Instead of Criticising Panic-Buying, the Media Are Encouraging It
Nobody likes being proven wrong, journalists least of all. So, having just over a week before written that, “rather than ‘stupid’ ordinary people running around like headless chooks, it’s the supposedly ‘superior’, ‘educated’ elite who are doing the most panic-stricken damage” over coronavirus, I felt more than a little foolish when the Bogocalypse hit.
My confidence in the sensibility of the common folk seemed sadly misplaced as stores were stripped clear of dunny paper, of all things.
But what particularly puzzled me – as it seemed to many other people – was: why? What the hell was motivating people to rush and grab literal vanloads of poo-paper?
Well, it seems my original post may have been closer to the mark than I’d thought: this is a panic being driven by the media elite.
Good Morning Britain recently hosted a panel discussion on panic-buying. What was noticeable was that while the experts, supply-chain specialist Prof. Richard Wilding, and NHS representative Dr. Hilary Jones were trying to talk calm, common-sense, the journalists constantly overrode them.
Prof. Wilding repeatedly emphasised that companies plan for disruptions like coronavirus and have good supply chain contingencies in place: All organisations actually have really important planning systems in place.
Whereupon host Susanna Reid immediately cut him off: “Except when you look at all the pictures of empty shelves”.
Wilding gamely tried again, pointing out the selfishness of panic-buying. If people stockpile when they don’t need to, he said, people who genuinely need products won’t be able to get them.
At this point, journalist Angela Buttolph, who had already boasted about stockpiling, including 150 cans of food, rolled her eyes and smirked “Looking after your family is the best kind of selfishness”. Laying on the scare stories, she claimed that “I’m gonna take care of myself”, while denying that panic-buying was an extreme response.
Reid chimed in, “80% of us are going to get the coronavirus. Isn’t it actually sensible?”
Dr. Jones tried to make the point that, if you stockpile a month’s worth of food, “what happens after that? If everyone hoards, there’ll be nothing left”.
Prof. Wilding reminded them about the panic over the Millennium Bug. “The fear of the bug was worse than the bug itself…people started panicking.” Again he emphasised that government and companies have plans in place. Worse, he said, panic buying of things like face masks deprives workers of much-need supplies.
Once again, he was cut off. “I have zero confidence [in contingency plans],” sneered Buttolph. Reid also defended people stockpiling.
It’s not much better here in Australia. When Today interviewed a panic-buying Sydney mother, not once was she criticised for her stupidity and selfishness. Surrounded by piles of face masks, bleach, hand sanitisers, an industrial drum of disinfectant, sacks of rice and dozens of cans and jars, she wittered that she got “pretty scared”. Drumming up the doomsday scenarios, she claimed, “We shouldn’t wait…till it’s too late. You need to stock up”.
“You’ve just defined it perfectly,” host Karl Stefanovic agreed. “I’ve also got friends who’ve been buying stuff as well.”
Some in the media, at least, are not impressed with their colleagues. On another Good Morning Britain panel, Dawn Neesum of the Daily Star, of all papers, lambasted the scaremongering of the media. She cited such ridiculous headlines as “bodies are going to pile up”.
“But they are!” interjected Piers Morgan, who proceeded to rant about a “catastrophe” about to overwhelm Britain. The scary headlines, he claimed, were “accurately reflecting” the imminent disaster. Kelvin McKenzie of the Sun defended media, positing them as brave defenders of freedom against Chinese totalitarianism. “We need more media, not less.”
Neesum tried to inject a measure of calm, stating that she wasn’t panic buying or stockpiling groceries, or doing anything other than taking “proper medical advice”.
“I am washing my hands, making sure if I sneeze or cough in public I throw the tissue in the bin. Stockpiling? No, I’m sorry. What is the point in terrifying people? What’s the point in scaring people so much?”
“Keep calm, wash your hands, and carry on.”
But Neesum’s lone voice of calm and reason is overwhelmed by the hand-flapping, shrieking doom-mongering of the likes of Piers Morgan, Susanna Reid and Karl Stepanovic.
If people are panicking, it’s because the “opinion makers” in the mainstream media are telling them to.