Saturday, October 22, 2005

I wish to register a complaint

This parrot is no more! He has ceased to be! 'E's expired and gone to meet 'is maker! 'E's a stiff! Bereft of life, 'e rests in peace! If you hadn't nailed 'im to the perch 'e'd be pushing up the daisies! 'Is metabolic processes are now 'istory! 'E's off the twig! 'E's kicked the bucket, 'e's shuffled off 'is mortal coil, run down the curtain and joined the bleedin' choir invisibile!! THIS IS AN EX-PARROT!!
Yes, the news has all gone a bit Monty Python. At this stage there is no indication as to whether the parrot in question was a Norwegian Blue (remarkable bird the Norwegian Blue, beautiful plumage). Perhaps it was just pining for the fjords. Still, it's probably best to panic just to be on the safe side.

Or perhaps not. Common sense is provided by an expert from round my way:
Aberdeen University microbiologist and bird flu expert Professor Hugh Pennington told BBC News Britons should not be alarmed by the discovery. "The bird flu has been doing the rounds of the Far East for about 10 years and it hasn't mutated yet into the form that we really fear - the form that could infect people on any scale at all - and it may never do that," he said.
So no need to panic then. And this parrot was in quarantine. Officials say there is no risk that it passed on its germs to the general bird population in the UK. So really absolutely no need to panic then.

No need, for example, to freak people out with headlines like Bird Flu Hits Britain (btw, check out the caption under the photo of the parrot on this page) or the truly awful Polly killer hits the UK. We're all going to die...

To be honest the extraordinary level of coverage of this is really starting to hack me off now. As the BBC sensibly points out, regular flu kills about 12,000 people in the UK every year. Bird flu, on the other hand, has killed about 60 people worldwide. It might kill a lot more at some point in the future. It might not. It is certainly a good idea to plan for the worst. It is certainly not a good idea to whip up a frenzy of hysteria. The media seems to be applying the perspective of Picasso on LSD when it comes to this. Calm down dears, it hasn't happened yet.

Amanda Platell on Morgan and Paltell tonight:
I am very worried about this. Surely the government should appoint a Minister for Bird Flu. [Paraphrased]
For crying out loud. Yes, let's appoint a Minister for a disease which might be potentially dangerous to the British public at some unspecified point in the future. Good idea. While were about it, let's have a Minister for Lepers, a Minister for Vague Disease, and a Minister for Grey Goo (nanotechnology is a dangerous business, it's only a matter of time...).

This strategy is best employed in conjunction with one which ignores an actual epidemic which is happening in the UK right now but which is a just little bit embarrassing. The best approach here is to save money by making sure that STD clinics are woefully under-resourced. It's perfect, no-one's going to complain to their MP about that and the tabloids don't give a stuff so it can be ignored with total impunity.

Hurray for democracy, that wonderful system where politicians must panders to the whims of the media but can safely ignore everything else.

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