End-of-the-World Special: Chicken Little Media Awards 2012

chickenlittle“The sky is falling, the sky is falling!”

That was the refrain of a certain Chicken Licken or Chicken Little, the lead character in a popular folk tale. The rather timid creature was easily scared, and each time something slightly out of the ordinary was experienced, it always assumed the worst.

“The sky is falling!” has entered the English language as an idiom for hysterical or mistaken belief that disaster is imminent. If the original Chicken Little was prone to hallucination, its modern day equivalents are more likely feigning hysteria for their own reasons and gains.

For much of 2012, a large section of the print and broadcast media in Sri Lanka has behaved like Chicken Little. They have uncritically and sometimes gleefully peddled the completely unsubstantiated and imaginary prophecies of doom and gloom – specifically, about the world ending on 21 December 2012.

And just like Chicken Little did, our media too had plenty of uncritical followers – a case of the blind leading the blind. They worked themselves into a misplaced frenzy, imagining all sorts of scenarios for the world’s end.

Some involved terrestrial hazards while others, extra-terrestrial ones. The prophets of doom were too busy churning out more and more fantastic tales to realize that, if all their various scenarios were to happen, we would need not one but several worlds…

imagesAh, but our intrepid media won’t allow such facts to get in the way of a good story, or reality checks to hold down their run-away imagination. Fear and panic sell newspapers, and keep TV ratings high…

As the leading Indian rationalist Sanal Edamaruku has noted, “Selling every day anything from bunkers to miracle bracelets and wonder cures to gullible, fearful people, they don’t just exploit them; they massively reinforce the mind crippling vicious circle of superstition in their lives. The superstition generator is running overtime, even in many of our otherwise so critical and progressive media.”

We the minority of sceptical readers have long endured not only the incredible shrill of assorted doomsday prophecies in our media, but the distraction of public attention and the deprivation of valuable media space and time for covering issues of genuine public interest. In desperation and frustration, we decided to present Chicken Little Media Awards

Nominations were called via Twitter and Facebook, and selecting the worst performers was truly difficult as the contenders were engaged in a race to the bottom. The online debate about these choices will continue.

But after considerable deliberation, meanwhile, here is our choice…

Chicken Little Media Awards 2012

Most Hysterical Sinhala newspaper: Mawbima
Runner-up: Lankadeepa

Most Giddy-headed TV channel: Sirasa TV
Runners-up: Swarnawahini and TV Derana

Two-headed Chicken Little Award: Vidusara science magazine, which accommodated both critical views as well as outright superstition (thus covering all bases?)

Headless Chicken Little Award: All-astrology newspapers that thrive on people’s gullibility

We salute all reporters, editors and media managers who have peddled mind-rotting tall tales about the world ending.

P.S.: Consider it a dubious honour.

21 Dec 2012 is here: So where’s the End of the World I was promised?

The much touted ‘Doomsday’ has finally arrived: today is 21 December 2012.

According to the assorted peddlers of doom and gloom, the world should be ending today. Hmm…

Perhaps THEIR WORLD of myth and fantasy would indeed end today — and not a moment too soon!

For the rest of us, however, it’s another day. And from today, I would call the misguided “star-readers” ass-trologers.

Ass-trologers and other dabblers in pseudo-science and non-science will now have a lot of explaining to do. The religious zealots, of course, would probably claim that their pious conduct and non-stop prayers earned us a stay of execution…

The US space agency NASA was so sure that the world won’t come to an end on 21 Dec 2012, that last week they released this simple explanatory video for “the day after”. It has already been seen by over 2 million viewers on YouTube:

A perceptive commentary on the End-of-the-World hysteria, written by the leading Indian rationalist Sanal Edamaruku, is well worth reading:
WAITING FOR A FLYING SAUCER AGAIN…Of psychopaths, profiteers and big doomsday biz, by Sanal Edamaruku

Here’s an excerpt: “Doomsday prophecies may not be the most dangerous part of the problem. But as they are bound to collide always so harshly with the continued existence of the world after zero hour, they allow us a glimpse at a process – here in fast motion – that normally would play out too slowly to be understood. It is a process of immunization against reason…”

Read my 4 Nov 2012 Sunday column: End-of-the-World, Inc.