Snark v. Snark: In Media We Trust? (Justin)

Time to break out your tin foil hats and Meals, Ready-to-Eat. In case you haven’t been following the news lately, the world almost ended. Also, this is the worst flu season in the history of ever. Not to mention, I just found out Obama is just about to initiate Operation: Make The Non-Muslims Socialist. Basically, life as we know it is going to end. How do I know all this? The good ‘ol media machine has made it their goal to make me live in fear every second of my life.

To some, that would seem like a major inconvenience. Something that would have the potential to cause a lot more harm than good. I disagree. Personally, I think the media sensationalizing every story they can is exactly what we need. I mean, how else could we expect to survive these terrifying and dangerous times?

Did you know the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade happened recently? According to Fox News, thousands of people went and got abortions just to celebrate it. That’s the type of hard-hitting journalism I think everyone needs to hear. If it weren’t for that, I would have thought it was just a normal day, like any other.

I probably would have stayed indoors that day, but I was told that you’re more likely to get the flu indoors. And from what I’ve heard so far, if you get sick, you’ll die. Never mind the fact that experts at the Center for Disease Control are saying that — so far, the influenza vaccine is helping upwards of 60 percent of people who received it. And don’t pay any attention to the fact that these same experts say it’s “too early to call it an epidemic.” What do they know about the flu? I would much prefer to get my news about public health from 95.5 KLOS on the half hours.

Even though I know this flu season is the worst ever, and I know I’ve heard that before, it all sounds eerily familiar to a couple years ago. In 2009, when H1N1 was declared an epidemic, the country just about died of fear. Ironic, considering dying was exactly what they were worried about. The interesting thing about H1N1 was that it wasn’t that much worse than the normal flu. With a little more than 110,000 people becoming infected in 2009, that doesn’t really seem too bad considering on any given year, between 15,579,595 and 311,591,917 people will become infected with the flu. And as of this year, only a few thousand have gotten sick. Either way though, it’s clearly a better idea to panic.

In case you missed the news about the Mayan apocalypse (maybe you were too busy stocking your bomb shelter), the world was supposed to end. Again. In fact, the world was prophesied to end more than 21 times since 2000. And every time, the media makes sure we all know, and we all prepare ourselves. I’ve sold all my possessions more times than I can count now. While you may think that’s strange, reports show that it actually isn’t uncommon for people to do that when convinced the end of the world is coming. So, it’s a good thing that the media focuses on super volcanoes and earthquakes and comets that will crash into us, yeah?

Ever since Lyndon Johnson came out with his “Daisy” ad (which said that people would be destroyed by a nuclear bomb if they didn’t vote for him), the media has resorted to fear tactics to get the public’s attention. Sure, the media is a bunch of demagogues, but it’s for the public’s best interest. I mean, how could I have possibly survived childhood if I didn’t know the daily terror color? And how would I have made it through life if I didn’t know that, at any moment, California might break off from the rest of the country; or that Ebola is making a comeback; or that coconuts might fall, willy-nilly from the sky to crush my brain stuff? While news outlets may seem a bit alarmist, I think that they are playing a necessary role in our society. They’re the ones keeping us alive by making sure we’re scared of doing anything.

Justin Huft is a fourth-year psychology and social behavior and social ecology major. He can be reached at jhuft@uci.edu.