Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Pandemic Premediation

It hardly bears saying, but I'll say it anyway. The swine flu pandemic is just the latest instance of premediation in the global print, televisual, and networked media. As is its current practice, news media are focusing their "reporting" of the swine flu pandemic less on what has happened than on what might. True, news media are reporting on the present and recent past--most notably the roughly 100 deaths in Mexico, the serious responses by the Mexican government and populace, and the reported new cases of the flu in the US, Canada, and other nations around the globe. But the bulk of the new coverage is on what might happen--on the future-oriented WHO and CDC declarations of medical emergencies or alerts, on the possibility of shutting down global travel, or on a global outbreak of a swine flu pandemic.

The premediation of this pandemic performs two functions: to create a low level of anxiety and to warn the public for the possibility of a pandemic that might never happen so that whether or not it does happen they will already have been affectively prepared. We are, in other words, already experiencing a virtual swine flu pandemic. The aim of this premediated pandemic is to affectively innoculate the public so that no matter how extensively the virus spreads, no matter how many deaths it might cause, the media public will already have built up its affective defenses against the pandemic. Of course, even if the swine flu pandemic never materializes, the virtuality of this pandemic premediation has already insured the materiality of our collective affective response. Always couched in terms of what tomorrow might bring, premediation works through the mobilization of the present moment to modulate our ongoing affective orientation towards futurity.

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