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Fear-Mongering Hype

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Take heed for the swine flu will annihilate the world by killing millions of people, paralyzing economies, and creating havoc! When there was an outbreak, schools closed, universities canceled graduation ceremonies, and in Egypt, the health minister ordered the slaughter of all pigs in the country. Face masks did a brisk business everywhere too.

World health experts had taken prompt steps upon the initial discovery, offering dire warnings that it could become the next pandemic. They declared that up to two billion people could be sickened by the virus. Yet nothing happened. There have been less than one hundred deaths worldwide overall, significantly fewer than the millions predicted in a possible worse-case scenario. In fact, there have been fewer deaths than in an annual flu season. Although health experts continue to state that the threat is very real, few people are listening.

If newspaper editorials and comments on the Internet provide any measure, then people have become fed up with the reports in the past. "Crying wolf" and "hoax" are some of the milder terms out there, as everyone everywhere takes an increasingly unconcerned stance. Many are also critical of how the media bandied about doom-and-gloom scenarios in what was otherwise a slow news cycle. In short, with little of interest to report, the media latched onto the swine flu to sell newspapers, magazines, and air time.

Of course, the media disagrees, as also do health experts. Both say that they have acted promptly and properly at the discovery of the swine flu in the past, taking the right steps to disseminate the message. It just so happens that the flu luckily didn't manifest itself as the predicted pandemic. Perhaps, however, it all just amounts to fear-mongering hype.

Preview some of the lesson material:

Warm Up: Do you agree or disagree? Why?

  1. The swine flu is a serious and dangerous disease.
  2. The swine flu will soon spread around the world.
  3. I'm very concerned about the swine flu.
  4. The news cannot be trusted.
  5. The end of the world will soon arrive!

True or False?: Guess (before the article) or answer (after the article) whether the sentence is true or false. If false, correct the sentence.

  1. Schools closed and university ceremonies were canceled because of the swine flu.
  2. Up to two million people could be sickened by the virus.
  3. There have been more deaths from swine flu than the regular flu.
  4. Health experts think the media reported the swine flu because there wasn't any other big news.
  5. The health experts reacted quickly and correctly to the problem.

post-Comprehension: Talk about the following questions in pairs/groups. Remember to support your answers!

  1. What do you think about the swine flu? Please explain.
  2. Is there any real possibility that millions of people could die from the swine flu? Why/not?
  3. What do you think about the media and their reporting of the swine flu? Please explain.
  4. If the swine flu spread around the world in a worst-case scenario, how would your life change?
  5. What can be done to prevent this virus and others from annihilating the modern world?

Google Search: Type "swine flu" into Google. Look at the websites, and/or read additional articles on this topic. Discuss or write an essay about your findings.

Download the lesson:

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