The Sky is Falling!
Watching U.S. President Obama’s State of the Union speech recently, I was struck by how many “sky is falling” predictions made by adversaries over the years have been ridiculed by time.
Gas prices didn’t go through the roof, the unemployment rate didn’t worsen, the country didn’t collapse and Shariah law didn’t take over the U.S. judiciary.
Though ridiculous in hindsight, such ideas had their moments of popularity, and some, purveyed by 24 hour news cycles and relentless social media still enjoy a significant following in the U.S.
The power of our media is growing exponentially and some media mantras endure, despite all evidence to the contrary.
One in four Americans believes Barak Obama was not born in the U.S. and that climate change is not made worse by human activity.
One in four Americans believe God will decide who wins the Super Bowl, and one in three Texans believe humans and dinosaurs roamed the earth at the same time.
We can convince anyone of anything regardless of whether there is a shred of truth in the idea.
And as we careen from tecnological advancement to techonological advancement we become increasingly susceptible to sound bites and simple, pithy messages, many of 140 characters or fewer.
It’s not a conspiracy, but it is frightening.
We’re kept in a constant state of anxiety over things, many of which are proven over time to be not worth getting lathered over.
And it’s not just Americans who are afraid, and led around by zealots, slacktivists and an hysterical media.
Here’s some Canadian examples of womped up mortal fears which didn’t quite pan out.
As we approached the year 2000 we were told that world data systems would collapse. Computers wouldn’t move from 1999 to 2000 and analogue data would somehow be likewise overwhelmed.
People began hoarding water and emergency supplies in preparation for the millennium cataclysm.
It turned out to be a Maple Leaf power play – quite the fizzle.
The Canadian flag
The flag of which Canadians are now so proud, was going to ruin the country if they “shoved it down our throats.”
People said it would never replace the red ensign. Ex- patriots and Brits screamed (yes screamed) that Canada’s rich heritage was being thrown under the bus and that if we adopted the Maple Leaf flag, Canada as we know it would be gone forever.
Once the decision was made many said they would refuse to recognize the new flag. People who had never flown a flag before pledged to now fly the red ensign on their houses forever.
Quite the overblown brouhaha.
When Canada followed Tommy Douglases Saskatchewan and adopted medicare, the outcry was deafening.( for Canada)
It was a socialist plot. it will destroy our freedom and everything we hold dear. Doctors will never accept it. People will go to the doctor on a whim, whenever they have a hangnail, and we will quadruple health care costs.
Overblown, relentless , Chicken Little hysteria.
(The Americans have added “death panels” and other abhorences to the opprobrium over Obamacare.)
Land Commision Act ( 1970’s B.C.)
The Land Commission Act, for the first time designated B.C. land for farm, industrial, recreational or residential use. After years of the benevolent dictatorship of Bennett the first, B.C. was far behind the rest of the country in such innocuous, sensible regulation.
At the time however, it was as if there was a communist takeover in the offing. There was a media supported, McCarthyist response from Socreds and influential talk show hosts.
(Premier) Dave Barrett was a communist, who would take our land from us. Editorial cartoons featuring all manner of commissar and Kremlin jokes abounded. B.C.’S Land Commission Act prompted the biggest red scare hysteria in living memory – and that’s saying something in B.C.
Headlines in the Vancouver Sun quoted a Social credit zealot admonishing,
“When the Red tanks rolled into Czechoslovakia, we didn’t hear any N.D.P. protests” !
The Land Commision Act is now a law no B.C. government would dare repeal or replace. And surprisingly to some, time has shown that B.C. didn’t turn into a Russian satellite nor were we all required to wear red underwear – two of the sillier suggestions of the day.
The melodramatic, overblown red baiting over the Land Commission Act was an early portent of the now rampant rhetorical pogroms we unleash on even the most sensible initiative.
Bike lanes, oil pipelines, avoiding oil spills, funding education,addressing poverty, and myriad other initiatives so heaped with fear and hyperbole that normal folk can’t resist the rhetorical barrage.
On issue after issue, our perceptions are formed by hysterical media carpet-bombing, with internet feeds and social media evangelizing the message instantly.
We can convince millions of anything in hours. We needn’t do our own research,fact check, or break a sweat analyzing things.
We can destroy reputations in hours, lose a career through a single mistake, promote or destroy causes with re –tweeted oversimplifications.
Marshal McLuhan is spinning in his grave. His theme, “the media is the message” has become an understatement.
So when the carpet bombing hysteria starts and people insist that we’re doomed if we allow “X” to happen, take a pill – it’s OK. When spending more on education would collapse the economy or when we’re all hippies and fiscal fools for considering the environment before supporting strip mining and drilling everything in sight, relax – take it with a grain of salt, because hindsight usually makes fools of the hysterical Chicken Little’s.