Thursday, June 2, 2011

Simmer Down

With Harold Camping's campaign promising the adjusted end in five(ish) months and the Mayans blowing up the internet, it's easy to look at tornadoes in Springfield, MA and earthquakes in NE Philadelphia to justify this raptured nonsense. What's even worse is the media plays right into humanity's morbid infatuation with destroying itself., the umbrella site for the Courier Times, The Intellgencer, and Burlington County Times, went so far as to run a headline claiming an earthquake "rocked" Northeast Philadelphia and Bensalem. The article goes even further, calling the boom produced an "explosion".

In most earthquake laden regions, and even some areas less affected by tremors, a 1.7 earthquake would not only be ignored by the media and seismologists, but it wouldn't even be felt. But in the era of the apocalypse and Britney Spears gyrating 'til the world ends, a tremor about as jarring as mild gas is a sign of the times.

Everyone wants to feel special. Springfield's recent tornado is being broadcast across legitimate media outlets as an unusual catastrophe with implications pointing to everything from global warming to polar shifts. The truth of the matter is, New England experiences three or four tornadoes every spring, and this one happened to hit a populated area. There is nothing historically unusual about the event. Massachusetts saw a tornado just three years ago.

Harold Camping must have felt like he struck gold when Iceland's Grimsvotn volcano erupted on May 21st, his prophetic date of the Rapture. Media sources were ticking this story as top news, playing right into the palm of the Doomsdayers. Yet most neglected to mention that Grimsvotn is Iceland's most active volcano and that it's eruption has been anticipated since October of 2010. It also erupted in 1996, 1998, and 2004.

Unfortunately with an exponentially growing media and a global newsfeed active 24/7, it's very difficult to weed out fact from fiction. While most legitimate news is technically fact, it is typically sensationalized around the influences of a popular culture that is grounded in fiction. 

Thirty years ago no American could be tuned in all day, every day, not even the President. No one would hear about a tsunami in Indonesia or hundreds of birds falling from the sky in Scotland. In fact, even the most informed would need to wait for the evening news or scour the newspapers to find information on hurricanes in the Gulf, oil spills in Alaska, or tornadoes in the Midwest.

Yet today, the least interested are the most informed, leading to wild speculation and unfounded claims. It's easy to spot trends when you have access to everything that is happening all the time. Disasters have always happened, all the time. They are happening right now and they will be happening all week, all month, and all year. The world is a big place, and having unlimited access to its entirety is overwhelming.

Those with little to no understanding of politics or the environment receive a streaming update of global issues from hundreds of Facebook friends, endless Tweets, and smart-filtered search results from Google. 

Even those academically versed in mayhem and disaster have a hard time ignoring the aggrandized headlines and convincing themselves that the end is not eminent. Is it any surprise that someone like Harold Camping was able to use the same instant and free access we all have to billions of internet users to convince a handful of people to sign over their life savings? If 2012 signifies the end of anything, it's the end of reason, and we have a nonstop electronic supply of bullshit to thank for that. 

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