The Science of Advertising in the Age of Terror

from The Visitation, a story of biological terrorism

. . . Lunching with Max Damron in the side room of the Stein Club in Midtown, Charlie Smits sliced off a piece of andouille sausage and ate it. “The New York Times says sausage-making is like newspaper reporting,” he said.

“How’s that?” said Max.

“You don’t really want to know what goes into it.”

Max laughed, but nodded. “I read a piece in Scientific American last week about a simulated release of smallpox.”

“Was it interesting?”

“Mainly for what it omits.”

“Such as?”

“Such as a lot,” Max set down his knife and fork and took a long drink of Budweiser. “To begin with, the simulation is set in Portland.”

“Maine?” Charlie frowned.

“Oregon.”

“Why there?”

“They adapted the simulation from a traffic management program that was used by the city of Portland.”

“Oh, that’s makes sense.”

“I thought so too,” said Max. “It’s convenient, for the purposes of the article. I’ve seen about half a dozen of these write-ups, and they’re always set in some spot like, you know, Baltimore. Never D.C. or New York or L.A. or Miami — Baltimore. Portland. Yonkers.”

Charlie nodded. “Not likely targets.”

“Portland, Oregon,” said Max. “Twelve hundred exposures.”

“That’s a decent number.”

“Yeah, but they don’t go into the how of it — how was the agent dispensed, to whom, and where? All of that is relevant.”

Charlie nodded again, and ate some more andouille.

Max went on: “Ok, so you have a ten-day period of incubation.”

“I didn’t know that.”

“Yeah, ten days. Smallpox is like HIV that way, only HIV takes a year or so. Smallpox takes ten days, then symptoms appear. At four days, according to this Portland scenario in Scientific American, the disease is diagnosed.”

“Sharp doctor.”

“Very sharp,” said Max, signalling the waitress to bring him another PBR. “He’s so good he correctly diagnoses a disease he has never seen before, a disease that wasn’t even discussed when he went to medical school, and he does this only four days after the onset of symptoms.”

“Well, Louis Pasteur would’ve caught it!” Charlie smiled. “Maybe this guy is our Louis Pasteur.”

“Louis Pasteur would have recognized it,” Max shook his head. “No, right there, the researchers have God climb up and sit in their laps.”

“So I take it they save the world out there in Portland.”

“Oh, you bet,” said Max, “with vaccinations.”

“Sounds plausible.”

“Does it? Who pays for the vaccine, and with what? Where do all the health-care staff come from, and who trained them to give the vaccinations, and who paid for the training? And with what? Plausible? The whole study’s nothing but a marketing piece for vaccine manufacturers.”

Charlie smiled at him and said, “What do you figure they get for article reprints down at Scientific American?”

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