With New York City's bedbug sightings spreading to landmarks such as the Empire State Building, Bloomingdale's, and Lincoln Center, tourists are canceling vacations at the height of the coming holiday season. Mayor Michael Bloomberg's office is worried the panic will hurt the city's $30 billion tourist industry at a time when the local economy can't afford to take another hit. Is this just a result of media-fueled "bedbug hysteria," or are these tiny pests really a good reason to avoid New York?
The bedbug threat is way overblown: Bedbugs are just the trendy "annoyance/epidemic/infestation" of 2010, says Sergio Hernandez at The Village Voice. They have not disrupted life enough to justify the panic, and, despite the breathless reports, bedbugs are not killing New York's tourism industry. If some visitors really are so irrationally scared, maybe the city's hotels should "start handing out bug spray" instead of pillow mints.
"Are bedbugs scaring tourists away from NYC?"
People's fears may be overblown — but they're still strong: Bedbugs may not carry disease the way mosquitoes and rats can, says Joel Stein at Time, but that doesn't mean they can't provoke "hysteria." They are gross, for starters. They suck your blood, they're extremely difficult to eradicate, and they can invade our homes, which are supposed to be "fortresses" in which we are safe from threats in the outside world. That plays on some very primal anxieties.
"What's so bad about bedbugs?"
New York — you're either with us or with the bedbugs: The instinct to avoid "the New York bedbug menace" is understandable, says Richard Lawson at Gawker, but how about a little solidarity? Bedbugs have already attacked New Yorkers' beds and offices, and if tourism suffers they'll get "our wallets" too. So please, "parasite-phobic travelers," conquer your fears and head for the Big Apple. Otherwise, "the bedbugs have won."
"Conquering bedbugs now destroying New York tourism"
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
- 43 TV shows to watch in 2014
- How science is accelerating our search for alien life
- Obama just kneecapped Jeb Bush and Chris Christie's 2016 prospects
- 6 tiny scientific mistakes that created huge disasters
- It's official: The religious right is calling it quits
- The Hunger Games: Mockingjay — Part 1: 10 major differences between the book and the movie
- How to be the most productive person in your office — and still get home by 5:30 p.m.
- Inside Turkey's shadow war with ISIS
- Alien conspiracy theorists think the government is on the verge of spilling big secrets
- California's drought has reached Biblical-plague proportions. It's time for a drastic measure.
Subscribe to the Week