I very much doubt the average person is influenced in any way by The Black Death or any other past epidemic, not least because so very few people know anything much about history. Today we’re scared witless by the media, which depends on sensation to grab eyeballs and thus boost ad revenues. In order to scare us, the media uses absurd hyperbole and resolutely refuses to provide any context. They played the same game with MERS, SARS, H5N1, and now COVID-19. It is a reliable way to ensure financial stability for media empires and boost the annual bonuses of those well-paid CEOs. Politicians don’t want to be blamed for anything so they over-react, causing yet more panic.

What do we actually know about COVID-19? Nothing that would suggest it’s a pandemic in the making. Regular flu infects three billion people per year and up to 650,000 die from regular flu each year. Those who die are the old and those with compromised immune systems. Regular flu seems to have the same kind of transmission rate as COVID-19 and, now that data is becoming available from Western countries, nearly the same morbidity rate. But we don’t shut down the planet each year because of regular flu. Why not? Because we’re used to it, and so the media can’t sensationalize it.

Our tiny ape-brains always over-emphasize the unknown. We’re appallingly bad at estimating risk. We panic over the wrong things. The media knows this, and exploits our gullibility with each new virus that comes around. It’s an extremely reliable way to boost ad revenues, but I question why we’re shutting down the planet merely to further enrich a handful of already-wealthy media moguls.

Anyone who enjoys my articles here on Medium may be interested in my books Why Democracy Failed and The Praying Ape, both available from Amazon.