Ever since I had learnt that I could drop the leading ‘e’ in the word ‘extreme’ and get away with it, I knew that I was one of society’s thrill seekers. It started in the workplace with ‘xtreme programming’ but it wasn’t long before I had taken my adrenalin addiction home with me and I was indulging in xtreme ironing, xtreme polishing and even xtreme punctuation!!! There’s no getting away from it, we are all living lives that can sometimes get pretty anodyne, and the only remedy for that is a healthy dose of contrived peril – preferably accompanied by an orgasm, but not necessarily Inxs.
Thankfully, with the very real peril of COVID-19 on our doorstep, one needn’t go to the trouble of autoerotic asphyxiation to scratch the itch (though heaven knows I have more than enough Tesco plastic bags in my garage now to satisfy an army of pervy rock stars). For some of us (myself included) the onset of the pandemic was providing quite enough thrills and spills, thank you very much. So, whatever the rights and wrongs of the lockdown, there was a certain calm to be found in streets emptied of all but the odd and easily avoided zombie walking its zombie dog. I had found solace in the fact that I could stay alive simply by making my life not worth living. Sometimes depression can be a blessed release from anxiety.
But all has changed now. The virus is still out there, we are warned, and yet after 100 days of telling us it is our civic duty to stay at home, we are now told it is our civic duty to go out. So out I go, with only my home-made face covering to protect me (following suitable modification, a black balaclava I was no longer using has proven ideal, particularly since the word ‘rapist’ is now hardly visible). The situation is a little unnerving, I’ll grant you, but there is no need to get things out of proportion. The actual risk to the individual is now not nearly high enough to satisfy the connoisseur of the xtreme. So what we really need now is a new fear of worse to come. What we need is the promise of a second wave and the revitalised loss of liberty that will inevitably follow. If only there were a newspaper that could contrive that threat for us.
Thank God for the Daily Xpress
I’m not actually sure whether I should be giving credit to the Daily Xpress for breaking this story. I first heard of it yesterday in the Swindon Advertiser, but they were simply quoting ‘media reports’. I suppose I am just crediting the less illustrious rag because their version of the story was particularly xplicit. They didn’t just make a headline claim (‘36 Cities and Counties Could Face Lockdown’), they provided the data to back it up. Today, I have woken up to see the scoop actually attributed to Sky News, who themselves cite Public Health England as their source. Either way, the headline remains the same: Leicester is in lockdown and 36 other cities and counties are within days of enduring the same fate. The second wave, it seems, is coming round the mountain.
I happen to live in one of the areas on the hit list, and so I quickly became aware of the alarm and panic this revelation has caused locally. Fortunately, the local council was quick to settle nerves by reassuring everyone that they had no current plans for a local lockdown. I should say so too, since the Xpress article shows that in my area the number of new cases rose from zero to one between 20 June and 26 June.
Really? Are we honestly saying that the Daily Xpress, Sky News and now most of the internet is claiming that an area is on the verge of lockdown because the new infections rate has risen from none a week to one a week?
Well, read it and weep. That is exactly what is happening here. Take a look at the table of data provided in the Daily Xpress article yourself, and you will see that nine of the 36 areas that may be only hours from local lockdown have suffered an increase from zero to two or less per week. And of the others, most are in a similar position: barely any new cases a week is now giving way to an ‘alarming’ barely any new cases a week. Even in those very few areas where the new cases amount to more than a miniscule number, the values are still xtremely small and the increases are miniscule (i.e. a weekly increase that has accelerated by one or two at most). You might be able to make a case for Doncaster and possibly a couple of other areas, but that is it. Even Leicester’s relatively high rate of new virus cases had only increased by two a week during the fortnight in question. The reality is that, of the 36 areas supposedly on the brink of a second lockdown, all but a very small number are virtually free of the virus and the numbers are flat-lining. Even allowing for the tyranny of exponential growth, there seems to be little to justify the media hysteria.
Our local spokesman dismissed the stories as ‘worthless clickbait’. Well, worthless to you or I maybe, but to the mongers of this sort of fear, I am afraid the story has proven its worth many times over. Our need to be scared has been xploited. We have now all read the headlines and we are afraid – we are very afraid. And we’re loving it!