I am addicted to the Discovery Channel.
This is a pretty common thing, though. Addiction to documentary programming is something that is experienced far and wide, especially due to the lack of quality of most network shows.
History Channel, Food Network, Travel Channel… it’s all part of the same giant addiction. Science, technology, and history are three of my favorite things. Where else, on a Sunday afternoon without Steelers football, can you watch a two-hour block of ancient and medieval methods of torture and execution? I mean, really, there’s nothing else on and the premise of that is pretty damn awesome. It’s brutal and metal and all those other fun adjectives that make medieval torture devices seem cool, as long as you’re not the one strapped to them.
Recently, however (and by recently, I mean over the last two years or so), I’ve been detecting a more sensationalism in some of the shows.
I’m not talking about Mike Rowe shoveling cow manure or narrating while a bunch of crab fishers brave the icy waters of the Arctic Ocean. I’m not talking about Andrew Zimmern showing us exactly how homosexual he must truly be. I’m not talking about the cringe-worthy video on some episodes of Destroyed in Seconds.
I am talking about the end of the world.
Over the last few years, speculations have started rising with regards to the end of the Mayan Long-Count Calendar. A good portion of people have been lead to this tidbit of information from watching both the Discovery and the History channels. Since shortly after Y2K went bust, they’ve been running documentaries about the end of humanity in increasing numbers.
When will it happen? How will it happen? How many of us will be left alive? Is anywhere on Earth safe from the ravages of the impending apocalypse?
The common answers to these FAQs, according to Discovery Networks: 12/21/2012, somehow we’re not sure, and probably not, respectively.
Doesn’t quite make you feel warm and fuzzy inside, does it?
In the end, I suppose watching a show regarding the possible methods and timetables for the end of life as we know it isn’t supposed to make you feel good. The problem with it is that something like this scares people a lot more than a horror flick. The end of the world ain’t no haunted house picture, that’s for sure. It’s also not an Eli Roth-style gorefest. This is something that, with the right mind, could be very legitimately scary.
I, personally, have no insight on whether or not the world will actually end on the prescribed date of the Mayans. I can’t say whether anything is right or wrong. I mean, the world could just as easily end tomorrow as it could on December 21 three years from now.
After Y2K, though, I’m kinda played out on the whole idea of the death of humanity being predicted.
You can sit and watch these documentaries and you may think, “Well, shit, it’s on the Discovery/History Channel! They’re all about facts! Why would they lie?”
They’re not lying, per se, they’re just very selectively choosing the “experts” they decide to interview in order to make the best television possible.
Someone educated in the field of Ancient Mesoamerican Studies may not have the same opinion regarding the Mayan Deadline as an “Astrology Expert” or an analyst of ancient prophecy. We all think that the Discovery Networks would pull in the best minds on the subject to discuss what could actually happen and what, if any, significance the end of this calendar will have on our society at large.
We are all duped in this way, especially when it comes to these sorts of things.
Mostly, if someone tells us they have a line on the end of the world, we’re at least going to listen to their crackpot theory. If there were someone in the street screaming the end was near and citing a specific date, you might not look like it, but you’re mentally marking that day in your head. There’s a good chance that the kook with the sandwich board is wrong, but you’d like to at least be aware of it if he isn’t.
Discovery is guilty of something much worse. They’re giving the sandwich board kooks air-time. They are pulling rogue scientists and historians – mostly people whose credibility within their respective field seems questionable at best – to be interviewed regarding their skewed and not generally excepted views which just happen to coincide perfectly with the particular sensational variety of the program in question.
It’s not just the end of the world docs, either. They’re interviewing people who consider themselves “doctors of cryptozoology” on other programs. You might as well strap on a proton pack and call yourself a Ghostbuster at that point. Experts in fringe science (like parapsychology or ufology for example) are, essentially, experts on nothing unless they can provide concretem conclusive, and incontrovertible evidence that such things exist. Catch yourself a bigfoot, get me some real footage of aliens, show me the boogieman. Then, maybe, I’ll consider you an expert in your field rather than someone who thinks they’re the God of their particular field just because they edit the Wiki entries on the subject.
I’m not here to criticize any beliefs. I have an open mind. I acknowledge the possibility that there are things out there in the world and in the universe which can’t be explained by current science. But, you can’t consider any of those fields science until you actually lock the shit down with some hard facts.
Believe what you want to believe, but just remember, not everything you hear on television is real. From a Discovery Channel documentary to Cable News. Nothing is 100% until it’s proven and no one, not even the ancient Mayans, can predict the future for sure. Remember that the “experts” involved in these programs, even if they’re experts without the quotation marks, are just giving their opinions based on collected evidence and supposition when it comes to these mysterious things. There is no real conclusion, especially when it comes to prophecy and most certainly when it comes to apocalyptic prophecy.
Discovery Networks and Roland Emmerich (the guy behind the new 2012 movie) are responsible for continually proliferating the belief that something terrible is going to happen on December 21, 2012. You can listen to the “experts” they’ve got, telling you that because it’s the end of the long cycle, that the world is going to implode or erupt in violence or even (one of the funnier online beliefs) that the government is covering up the rapid approach of the Dark Sun Nibiru which will, in one of many described ways, decimate the Earth and destroy humanity (look that one up, it’s fun).
Or, you can just check a little bit around the internet. Even the Wiki entry has this to say:
Despite the publicity generated by the 2012 date, Susan Milbrath, curator of Latin American Art and Archaeology at the Florida Museum of Natural History, stated that “We [the archaeological community] have no record or knowledge that [the Maya] would think the world would come to an end” in 2012. “For the ancient Maya, it was a huge celebration to make it to the end of a whole cycle,” says Sandra Noble, executive director of the Foundation for the Advancement of Mesoamerican Studies in Crystal River, Florida. To render December 21, 2012, as a doomsday event or moment of cosmic shifting, she says, is “a complete fabrication and a chance for a lot of people to cash in.”
“There will be another cycle,” says E. Wyllys Andrews V, director of the Tulane University Middle American Research Institute (MARI). “We know the Maya thought there was one before this, and that implies they were comfortable with the idea of another one after this.”
Just remember, there are many more opinions about things than Television lets you know. And, the TV, even if it’s from someone as trusted as the Discovery Channel, isn’t always the singular or definitive or even the most popular opinion among the scientific community. Remember that, even though they are educational channels and shows and most of their programming deals with flat fact rather than pure speculation, it’s still television, which means it’s prone to exaggeration to draw ratings and keep you watching.
I am happy in the knowledge that if nothing happens December 21, 2012, I’ll be able to scream “I told you so” from the highest mountain. I’m even happier that, if something terrible and catastrophic happens and we’re all dead, I don’t have to hear it from anyone. Unless there’s an afterlife. In which case, find me and get all in my face about it. You have my permission.
Just don’t let the paranoia devour you before then, ok?
Keep fighting the good fight.