A F F A I R S
Is there really a germ so deadly and infectious that it resists every drug? Could a terrorist really concoct a virus that causes its victims to cannibalize themselves? "That's cockamamie," I'd mutter.
I'm now more forgiving. Preston, of course, is not obliged to report only truth. He has the novelist's license to reshape the truth in any way he desires. His fiction is anchored in fact. Certain diseases, for instance, cause victims to hurt themselves. But in crafting his story, Preston sails to the outer limits of biological and medical truth. Nothing beats dramatic effect like a vivid description of a pathologist slicing open his own skull.
There lies what disturbs me. The Cobra Event is effective because it is scary. Fear motivates people like nothing else can. It makes people run away, change careers, seek God, meet deadlines at work. Novelists and screenwriters know that a reader or viewer will gasp in horror and cover his eyes when the ghost pops out of the closet, but will always return to the story for another hit of terror.
Where does fear fit into the real-world problem of biological terrorism? I asked D.A. Henderson whether he wants to scare people to alert them to the threat of biological terrorism. No, he said. He simply wants people to recognize the need for medical and public health professionals to be prepared for that eventuality. We do not need to be afraid in order to act.
Very rational. It would be comforting to think he is right. What's certain is that gaining the attention of the movie-going, novel-reading, fear-craving public is probably easier than attracting the eyes and ears of concerned citizens.
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