Selective Hysteria

The fear-mongering that has become a hallmark of the American media was on full display these past weeks, as talking heads did everything but appear in Haz-Mat suits to convey the seriousness of the “nuclear incident” in Japan. It was almost as if the 9.0 earthquake and Tsunami, which caused thousands of deaths and produced massive devastation, was suddenly put on the back burner, as one “expert” after another (furrowed brow required) somberly ruminated on all of the dire consequences that “could” occur from the damage to the area’s nuclear power stations.

Meltdowns! Radioactive clouds! Stock up on iodine pills! For example, take a gander at this little story from Reuters that appeared just today:

“World Health Organization warns of ‘serious’ food radiation in disaster-hit Japan”

Note that you can search the entire story without finding any mention of actual radiation readings, or, more importantly, how they compare with normal radiation from say, flying on an airplane or sun-bathing. Nope. But comparisons to Chernobyl abound:

“The few measurements of radiation reported in food so far are much lower than around Chernobyl in 1986, but the full picture is still emerging,” Malcolm Crick, secretary of the U.N. Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation, told Reuters.

But how much “lower than around Chernobyl” they don’t say. But hey, who cares? Because the mere mention of the oh-so-scary word “Chernobyl” and “food” in the same sentence is enough to guarantee that a story will be gobbled up by the grossly uninformed, and often intentionally misinformed (see: “MSNBC”) public.

The reality is that while some radiation has been detected, none of their dooms-day scenarios has actually occurred, at least not yer. But this has been all but ignored, despite the fact that genuine nuclear experts like Ron Ballard of MIT explained that “we can’t have a Chernobyl-like situation. The system is designed so that as long as we keep water in there to keep it cool, nothing will happen.” Even when asked specifically if Fukushima would result in a “disaster,” Ballard said “It might be a financial disaster, but no member of the public has been hurt, and I doubt anybody will be.”

And he is not alone – those who actually understand the containment procedures in place at most nuclear facilities around the world agree that, while the Fukushima reactor situation is a problem, panic is not warranted. But such sober and reasoned voices are invariably drowned out by the endless parade of anti-nuclear activists masquerading as “experts” – whose “credentials” turn out to be nothing more than a history of opposing all things nuclear. Because in the world of the media, especially radio and TV news, any story with the word “nuclear” in it must invariably include hand-wringing hyperbole.

Now, sensationalism is nothing new in the media – remember the old adage, “If if bleeds it leads.” But it is now getting to the point where one should add, “and if there isn’t any blood, throw some on it.”

Look at the evening weather on any local TV station. If a storm is gathering off the coast of Florida, the words “tropical storm” and “hurricane” will somehow be worked into the story. You might remember how, after Katrina in 2005, all the “experts” direly predicted “record numbers of hurricanes” for the following year, including the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration:

Residents in Hurricane Prone Areas Urged to Make Preparations – May 22, 2006”

Alas, how disappointed they were when the 2006 hurricane season turned out to be barely a lamb, let alone a lion. Yet none of those who bungled the predictions were the least bit forthcoming in admitting their errors:

“NOAA has yet to issue its final seasonal summary for 2006, but one thing is clear – NOAA’s predictions for the 2006 hurricane season were way off. During the 2006 hurricane season there were only nine named-storms, five hurricanes, and two major hurricanes – none of which hit the U.S.” – November 30, 2006

Even mundane day-to-day weather reports suffer from the same exaggerated reporting. If snow is expected in Minnesota, the news anchor will invariably ask the “meteorologist” if it “could develop into a major winter storm” – complete with file footage of people digging their cars out of 6-foot snow drifts – all before they there is an inch of snow on the ground. Even the “wind chill” factor numbers now appear on the weather maps before the actual temps are mentioned, in order to make the coming night’s low temperatures seem all that more severe.

Then there was the BP Oil rig explosion and spill. If you listened to the hysterical news coverage, it signaled “the end of the Louisiana shrimp and fishing industry.” Others declared that “the devastation of the eco-system of the Gulf would take decades to restore.” Still others predicted that cities on the West Coast of Florida would become “ghost towns.” How embarrassing when less than two years after the BP incident, real scientists reported that most of the oil spill had dissipated, “almost miraculously.” Seems Mother Nature was a bit more capable of doing her job than the journalists were of doing theirs.

And it doesn’t stop there. We all know that hysteria sells, but politics also has a great deal to do with which particular issues the media covers, and more importantly, how they report them.

For example, in the crusade against the mythical “threat” of “global warming” (oops, I mean, “climate change”) the media’s persistent refusal to pay attention to real climate and geological experts has been well documented. They prefer the “end of the world as we know it” prognostications of “experts” whose real goal is the elimination of “fossil” fuels. Everyone seems to forget that 30 years ago these same “experts” were hysterically predicting global COOLING – the covers of major news magazines warned of “the coming Ice Age.” Not surprisingly, the “solutions” to “global cooling” back then and “global warming” today are the same – drastically curtail the use of energy by America.

Then there is the war on “second hand smoke” – in spite of all the evidence debunking the claim. There has been study after study by real scientists over several decades, from OSHA to the World Health Organization. They have all come to the conclusion that there is no verifiable correlation, let alone causation, between exposure to so-called second-hand smoke and ANY increase in heart disease or lung cancer. Even those who spend an entire life-time in the same house with a two-pack-a-day smoker show only statistically insignificant increases in their cancer rates. Then again, the mainstream media has never let scientific fact get in the way of a good story. Especially when  the facts threaten a political agenda popular with the American Left.

Remember all the hype about microwave ovens? Every week, another “expert” was warning of the “risk”of even standing in front of a microwave. I personally remember many people who actually believed that microwaves “did something” to the food – and no amount of fact or reason would assuage their (groundless) fears. It took more than twenty years before the public finally got comfortable with the microwave oven. Now just about everyone in the nation has one.

Then there is the “irradiation” of food – an almost miraculously simple and effective way to eliminate all harmful bacteria from food, especially fresh meat. No other method kills 100% of germs (as irradiating does). And no, Virginia, irradiating food does NOTHING harmful. The waves of radiation past harmlessly through the food, killing bacteria, but leaving NO residual radiation.


As a matter of fact, you’ve almost certainly already consumed irradiated food – black pepper, as well as other foods, has been irradiated for more than 60 years. But thanks to media hysteria, who exploit the average persons irrational fears of things they don’t understand, even today many people remain terrified at the mere mention of “irradiated” food. The result is that thousands of people get unnecessarily sick every year – some even die. But no matter – irrational hysteria sells.

Yet while media types are all too willing to jump headlong into hysteria promoting coverage of threats that either don’t exist (or at least, do not yet exist) these same people seem incredibly reluctant to say anything about what are arguably far more REAL threats to the average American. They either downplay, or avoid highlighting things like Islamic Terrorism, America’s $14 TRILLION dollar debt, soaring food and fuel prices, and crashing home prices.

Naturally, it is even more important for the media to stay as far as possible from such problems when the President is a Democrat. Note that when gasoline was nearly $4 a gallon and George Bush was President, the press ran 15 TIMES as many stories on gas prices as they do on $4 a gallon gas today, with Barak Obama in the Whitehouse. Because for the disproportionately liberal press, to highlight the genuine threats facing Americans today would also require them to expose the forces that have contributed to them – which in almost every case is decades of misguided and destructive liberal (read Democrat) policies.

And that the mainstream media simply cannot abide.

John Caile