Tag Archive | TEOTWAWKI

Mediaocalypse

Before you go stocking your bomb shelters and crawling into your hidey holes in the anticipation of whatever flavor of extinction-level-event you believe is going to occur on December 21, you might want to read this.

With what seems like a recent rash of psychopaths eating people (alive or dead), the term “zombie apocalypse” is being bandied about both as a joke and as a very serious statement.  If you believe the latter, I am here to tell you to put down your shotguns, unboard the windows, go outside, and get some fresh non-rage-virus-infected air.  Take a nice deep breath as you realize the world isn’t currently collapsing around you and feel that paranoia melt away.  Ok, the paranoia’s probably not melting away, but realize for just one moment that the world around you still exists and hasn’t devolved into some dystopian survivalist scenario.  I know, I know… it hasn’t YET.  Whatever.

Previously on this blog, I’ve mentioned that the History Channel, for all its former awesomeness and even its current stuff like Pawn Stars and American Pickers, is the single largest proponent of the mass hysteria surrounding the year 2012.  People watch this channel for facts and they get sensationalism, at least when it comes to shows like Ancient Aliens and Nostradamus 2012.  Garbage like this wouldn’t be as big a deal if it hadn’t been for the long-con bait-and-switch (man, I’m using a lot of hyphens today) that the History Channel seemed to pull.

For years, they showed us the truth behind things.  Then, all of a sudden, they started showing us the utterly ridiculous.  Of course, millions of gullible people continued to believe that anything the History Channel would tell us was true.  What these people failed to understand was that sensationalism, especially sensationalism which indicates possible harm against the viewer directly, gets ratings.  Ratings get advertising dollars.  Ad dollars make the people at Discovery Networks richer.

On the short route: Sensationalism = Money.

Of course, when something is sensationalized, the internet erupts.  This results in what I can only assume is thousands of YouTube videos with people vomiting up their own conspiracy theories about anything and everything surrounding the impending doom of December 21 claiming everything from a seismic collapse to deadly solar flares to an as-of-yet hidden brown dwarf planet which may collide with earth or which might be carrying ancient aliens who will either destroy us or uplift us to the next technological era, depending on who you ask.

I’m not saying any of this shit is real, but I am saying that this is really the shit people think.

So, the History Channel puts it out there.  Based on what they see, the typical conspiracy nuts do the typical conspiracy nut thing and take their eighth-grade education and their  first-grade grammar and spelling skills, add in some rudimentary video editing software and possibly even a grainy webcam testimonial, tag the posts and the YouTube videos with related terminology and voila: the trap is set.

This is where normal people come in.

When normal people see something that piques their interest on a place like the History Channel and they want more information, they will typically take to the internet to find it.  Of course, a search for any of the world-ending terms cited by the History Channel will eventually lead you to the blogs or sites of one of these people or the small groups in which they associate.  Some of these people have a proclivity toward web design which might be put to better use meaning these sites may look official.  This lends to the average person believing that the statements made within are much more credible no matter how crazy they sound.

They’ll then search or be linked to videos which seem to connect all the dots.  They may have trouble sleeping after they watch it, thinking how these people on the internet may be right.  They may even come away from it a full-on believer in whatever paranoid machination originally resided in the head of one clinically insane person with a YouTube account and too much damn time on their hands.

Slowly, this crap gets people into thinking that their lives are over, or will be, come December.  The problem is that this isn’t Heaven’s Gate or the Branch Davidians.  This creepy cult mentality has gone viral.  It has spread beyond the walls of a compound.  This is the real zombie apocalypse unfolding before us.  Enough people who take this crap seriously are either planning to end it all quietly before the approaching apocalypse or they could be planning to go out with a bit more of a bang.

The media at large is not helping with this situation, though, most of the time, they’re unwittingly giving credence to all the wackos who already think the sky is going to fall.

The media-generated “zombie apocalypse” I mentioned at the top of the entry is only the most recent in a string of news stories which have appeared throwing out stranger-than-normal situations for the average viewer.

Volcanoes erupting, wildfires burning, earthquakes rumbling, mass fish kills, mass bird die-offs, war, famine… death and destruction are abound in our modern world.  To some, it might seem that there is more of this than usual.  It might seem that the real news on real network stations – the reputable sources – are lending credence to the aforementioned crazies who will, no doubt, point to the screen shouting “See? See?!?” to whatever invisible friend happens to be sitting in the same room with them when these type of stories are aired.

The truth of the matter is that with the proliferation of media in our modern world, everyone everywhere is a potential news source.  Take a video of something odd with your camera phone, tweet that shit, and you might just have Brian Williams thanking you for your footage sometime around 6:30 ET.

Before recently (meaning within the last five or so years), you would only get a raw video of something when someone had the foresight to grab a camcorder.  This, in itself, was something of a rarity.  Most of us who owned a camcorder during those years only got it out for special occasions.  If shit was going down and going down now, it’d probably be ten minutes while you ran upstairs, unearthed the camera case, put in the battery, turned the camera on, and made sure you had room on your respective media for the crazy shit which you were about to shoot.  Once all that was done, you run back downstairs ready to go, and the moment is lost.

Now, it’s a matter of quick-draw.  A tornado touches down and the first instinct isn’t to run to shelter, it’s to reach for your smart phone and get live images of the destruction because you could potentially run into some YouTube money.

Not to downplay any of the crazy tornado-related disasters which have occurred, but it’s just an odd weather season.  Shit happens.  It’s not a sign, it’s meteorology.  It’s explainable by science.  Though devastating and terrible, it is not apocalyptic in nature.

My point is that before the era of social media and smart phones, a thousand birds dropping from the sky in rural Kansas or hundreds of dead fish in a lake in Oklahoma might not be anything but page-three news for the local bird cage liner.  Because of the network of media now in place, it shows up on NBC Nightly News and makes headlines on Yahoo because, nationally, it’s an odd incident.  Someone just happened to be there to get the first pictures or linked something to the Facebook wall of a media outlet feeling that it deserved attention as a sure-fire sign of the impending apocalypse.  Otherwise, it might have been ignored as not newsworthy.

On all occasions, it has been stated by reputable scientists that shit like this happens all the time, we just don’t typically hear about it because it’s not that big of a deal.  There are perfectly good explanations for these instances.  It just so happens to be one of those years picked to be the end of days, so we have to report on all possible signs.

The hardcore believers will tell you that all the science behind this is total bullshit and that its all some kind of a government cover-up.  They’ll tell you that there are escape plans for the President.  They’ll tell you about the secret bunker under Denver International Airport.  They’ll tell you that the Government knows and that they’re throwing up a smokescreen to hide it all from us.

While I don’t put it past the government to do so (and with good effing reason), I don’t doubt science.  If someone can give me a reasonable explanation for something based on facts and established knowledge, I’m good with it.  Shit happens.  All the time.  All over the world.  Crazy shit.  99.9% of that shit can be explained by science or another concrete and acceptable branch of knowledge.

The only reason we’re constantly hearing about this types of stuff in the actual news is a simple truth of journalism that is taught across the country from a high school class to J101: Bad news sells.  If it’s not taught that way, it’s implied.  If it’s not implied, all you have to do is look around you.

For every story about a face-eating homeless man on bath salts, there’s a heartwarming story.  For every dude who killed his roommate and ate his heart and brains, there’s someone out there being a real hero.  Those good news type stories usually get pushed to the back of the broadcast or to a later page in the paper or get buried under all sorts of other crap on the internet because BAD NEWS SELLS.

Chicken Little knew it, that’s why he got so much attention when he ran around screaming the sky was falling.

Strangely enough, while we’re on the topic, there have been a number of credible articles interviewing actual scientists and historians who have found proof that the Mayans (if that’s who you want to go by) didn’t believe the world would end on 12/21/2012.  There are people out there proving that this stuff is total BS and is being used by the disreputable scum of the earth to turn a profit based on paranoia.  Those stories, however, will ultimately get buried because Kim Kardashian decided to buy Kanye West a $750000 Lamborghini for his birthday, and that’s more important than science taking the Sword of Damocles from over the head of the History Channel watching public.

The inevitable apocalypse is just a figment of media sensationalism which is driving up the sale of survival supplies and will, come November and December of this year, cause mass hysteria.  If there is, indeed, an apocalypse on December 21st, it will be one which is man-made and born of the seeds of hysteria planted by the proliferation of media.  Always weigh your facts against possible fiction, friends.  Don’t fly off the handle.  All is well.  All is well.

Other than that, I’ll see you on December 22nd where, in this very blog, I will post that I told you so.

Keep fighting the good fight.

—end transmission—

Apocalypse Wow

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.

—end transmission—