On 30 September [2005] David Nabarro, the senior official in charge of co-ordinating the WHO’s worldwide response to bird flu, hit the headlines by warning that a pandemic could now occur at any time, and that the number of resulting deaths could be anything up to ‘150 million people’. ‘It’s like a combination of global warming and HIV/Aids,’ he told the BBC. Although a WHO ‘media spokesman’ quickly pointed out that this was not an official WHO view, Mr Nabarro insisted that he stood by his claim.

Hey, where did all those dead victims of the avian plague go, anyway?

A good story to remember when mongerers demand immediate action and wrenching social change to address this, that or the other crisis, especially man-made global warming — a theory subject to extraordinary amounts of misinformation, disinformation and nonsense. (See today’s Wall Street Journal op-ed page, “Our Climate Numbers Are a Big Old Mess” by Patrick Michaels, a Cato fellow and professor of environmental sciences at the University of Virginia.)

The bird flu story is so illustrative that the authors of “Scared to Death — From BSE to Global Warming: Why Scares Are Costing Us the Earth” open their book with it. The two, Christopher Booker and Richard North, spoke at an Independent Women’s Forum book event Wednesday, laying out in detail the workings of the hype-steria machine — activist groups, grasping and politicized “scientists,” power-accreting bureacrats and the media, always the media, ginning up crises for their own ends.

Entertaining presentation and good context to remember as the world responds to the latest scare, whatever it may be. Cranberries? Nah, that’s been done.

  • North and Booker are guests on this week’s “America’s Business with Mike Hambrick.” Links later in the day.
  • For more on the bird flu scare, here’s an excerpt from the book’s prologue: Scared to Death.