Friday, February 15, 2008

All Choked Up

As if to provide me an opportunity to be an equal opportunity heartless bastard, another thinning-the-herd story comes down the pike.

At least 82 youths in the US have died from a "choking game", according to the first official tally of such fatalities.

In the so-called game, a leash or rope is wrapped around the neck to temporarily cut the blood supply to the brain. The goal is a dreamlike, floating-in-space feeling when blood rushes back into the brain. Up to 20% of teenagers and pre-teens play the game, sometimes in groups, according to some estimates based on local studies. But nearly all the deaths were of those who played alone, according to the count compiled by the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Actually it's not even the herd-thinning aspect that's most interesting, it's the notion that 82 deaths over the course of thirteen years is somehow statistically significant enough for the CDC to be spending time and effort looking into it. Hundreds of times as many teenagers have died in the same time period from car accidents, gun accidents, off-road vehicle accidents, suicide. And according to Google News, right now there are 319 news articles on this "story" -- nearly four times the number of actual deaths over the past decade-plus. I suppose a sense of proportion is, as always, too much to ask for.

I don't have me one-a them fancy pee-aych-dees, but I find it passing strange that otherwise smart people in smart organizations feel the urge to waste time and money and effort compiling data to sound the alarum that, well, dumb people do dumb things. Hey kids, stay safe -- don't pull a fuckin' vending machine on yourself, ai-aight? Let's make a PSA out of it with, say, Hannah Montana or one of the High School Musical kidz, and a snappy jingle.


Marius said...

I don't have a Ph.D. in the sociology of organizations, but I read somewhere that it's the inevitable logic of all institutions to create, as the Commies would put it, an "object of labor" for themselves. Even after all smoking will have been abandoned in the West, anti-smoking NGOs will still find ways to sound the alarm over the occasional redneck lighting up in a cave or something. That's what they do, these organizations--rather than acknowledge that their existence has become futile and then fold up, they create ever new ways to justify their annual budgets.

Heywood J. said...

Sure, pretty much any branch of the gubmint is going to have some egregious examples of in-house make-work. This one sticks out (to me, anyway) not only because the CDC can do practically any research it wants, so why this ridiculous shit, but the apparent barrage of coverage on it.

I assume the lurid suggestions of ardent if moronic teens, looking for a higher high and finding it masturbating at the end of a noose, would be ratings gold. Still -- 82 kids in 13 years. It's almost literally impossible to not think of practically any other possible cause of death that has taken more than seven lives per year. It's a struck-by-lightning level of danger.

I guess I'm just embarrassed for the CDC, more than anything.

woodguy said...

Gives new credence to what your parents always told you--playing with yourself is harmful , even fatal.

ThePoliticalCat said...

With Julie Gerberding at its helm, the CDC appears to have grown more adept at one thing only: Sticking its foot up its arse all the way to the tonsils.