Almost every day, the BBC’s One-minute World News provides the latest death toll from the new coronavirus, COVID-19. The short news wrap-up typically covers about three news items only, meaning that for the BBC, the virus has been among the top three most important issues for the world, daily, for the past two months.
All the other mainstream media outlets are likewise reporting on every single angle on this story they can find, including regular updates of the global death toll and a country-by-country breakdown.
The impact of such intense coverage of the virus is widespread fear, even though pedestrians are still 13 times more likely to be killed by a car than by this virus.
Further, media-based concern about irreversible climate change and the ubiquitous sexual abuse of women seems to have died down. Those issues have become less of an emergency, and the sense that governments and businesses need to rectify them straight away has diminished.
While 3000 people have unfortunately died from COVID-19 over the past 2 months (50 a day), here are some stats on some comparatively atrocious epidemics we should also be informed about every single hour, in lurid detail, until something changes:
* 87,000 women a year, or 238 a day, are murdered.
* 36,000 people a day are forced to flee their homes, with a total of 70.8 million people currently forcibly displaced.
* 24,600 people die every day from starvation and 820 million people do not have enough food to eat.
* 10,000 people die daily because they lack access to healthcare.
* 6000 people die daily from work-related accidents or illnesses, or 2.3 million people a year. There are 340 million occupational accidents every year.
* 2191 people die to suicide every day, or 800,000 a year.
* 1643 people die every day due to second-hand smoking.
* 740 pedestrians are killed on roads every day.
* About 998 million women have experienced sexual violence (roughly 35% of women).
* At any given time, about 40.3 million people are working in some kind of forced labour or in a forced marriage.
* An area of forest the size of Britain is being destroyed every year.
* There are 150 million people without somewhere to live and 1.6 billion people living in inadequate housing.
* More than 50% of indigenous adults suffer from Type 2 diabetes.
* An estimated 560,000 people were killed in Syria by December 2018.
* Almost half of humanity is living on less than US$5.50 a day.
Then there are the epidemics that are not even documented or counted.
We know that 3 in 10 young trans people in the United States have tried to take their lives in the space of a year, and 40% of bisexual people in the US have considered or attempted suicide, but we do not have global figures.
No one is measuring the death of imagination of people who work three jobs, or the global impact of US invasions and its almost 800 military bases, or the mind-numbing impact of the US$532 billion advertising industry.
We do not know how many people globally are subject to racist attacks, nor is there some kind of daily measurement of the pandemic of bland apathy to the world’s toxic social and economic structures.
There is no one categorising the overproduction of useless shit, though we do know that there are about 50 million tons of e-waste produced each year.
There is no daily news on the virulent erasure of histories, voices, people’s organisation, cultures and languages.
The mainstream media are not concerned in the same way by the epidemic of corrupt politicians bought off by big business, or the public money lost to corporate tax avoidance (estimated at $500 billion a year).
The establishment media will not talk much about these things. That is not just because rich people cannot catch poverty, it is because the establishment media is capitalist and does not recognise systemic issues, nor the causes and solutions to them.
The media pretends not to, but it does have an agenda. That agenda is counter to the one that we, serious journalists, commit to — revealing the bruises of the world, the screaming injustices and holding those in power to account.
Panic and fomenting fear are well-tried methods of control, distraction and of shifting popular support towards the right.
Raising awareness of sickening global inequality and the daily pain so many are subject to develops critical thought and would be empowering and disrupting. That is why the establishment media does not do that.
[Tamara Pearson is a long-time journalist based in Latin America and author of The Butterfly Prison. Her writings can be found at her blog.]