Some random thoughts on swine flu and the 'nondemic'

Turns out I was more prophetic than I imagined last spring, when I stated publicly that Barack Obama would become president "when pigs fly." We all know what happened a year later:

Swine flu.

Now that the danger of the erstwhile "pandemic" has passed, however, perhaps we can be candid in acknowledging that there never was much danger to begin with. Certainly, women never really had anything to worry about. A little-known fact concerning swine flu is that it infects men almost exclusively. Hence the name.

Seriously, though, the truth about swine flu is that as of two weeks ago there were only 896 confirmed cases in the United States, and only a couple of deaths. Do you realize how miniscule those numbers are, compared to the country as a whole?

I mean, Lindsey Lohan's mother's hairdresser's cousin has 896 people following her on Twitter. There are 896 people standing in line at the Mall of Georgia right now to see the new Harry Potter movie that comes out July 15.

In fact, during the three weeks in which coverage of the swine flu "pandemic" dominated headlines in this country, the number of other events that actually surpassed it in frequency and importance is staggering.

For instance, according to CDC estimates, during that same time frame around 11,000 Americans got the regular flu. Another 15,000 called in to work to say they had it.

Also, during those three weeks:

· NBA players whose teams are in the playoffs shot 1,512 free throws. They made 614 of them.

· More than 27,000 commercials aired on network television. More than 18,000 of them dealt with erectile dysfunction.

· Nearly 4,000 dead people nationwide attempted to vote for Democrat candidates - even though there's no election going on.

· Atlanta Braves outfielders struck out 917 times.

· There were more than 1,000 new foreclosures in Gwinnett County alone.

· Dick Cheney was waterboarded in effigy 1,523 times.

· More than 2,000 male hopefuls for the next "American Idol" started experimenting with eye make-up.

The real question, of course, is why all the hysteria over something that turned out to be statistically so insignificant? Is it merely that the outbreak could have been much worse than it was, or did the media and the government have more sinister motives for wanting to scare us out of our wits?

Personally, I've never been much of a conspiracy theorist, for the simple reason that I believe government is too inept to pull off something as complicated as a major conspiracy. But I have to admit, the swine flu nondemic has left me wondering.

At least, it seems to me like something a real investigative reporter might want to look into. And while he's at it, I hope he looks into that Braves outfield thing, too.

Rob Jenkins is an associate professor of English at Georgia Perimeter College. E-mail him at rjenkinsgdp@yahoo.com.