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Media scares
Posted by: McQ on Wednesday, March 21, 2007

John Stossel hits on a favorite subject of mine, media scare-mongering. How many times have we seen the media treat various subjects as much more important, dangerous or threatening than they really are? Stossel points to a number of different examples, such as shark attacks, "paper shredders, soccer goals, lawn chemicals, cell phones, garage-door openers, and more."

And in each, as he points out, there is a kernel of truth which is ruthlessly exploited to exaggerate the danger and thus increase readership or viewership. I mean how else do you get people to watch something on the dangers of garage-door openers?
But we rarely put the danger in perspective. We give you a breathless rush of alarm over every possibility, often delivered with a throbbing rock beat.
But context? You see context would destroy the "danger" and thus the value of the report to the media outlet. If they tell you that garage-door openers can kill, that's one thing. If they tell you garage-door openers have killed or injured 50 times in the last 2 years, well you might do the numbers and switch channels.

And even if they do give us numbers, as Stossel points out, many times they're not even right.

How many scares have we seen over the years that amounted to naught in reality. For instance:
Listening to us, you'd think our growing exposure to pesticides, food additives, and other mysterious chemicals has created America's "cancer epidemic." But in truth there is no cancer epidemic — cancer incidence is flat, and death rates have been falling for years. But such good news doesn't get much play.
Not only that, it doesn't get much follow up when it is found to be, well, not true. Nope, the scares are left hanging out there and become part of the "conventional wisdom" about certain aspects of our lives. And those who don't take the time to look into the subject, or do their own follow up, remain prisoner to the media hyperbole on the subject(s) given the treatment Stossel outlines.

Says Stossel:
The media should be skeptical of their prophesies of doom, but we rarely are.
Indeed. Need a recent example?

Global WarmingTM
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Previous Comments to this Post 

Stossel’s right, again.

Gore’s "documentary" is exhibit A. It is a horror film. But, instead of Freddy Kruger impaling copulating teenagers at a Summer camp while leering at the twitching gore from behind a hockey-mask, the antagonist is "modern Man" poisoning an idillyc Gaia, with "gasses."

In the Global-Warmers’ minds, we Americans are like Saddam Hussein "gassing" the Kurds, Gaia is the Kurds, and Al Gore is the USMC.

I guess this makes Gore’s brokerage of Enron-style "carbon credits" the equivalent of "smart-bombs." Jeez.

This scam is so transparent I can’t believe folks are buying into it. And maybe they’re not really. None of the college kids and civil servants that I know who believe in GW have put their money where their mouth is yet.

In Micheal Bay’s excellent film, The Island one of the "agnates" details his theory that the lottery is rigged, and that he believes he is scheduled to win it’s grand prize - relocation to the Island, that very day. To which, Lincoln 6-Echo asks if he’s packed his bags yet. The agnate says, "No."

So much for "belief."

In GW’s church, the sign of a true believer is one who contributes to the tithing-bowl. So far, the most folks are donating is a lot of talk.
Written By: steveaz
URL: http://
From today’s Los Angeles Times:
WASHINGTON — Capitol Hill is accustomed to famous visitors, but its guest today is an especially hot ticket: Al Gore, who left Washington as a defeated presidential candidate and returns as the celebrity spokesman on the world’s most crucial environmental issue.

The former vice president will be the star witness on hearings about global warming, a Gore passion that has moved center stage in the Democratic-controlled Congress and on the presidential campaign trail.

Interest in Gore’s televised hearings before House and Senate committees is so high that a bigger hearing room has been reserved, extra rooms have been set aside for the anticipated crowd and photo opportunities have been added to the calendars of top Democrats.
Actually, turning this into a partisan issue is probably a mistake for the Global Warming movement, but it’s too late to stop that train. It’s already left the station.
Written By: Aldo
URL: http://
None of the college kids and civil servants that I know who believe in GW have put their money where their mouth is yet.
My sister is a prime example (esp since she believes everything Code Pink sends her.) She is so concerned with global warming, and no more wars for oil, that she is buying a condo farther away from where she works...

I debate whether I should point out the hypocrisy to her, but then it’s usually not worth arguing with her. She’s also absolutely convinced of a number of other ’scare’ topics that it really is a displeasure being around her.
Written By: Keith_Indy
Tell her to watch out for those sharks and child kidnappers Keith.

I still love the "City Wall" episode of South Park. Remember, the Mongolians are right.
Written By: ChrisB
URL: http://
The media has been the handmaiden of The Fear Industrial Complex since its formation with “Unsafe at any speed” Danger make for good copy. It sells newspapers and drives ratings. It also plays into the journalistic bias, “dog bites’ man” is not unusual so it’s not newsworthy, “man bites’ dog” is front page material because of its rarity.

Nader’s paranoia started a movement that has made billions for lawyers, bankrupted companies, deprived the public of useful items, and driven a movement toward more government control.

The “Big Lie” works best when driven by fear and the Fear Industrial Complex is unsafe at any speed.
Written By: James E. Fish
URL: http://
Child Abduction is not Funny
Written By: h0mi
URL: http://
child abduction is not funny
From the description, on South park it is funny. why on this link tho?
Written By: James E. Fish
URL: http://
Is your local news channel trying to scare you to death? We’ll tell you what YOU need to know to avoid being constantly afraid. Coming up right after Monk on our 10:00 pm show!
Written By: looker
URL: http://
Need a recent example?
The sad part is, it’s not even that recent an example. The NY Times published the first known climate change scare over a century ago, in 1895. Back then it was global cooling. When no catastrophes came to pass and people stopped worrying about it, they gradually changed to warming, from around the 1930s to the 50s. Again, nothing happened, they rode the wave as long as they could and then gradually switched to the cooling scare of the 1970s that I grew up with. So this is the fourth climate change scare they’ve pushed on us.

It’s ridiculous.
Written By: Laura
I debate whether I should point out the hypocrisy to her, but then it’s usually not worth arguing with her.
The story of my family... sigh. While I argue with them constantly - in my mind - I know that what really drives them is a seething visceral hatred of Bush. And for that, there is no logical, no rational debate with which to engage. Allegations supplant facts; conspiracy theories gleefully mosh in the dance pit of Occum’s Razor.

The shared goal of defeating Kerry in 2004 proves that the Swift Boat Vets for Truth were actively working with the Bush Administration, yet there is no way that the shared goals of Saddam Hussein and Al Qeada could have ever put those two on the same project.

Evangelical Christians are the scourge of the earth, yet folks who put children in the back seats of bomb-laden vehicles need to be talked with and understood.

Part of me wishes for their dreams to unfold, and in fifty years, I could ask them if their hatred of Bush (and a non-socialistic America) was fruitful (while shoving their heads in the putrefying corpse that is me and all the other ’deviants’ they know). Liberty Indeed!

Alas, while theoretical martyrdom is intellectually pleasing, I could not do that to them. Yea, they think my positions place me within the "evil person" category; I can only find them merely sadly mistaken.
Written By: bains
URL: http://
Killer Bees.

Did they ever make it to the US?

As a kid, I was really scared of them.
Written By: Harun
URL: http://
Good point, Harun.
The "Killer=Bees" campaign scared me too.

I remember Alar was the big boogey monster at one time, too. In that production, Meryl Streep played Al Gore before Gore did.

Y2K was another. All of modernity was going to crumble on Jan. 1, 2000, or so the story went, and every "back-to-nature" outfit scrambled to profit from it. Distributors of heritage vegetable seeds like Seeds of Change rode that wave right onto the beach!

Slice it open and It’s always just rent-seeking in a slick new outfit. The media makes the wave, the politicians indulge the rent, and the public gets screwed.
Written By: steveaz
URL: http://
"We don’t want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud" TM

"We are fighting them over there so we don’t have to fight them over here" TM

Global warming is not the worst use of scare tactics I have witnessed.
Written By: Smoking Gun
URL: http://
The Killer Bees did make it to the US, and they are more aggressive and swarm more than regular bees. But their honey tastes better than regular clove honey.

That killer bee movie just scared the crap out of me when I was a kid, especially because it was set in my hometown, and they made it all seem very real.
Written By: Laura
Where’s the Celtic (Bee) Cowboy when you need him....
Talk about a subject he’s gotta be an expert on!
Written By: looker
URL: http://
I debate whether I should point out the hypocrisy to her, but then it’s usually not worth arguing with her.
Sounds like my relationship with my sister. Unfortunately she’s the older one and has a doctorate, so I’m always the baby brother with a paltry Masters.
Written By: Jeff the Baptist
Remember when lawn darts were gonna kill everyone’s children?

Good thing those were banned because today no children ever get injured while playing.
Written By: Rich Horton
It’s ALL fun and games until someone puts an eye out.
Written By: Arcs
URL: http://
"We don’t want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud" TM

"We are fighting them over there so we don’t have to fight them over here" TM

Global warming is not the worst use of scare tactics I have witnessed.
Yeah, what kinda damage could a few terrorists do, anyway?
Written By: Don
URL: http://

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