Human Exceptionalism

Did the World Health Organizaton Exaggerate H1N1 Dangers?

We are in the midst of a destabilizing societal crisis of confidence–and for good reason.  In government, politics, law, diplomacy, media, science, religion, business, athletics, the academy–you name it–we have witnessed incompetence, mendacity, politicization masking for objectivity, corruption, and venality.  And now, the World Health Organization is being accused of exaggerating the dangers of the H1Ni flu. From the story:

European criticism of the World Health Organization’s handling of the H1N1 pandemic intensified Friday with the release of two reports that accused the agency of exaggerating the threat posed by the virus and failing to disclose possible influence by the pharmaceutical industry on its recommendations for how countries should respond. The WHO’s response caused widespread, unnecessary fear and prompted countries around the world to waste millions of dollars, according to one report. At the same time, the Geneva-based arm of the United Nations relied on advice from experts with ties to drug makers in developing the guidelines it used to encourage countries to stockpile millions of doses of antiviral medications, according to the second report.

Ay, yi yi. The WHO denies the charge:

A spokesman for the WHO, along with several independent experts, however, strongly disputed the reports, saying they misrepresented the seriousness of the pandemic and the WHO’s response, which was carefully formulated and necessary given the potential threat. “The idea that we declared a pandemic when there wasn’t a pandemic is both historically inaccurate and downright irresponsible,” said WHO spokesman Gregory Hartl in a telephone interview. “There is no doubt that this was a pandemic. To insinuate that this was not a pandemic is very disrespectful to the people who died from it.”

I really hope WHO is right here. I did not criticize the anti pandemic efforts when the worst case did not come to pass. Indeed, I worry that we put our institutions in an untenable position, expecting perfect calibrations–so as to not be unduly inconveniencing, but yet, enough to “keep us safe” (I am so sick of that term!).  Thus, as far as I was concerned–and wrote here–the  happy fact that the pandemic never really gathered the kind of steam we were warned against did not mean the precautions taken by our public health officials were not proper and worthwhile–and in fact, I have thought that they might be a reason that the apocalypse never came. (Not that I didn’t criticize known hysterics at the ever unreliable UN, which demanded hundreds of millions–as always does–when it issued a report warning of millions dead and widespread anarchy.)

But if  the pending investigations determine that decisions were made about the H1N1 that were not based on proper science but for other improper motives, not only will there be hell to pay the next time a pandemic threatens, but it will crush what little trust remains in our public institutions.  More than ever, those in power need to be aware of the stakes of failing to live up to their public charge. Because it sure feels to me like the wheels are coming off the wagon.

Most Popular

Politics & Policy

The Great Misdirection

The House Democrats are frustrated, very frustrated. They’ve gotten themselves entangled in procedural disputes with the Trump administration that no one particularly cares about and that might be litigated for a very long time. A Washington Post report over the weekend spelled out how stymied Democrats ... Read More

Australia’s Voters Reject Leftist Ideas

Hell hath no fury greater than left-wingers who lose an election in a surprise upset. Think Brexit in 2016. Think Trump’s victory the same year. Now add Australia. Conservative prime minister Scott Morrison shocked pollsters and pundits alike with his victory on Saturday, and the reaction has been brutal ... Read More
NR Webathon

We’ve Had Bill Barr’s Back

One of the more dismaying features of the national political debate lately is how casually and cynically Attorney General Bill Barr has been smeared. He is routinely compared to Roy Cohn on a cable-TV program that prides itself on assembling the most thoughtful and plugged-in political analysts and ... Read More
Film & TV

Game of Thrones: A Father’s Legacy Endures

Warning! If you don't want to read any spoilers from last night's series finale of Game of Thrones, stop reading. Right now. There is a lot to unpack about the Thrones finale, and I fully understand many of the criticisms I read on Twitter and elsewhere. Yes, the show was compressed. Yes, there were moments ... Read More

Cold Brew’s Insidious Hegemony

Soon, many parts of the United States will be unbearably hot. Texans and Arizonans will be able to bake cookies on their car dashboards; the garbage on the streets of New York will be especially pungent; Washington will not only figuratively be a swamp. And all across America, coffee consumers will turn their ... Read More
National Security & Defense

The Warmonger Canard

Whatever the opposite of a rush to war is — a crawl to peace, maybe — America is in the middle of one. Since May 5, when John Bolton announced the accelerated deployment of the Abraham Lincoln carrier group to the Persian Gulf in response to intelligence of a possible Iranian attack, the press has been aflame ... Read More