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Scary mountains

July 14, 2010 Leave a comment

From the startlingly talented David McCandless at the informationisbeautiful website comes this eye-catching visualisation of media scare stories 2000-2009.

graph of media scare stories(Click here for enlarged version)

The “No. of Stories” shown in the “Intensity” Y axis come from Google News, which I suppose is as good a source for counting as any. (Well, at least it’s a single, consistent source and he hasn’t tried to pull off any Michael Mann hockeystick-style “tricks” by counting half from Google and deriving the rest from Yamal tree rings, or whatever.)

The four highest peaks are, from left, the Y2K bug, the Sars quarantine in China, bird flu and (Dr Donald-duck-son’s greatest hit) swine flu. I would suspect that if the graph had started a little earlier – 1997, say – the Y2K scare would show a higher scare rating.

The thing to note is that all these media scares had no foundation in truth whatsoever. A fact emphasised by the way they all drop away at times of real scares: September 2001 and July 2005.

H/T Matt Ridley

The Swineageddon Industry – An Update

September 23, 2009 Leave a comment

“Swine flu ‘could kill millions unless rich nations give £900m'” the Observer’s “investigations editor” Rajeev Syal breathlessly reported on Sunday. This revealed that in a masterpiece of the investigative churnalism we have come to know and love from the Observer these days, Mr Syal had uncovered a press release from WHO (“leaked to the Observer”) which promises that “the swine flu pandemic could kill millions and cause anarchy in the world’s poorest nations”.

Blimey! Millions dying and anarchy reigning in the third world, eh? Who’d have thought? We’ll have to put a stop to that! But how? Read more…