For many years, the media has used its vague, high school-level
understanding of science to scare the bejesus out of the trusting
public. When the tiniest speck of scientific poo hits the fan, the
media will come swarming into that fan like flies, rushing into the
whirling blades of knowledge and spraying the fly-guts of
information all over your living room couch.
With this information comes knowledge, and with knowledge comes
terror, and with terror comes the kind of passivity the vast media
conspiracy seeks to cultivate. There’s no more clever way to make
the audience lethargic, groggy and willing to sit through an hour
of CNN than to blather about really scary science sounding stuff.
Science alone is boring. Science plus media combines, Transformer
like, to make a Decepticon of informative terror.
If the media loves science for any one thing, it’s for how
science always seems to be busy finding new and excitingly colorful
ways to destroy the planet. When nukes hit the scene in the mid
1900s, reactions were mixed. On one hand, nuclear weapons could
reduce Earth’s entire surface to a super-heated sheet of glass and
end all life as we know it. On the other hand, look at the ratings!
With the spread of communism, the nuclear issue was Red hot,
despite the coldness of the war overall. But now nuclear weapons
are so five decades ago, and so the media wants something new to
wave menacingly at the public.
The evil, right-winged and left-taloned media conspiracy had
high hopes for Weapons of Mass Destruction. The acronym has a
great, creepy sound to it, and is just vague enough to be as
bone-chilling as “The Blair Witch Project.” Unfortunately, shaky
camera angles and grainy pictures weren’t enough to give that movie
or the WMDs staying power, and so the media will shortly be
abandoning its new pet term. There is talk of a sequel but the
public doesn’t seem very enthusiastic. It’s slated to be titled,
“Blair Witch II – We think she’s Probably in Iran.”
So with the fall of WMDs, what can be expected next from the
media’s vault of quasi-scientific horrors? What new terror will
they release on an unsuspecting public? What could possibly match
the horror of grainy pictures? Could it be the horror of rhetorical
questions? How many? Six? Seven?
I’m thinking it’s time for the return of a classic – plagues.
The media love plagues because they’re invisible, abundant and
frequently let them say hilarious words like “monkey” on the air.
In the past, we’ve had such classic diseases as SARS, monkey pox,
mad cow, mad chicken, mad soy and the dreaded Mad Max.
If left on its own, science would babble on about the overuse of
antibiotics and the dangerous unsoundness of beef in America, all
of which is boring as paint. That’s why the media is always ready
to step in and explain the important facts, such as how scared you
should be (massively) and should you buy a readiness kit (yes).
Environmental disasters are another favorite because they
incorporate good old-fashioned guilt and good old-fashioned
American consumerism. A relaxing few hours in the shower is
suddenly wasteful, and driving an SUV through the rainforest while
using aerosol hairspray on your pet tiger cub is no longer the
height of fashion. I predict that shortly, the laughter of children
will be found to dissolve the T-zone layer, which protects the
earth from harmful lunar rays.
When I was sworn in as a member of the media, I had to take an
oath on Hippocrates’ skeletal hand to never, ever lie, exaggerate
the truth or report on anything until I knew everything. I am never
to fill hours with speculation and theory and would certainly never
exaggerate problems for ratings. Also, cats cause cancer.
Mr. Kastner’s column runs every other Wednesday. The Collegian
is unaware of any oath Kasnter took to become a member of the