The symptoms are unmistakable.
Sensationalised headlines accompanied by the faintest whiff of hysteria, an overwhelming sense of paranoia and increasingly desperate opinion pieces.
The diagnosis is inescapable – our media has caught “the fear”.
Or at least certain sections of it have.
Last month, the right wing press launched a calculated attack on that lib dem fellow who made such a jolly good impression during the inaugural prime ministerial debate.
By strange coincidence, these stories all happened to be published on the morning of the second live debate.
In a further quirk of fate, all of their allegations have since proven to be unfounded; based upon spinning half truths into copy that supported the respective publications own political ideology by attacking the main threat to their party of choice.
No doubt, the catalogue of events that conspired to orchestrate the simultaneous release of these scare stories was predominantly ruled by chance.
Still, it’s nice to see Gordon Brown ensuring the same thing wouldn’t happen last week with his ill informed aside in Rochdale.
One thing that isn’t in question – other than the hilariously synchronised panic exhibited by every editor of the right wing press – is the power and influence our media exerts over what we think.
Or at least tries to.
Last year’s big scare story in the news was swine flu.
Coverage of this outbreak in Mexico saturated our media outlets, as we were repeatedly informed to prepare ourselves for the “global pandemic” that would inevitably follow.
World Health Organisation representatives, as well as an assortment of other medical experts, queued up through a cacophony of news platforms to tell us just how many people would die from this new strain of influenza.
Of course, the doomsday scenario predicted never came to pass.
To judge from the zeal in which the few swine flu related deaths were covered in our media though, you’d almost think they wanted more people to die from this.
Then they could legitimately justify the way they’d ratcheted up fear of swine flu by claiming it was in the public’s interest.
Coincidentally, this fear the media implanted in the public domain also lead to increased interest in the news.
And the products they have to sell.
If the over reaction of the right wing press last week is any kind of barometer, Nick Clegg would appear to be this year’s scare story.
Only, I don’t really get why we should be so scared of him.
I’m pretty certain there’s little chance of him mutating into a disease capable of causing a global pandemic.
So when newspapers try and smear one particular candidate’s integrity over another’s, is it really in the public’s interest?
Or is it in the best interests of whoever owns this publication?
Invariably rich and powerful individuals, keen to maintain the status quo.
Should anyone who was actually interested in change win the forthcoming general election, this would be jeopardised.
And despite the conservatives rather blunt posturing of their party as a force for change, is this really what they stand for?
Their very name would suggest otherwise.
As would a billboard campaign obsessed with our incumbent government’s record in power.
Bizarrely, these adverts fail to mention a single thing the conservatives would do to actually change our society.
Surely it would be of more value – and easier – to inform us of these, instead of trying to make people fear your main opponent?
Unless, of course, you don’t really believe in change.
So don’t have anything to say about this.
And your slogans about change are simply a hollow sales pitch designed to cash in on the public’s desire for this.
The established order in any society is rarely noted for their desire to change the machinations that afforded them their status.
Real change, such as electoral reform, could only dilute their authority.
Perhaps that’s why so many stories about hung parliaments have been appearing in our newspapers lately.
As the possibility of this scenario grows increasingly likely, so do the warnings about how “dangerous” this could be for our country and the need for a “decisive” government.
Is it really in the public’s interest to caution against an election result that would offer us the best chance of reform, and the possibility of an electoral system based on proportional representation?
Or is there a connection between scare stories that appear in our newspapers and the vested interests of the publication’s owners?
Maybe I’m coming down with my own case of the fear.