Mar 022004
Authors: Johnathan Kastner

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


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