Analysis: You Can Panic Now
One problem with this trope in Real Life is that too often, it feeds into mob violence, Police Brutality and unwarranted investigations or at the least unnecessary discrimination and oppression against anyone from the Subculture of the Week to minority racial/ethnic groups/religions/sexualities. When this trope is directed toward disease or disasters, it often leads people to fear and take precautions against disease or disasters unlikely to affect them while ignoring stuff far more likely to affect them (e.g. people who refuse the generally safe whooping cough vaccine getting whooping cough, because the risk of getting whooping cough unvaccinated is higher than any of the vaccine's risks, or people who store up ammunition and fuel to prepare for The End Of The World As We Know It only to have a house fire, a far more common disaster, obliterate everything they have because of the stored ammo and fuel). When it's directed toward technology or certain people's use of technology it can have some very bad results as well (as in, demanding real name accountability and the elimination of privacy on the internet to "stop pedophiles and trolls" may sound good, but people from domestic violence survivors to people avoiding repressive regimes have definite needs for privacy, anonymity, and blending in that it could cost them their lives if they're revealed). This trope, as you can see from a short browse of the Real Life section, tends to hurt people very badly when it takes effect in a large way.
- The media coverage of swine flu in general has been ridiculously alarmist. They never mention that thousands have contracted it and, like the "regular" flu, felt like crap for a while and then recovered. They mention that people died from it, but didn't say that a number of them were already in a high risk group for flu death (very young or very old, already-compromised health). The mainstream media seems to have tried very hard to manufacture a panic and make it look like perfectly healthy people were dropping like flies in some kind of Captain Trips scenario.
- The worrisome part is that after all the effort put into Crying Wolf at the swine flu, it'll be hard to know what to take seriously if a genuinely wide-scale life-threatening pandemic should emerge.
- The coverage will be exactly the same, because any dangerous pandemic will start in exactly the same fashion, which is why there was that reaction in the first place. Sure, it turned out to be only as dangerous as a normal flu, but not even the CDC knew that at the time.