci without this new virus strain? He’s a common, household name and if you don’t think that can produce the notoriety to gain a profitable post-political appointment then you haven’t been paying attention. Even local doctors who fall on one side or the other stand to benefit by gaining the trust and patronage of those who see their statements.

Savvy businesses certainly don’t miss their opportunities. How many have we seen shift their production to plague-related wares? How many have started making masks? How many distilleries started churning out sanitizer? The list is extensive. And what better time? Nobody can go to a bar when the country is shut down.. but sanitizer is a hot commodity. Simply made products that are in high demand are the manufacturer’s dream.

And what about those products? Not so long ago we were cautioned against overuse of sanitizer because it can lead to the proliferation of more resistant strains of disease. Now you can’t find it on the shelf. What effect do you think that will have in the long run? Masks are touted as the savior of our society by some and dismissed as a hoax by others. Watch a smoker/vaper exhale with a mask on. See all of the smoke/vapor coming out? The mask doesn’t seem to catch much, does it? Simple physical law tells us that things in nature follow the path of least resistance. It also tells us that when you force a fluid or gaseous body through a smaller opening at the same rate you increase the force that it flows at. Now, I’m just a layman but it seems to me that would translate into higher dispersal rates for anything that you exhale and creating a wider possible transmission area. But hey, what do I know? Even though most people are aware of these things they still eat up whatever their preferred “professional” says to the point where they ignore the basic knowledge that they possess.

Only fear can produce this level of blind faith.

But the most notable effects aren’t for those who stand to benefit, but the ones who are caught up in the madness. How many asthmatics who are nowhere near a carrier have to breath laboriously behind a mask to go shopping? How many are too terrified to go out in public? How many of the “mom and pop” types that we mentioned earlier lost the business that they gave everything for? The harm to the economy, the social division and the blind fear that have been the result.. are they worth it? When we’ve built up our herd immunity and it’s “safe” again.. will they recover? When we come to our senses and realize how far this was away from the outbreak we’ve been sold will it seem worth it?

For the self-righteous who cast their judgmental gaze on those dangerous non-mask wearers they will proudly proclaim “yes”. They go to sleep feeling like they personally fought on the front lines battling the plague that would have brought the world to it’s knees otherwise. Mom and pop will live out their days remembering the dream that was stolen from them. They’ll lament the inability to pass down what they built to their children and give them something of themselves that could make a real difference in their fortunes. The politicians will forget it in short order and move on to the next big photo op. And the rest of us?

We’ll sit here wondering what the next “apocalypse” will be and how it will turn our lives upside down.

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