Anja Merret
Anja Merret

Are we being brainwashed into constant panic?

An interesting article by Terence Blacker in the Independent recently caught my eye. He maintained that we are living in the Great Age of Panic. Without being able to pinpoint why this would be he suggests that we could be needing that sense of constant panic in order to feel alive.

As much as I agree with him that there is an extraordinary amount of panic about, I’m not sure whether this is necessarily something coming from the people or whether it isn’t something the media is stoking up. A kind of “what came first — the chicken or the egg?” question surely.

As an example one could speculate that the drama in the financial markets has reflected a mood of panic rather than any kind of thoughtful process. No matter what the central governments have done to try and shore up confidence in the markets, it has not halted the total erratic ups and downs of the stock and money markets.

In fact it is quite difficult to put any kind of logical reason to the movements. This fire has been fanned by the media. Just listen to Bloomberg TV to get a feel for how well that is being manipulated.

He further makes a case of the recent hysteria that erupted in the UK media about two celebrity DJs who had played a particularly silly and crude prank by leaving ill-mannered messages on a senior actor’s mobile phone. It took a while for the momentum to gather, but it did eventually lead to a public outcry with even politicians getting involved in the debate.

But I would make a case for the fact that it is not people who are longing for panic in their lives or even that they enjoy getting involved in mob hysteria. It is rather the media that feels that only bad news sells papers, gets eyeballs onto websites and gets people to watch TV.

So it is not surprising to read that the US newspapers could not keep up with demand for their editions writing about the Obama victory. After all, considering how they perceive their market, they could not have predicted that people really, really want to read about something uplifting and positive for a change. Perhaps it’s not the internet after all that’s killing off the print media.

Regrettably, with that kind of mind set, it will be but a short while and the news headlines will be shrieking at us how badly Obama is doing and what a mistake it has been to vote for him. After all, what could people have been thinking to believe that he could lead them into a period of positive change?

And do expect dozens of “experts” or media sluts who will suddenly pop out of the woodwork and explain why it was such a bad thing the US citizens got tricked into doing. Suddenly all of these political experts will have predicted disaster, well before the elections.

Let’s see how long it takes before these kinds of sad, ill-informed and panic inducing headlines are in all papers and being discussed by talk show hosts. And just to keep in practice until that time arrives, the media is having fun mauling runner-ups McCain and Palin.

  • The Panelbeater

    Aside from my lifelong fascination with opposites and the immaculate ironies they contrive, your proposition about panic is intriguing because I see the opposite signs of docile complacency and disquieting acquiesence everywhere.

    Maybe in our helter skelter panic for security, certainty and pleasure, we find it easier to blithely and blindly accept the pseudo-solace of positivism, self-delusion and affirmation than the arduous mapless quest for balance.

    I find it challenging in the extreme to balance the apocalyptic arguments of “Zeitgeist” with the breathless superficiality of our media (of which I am part). One is faced with the perennial predicament of Accountant Syndrome – on the one “x”, but on the other hand “y” (or make them “alpha” and “omega”). We seem capable only of dealing with one OR the other, never the Hegelian ideal of synthesis. Richard Dawkins’ “militant atheism” or Francis Collins’ “BioLogos”. Globalisation or fragmentation. Credit crunch or deflation. Self-interest or planetary survival.

    Maybe that is our purpose (to quote Rick Warren, Obama’s choice to deliver the invocation at his inauguration as POTUS)- to seek synthesis knowing we will never succeed, to choose our own bumpers but doomed to be the pinball.

    Good post, Anja.

  • Albertus

    The world has been lured into a scenario where everything is instant: instant experts, instant success, instant gratification, instant wealth. The world has been brainwashed to believe most things thrown at it. Our value systems have been destroyed and people are following like sheep. The time when the individual did an apprenticeship in life, by taking small buildingblock decisions are long gone. Kids do not play any more, they “acquire” skills by sitting in front of a screen. Can you imagine a lion cub watching a dvd on how to hunt. The playfull learning and positioning of kids are long gone and replaced by simulation and legislation.

    Lets get back to the basics of decision making based on practical experience.

  • John Bond

    If we don’t have a deep seated need for panic, then why does it sell…

    Consider global warming. We all know that it is happening and destroying our world. Every TV talk show tells us the earth is in crisis and there are a plethora of studies to prove it. Our earth is dying and if we do not take action NOW, our future is doomed. We demand to know all the sordid and gory details and our talk show hosts oblige.

    Scientists have claimed to predict weather into the next century yet we cannot even predict if it will rain next Tuesday. We, the public, demand that they tell us how much temperatures will rise in the next 100 years and what will happen to sea levels in the next 200.

    But carbon is only a small player in global climate, after variation in the suns activity, the earth’s orbit, atmospheric water and dust etc. There are also factors such as air movement and sea temperature. Scientists have an extremely poor understanding of this amazingly complex model. How can they predict the future? – But we demand it and in addition, we demand that the world take action on this scientific nonsense.

    As a kid (40 years ago), I was exposed to two fascinating pieces of research, one was an excavation where the researcher showed that parts of the arid Karoo had been wet and fertile as recently as about 1500 AD. It now turns out he was correct but his date was out by about 100 years. The second was research by SA research team at the South Pole (Dr Pieter V D Merwe 1965), also looking at the strata and concluding that the pole had been warmer, between 5 and 10 degrees warmer in about 1450 AD (50 years out).

    So when I first read of global warming, I looked at the temperatures used in the research and this temperature spike wasn’t there – Why?

    Between 1350 and 1450, the English grew grapes and made wine, their climate was that temperate. Before Global Warming, researchers estimated that Britain and Europe was 3 to 7 degrees warmer then than it is now. When Gore first started selling climate panic, researchers found that this spike spoiled their hypothesis so they just eliminated it. They now accept it provided no one claimed it was greater than 3.4 Deg C. More that this ruins their hypothisis.

    We all know that carbon dioxide in the Stratosphere reduces the outward radiation of heat but climate change scientists omit to tell us that carbon dioxide in the Troposphere reduces inward radiation of heat, infra-red, ultra violet, X-ray and other heat causing rays. There is little agreement on what the relationship is between carbon dioxide in the stratosphere and the troposphere but it’s clear that as carbon dioxide concentrations go up, our atmosphere adapts. Remember though that any scientist telling us that there is no global warming would be just plain stupid, no one would believe him.

    As I said earlier, even airborne dust plays a larger part in our climate than carbon dioxide and, as we turn our planet into a desert, dust level increase causing global cooling. How much – well we don’t really know. In addition, this dust facilitates greater cloud formation and traps more moisture in the atmosphere which also cools, how much – well we don’t really know!

    And what of those beautiful programs of the poles melting… they were melting faster in 1400.

    So should we panic about global warming or is global cooling a far greater threat. If we don’t have global change to panic over, what else can we dream up.

  • Lyndall Beddy

    One of the unintended consequences of SA getting TV late was the high quality of specialist and investigative journalists in those days.

    I still buy newspapers – but for the local news, or for the in depth articles. I predict the small local papers will increase in subscriptions because they provide a service not covered by TV or the Internet, and because they give more good news than bad. People are tired of being depressed by the news.