Reading The Pictures is dedicated to the analysis of news photos and media images.
April 27, 2009

Flu Fear

Jakarta flu.jpg

I was struck by this photo from today’s newswire. It shows soldiers and police in Indonesia, dressed in special suits, taking part in a flu prevention drill.

More than the contents of the photo itself, however, what took me aback — when I finally read the caption, more closely, a second time — is that the photo isn’t contemporary to the current swine flu outbreak. Instead, it’s a file photo taken last year as part of a bird flu prevention drill.

Knowing that, the photo — a terrifying one, to be sure, with this apocalyptic-looking scene on a dirt road — helps demonstrate how quickly distinctions can disappear between fact and assumption, and between worry, fear and hysteria.

(image: Dadang Tri /Reuters. Jakarta December 16, 2008)

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