I very briefly had Good Morning Britain on today. Or should I call it The Coronavirus Show? ‘We discuss your coronavirus fears’…..or rather, ‘stoke’. 7.9 million people ‘could’ be hospitalised in the UK. Ah, the return of ‘could’ as a major feature of news items, it’s so nostalgic, reminding me of the heady days of ‘Brexit COULD result in a shortage of Danish spunk and packaged sandwiches’.
The media of course are having the time of their lives. A plague is, ironically, great for ratings. Especially if everyone is locked indoors with nothing to do except fuck, masturbate and watch telly. It is somewhat ironic though to sit watching people who have all travelled into a studio from different parts of the country, probably in a building with several hundred people in it, tell you earnestly that all gatherings of more than three people should be banned until the end of this crisis. Which COULD last a year. One wonders why doctors don’t simply take the blood of newsreaders and pundits as the basis of a vaccine. They are, after all, immune.
My friends are evenly divided on this. I have some who are telling me that this will be the greatest disaster of our times, totally unprecedented, and that the NHS will collapse. These are not people who are normally hysterical, but rational, thoughtful friends who are looking at statistical analysis. I have other friends, equally calm and rational, who think that this is more about social control than anything else, and that there is a deliberate agenda behind the language of catastrophe. I don’t wish to automatically mock either view.
It seems to me that there are two groups who come out of this smeared in infamy. The media, in their grotesque, ghoulish, delighted stoking of fear have displayed all the faults we are already too familiar with. They really are out of control now, bounding about like a strange cross between the enthusiastic Andrex puppy and some medieval flagellant shouting ‘doom, doom, doom.’ They feed on despair, it is their lifeblood, their reason to exist. The best advice I can give anyone is to ignore the news. Learn to hate the word ‘could’ and any report it features in.
The second despicable group of course are the hoarders. It is so antithetical to everything the British once were. I like to think of us, if some great disaster did strike (and 35 deaths out of 66 million strikes me as a disaster for their friends and relatives, not the country as a whole) still joking, still shrugging our shoulders and carrying on. Why not? We have done it before. I always thought the most admirable thing about being British was that insouciance, that pragmatism, that hard reliable core that said ‘well, it is what it is’. I don’t recognise a country of hysterics and hoarders, of shelf emptying selfishness. We keep calm. We queue. We smile and put the kettle on. These are little things and ridiculous cliches too, but they speak of a stronger people and a better world.