History The Real Perspective
posted by March 17 at 11:45 AMon
Erica Barnett, let me show you the source of public hysteria and various forms/versions of millennium madness:
On June 9, 2005, as part of its ongoing series of “Security Updates,” CNN airs a special report titled “Keeping Milk Safe.” Over shots of adorable first-graders sipping from their pint cartons, CNN tells viewers that the farm-to-shelf supply chain is vulnerable at every point, beginning with the cow; with great drama, the report emphasizes the terrifying consequences such tampering could have. Nowhere does CNN mention that in the history of the milk industry, no incident of supply-chain tampering has ever been confirmed, due to terrorism or anything else.
Similarly, after the Asian tsunamis struck over Christmas 2004, Dateline wasted no time casting about for an alarmist who could bring the tragedy closer to home: the familiar Could It Happen Here? motif. The show’s producers found Stephen Ward, Ph.D., of the University of California at Santa Cruz. In January, Dateline’s East Coast viewers heard Ward foretell a geological anomaly in their very own ocean that could generate the equivalent of “all the bombs on earth” detonating at once. The event Ward prophesied would unleash on New York City a wave containing “15 or 20 times the energy” of the Asian tsunamis. As a helpful backdrop, Dateline treated its viewers to spectacular visuals from The Day After Tomorrow, showing Manhattan’s heralded landmarks disappearing beneath an onrushing, foamy sea.
To hear the media tell it, we’re under perpetual siege from some Terrifying New Disease That Threatens to End Life as We Know It. It’s too soon to render verdicts on the ultimate impact of avian flu, but that pathogen would have to wipe out many millions in order to justify the hype. Lyme Disease? The Cleveland Clinic has this to say: “Although rarely fatal and seldom a serious illness, Lyme Disease has been widely publicized, frequently overdramatized, and sometimes linked to unproven conditions.” Is it coincidence that visits to national parks began tracking downward in 1999, amid media coverage that made it sound as if deer ticks and the rest of Mother Nature’s foot-soldiers had declared war on humankind? Maybe. Maybe not.
Reality and the news are rarely married.