Ever notice how it’s called “swine flu” until someone you know contracts it, then it becomes “H1N1”? I’m guilty of it. For the past few weeks, every time someone I knew coughed, sneezed, or so much as muttered “I don’t feel good”, I was “that guy”- the one who had to blurt out “SWINE FLU!”. Then, late last week, I found out my four-month-old cousin who lives in London, had contracted the illness. Suddenly, I was consumed by an overwhelming wave of compassion. After all, people are dying from this shit!

Since I hadn’t paid much attention to the news reports about H1N1, I tuned in to the round-the-clock propaganda pump that is cable news. Not long after, I started having flashbacks to elementary and middle school. I remembered making fun of the girl who got lice, the kid with the broken arm who had to sit out in gym class, and I certainly remembered being the chubby-cheeked fat kid in class who also took a verbal beating at least once weekly. Kids are mean, heartless little bastards who exploit the insecurities of their peers. I just thank god we didn’t have cable news doing reports on Sarah’s lice, Jimmy’s broken arm or my “husky”-sized pants.

Unfortunately for those with H1N1, their version of “lice” is the topic of the month at CNN. Not that spreading awareness about the risks of such an epidemic is a bad thing. It’s just that with awareness, especially about a subject with a scary sounding name, comes fear. One report I saw detailed how a thirteen year-old Maryland girl was rescued after trying to kill herself because kids were making fun of her for having Swine Flu.- Incredible! When did getting sick, become socially taboo? It’s not like this little girl was the town bike with a bad reputation. She got the flu, like every American school child in the history of our education system has gotten at one point or another.

            I guess none of what we hear on TV should come as a surprise these days though. In a ratings-driven market, not only do these news channels have to inform, they must entertain too. Consequently, we’re not just hearing about the many documented cases of the H1N1 virus strain because that is b.o.r.i.n.g. Instead we’re hearing about the “SWINE FLU EPIDEMIC!” Run for your lives! Lock your doors! Lysol everything, even your kids! Surely if they can’t entertain us into watching their 90-minute “expert” discussion panel of paid talking heads, they can scare us into watching.

            My Beef with such scare tactics is that it leads to hysteria. Instead of sending get-well cards to their friends who contract H1N1, kids are harassing and humiliating them to the point of suicide. Maybe what CNN’s “experts” and the smut puppets at FOX News need (besides a deadly case of H1N1 of their own) is a little compassion. It would be refreshing to see some footage of towns banding together to make sure the most at-risk individuals are the first to receive the vaccines. How about we show school kids learning about germs and proper hand washing techniques- POSITIVE REINFORCEMENT!  Call me old fashioned, but I prefer to keep my news and horror shows separate.