For much of 2012, a large section of the print and broadcast media in Sri Lanka behaved like the proverbial chicken who panicked himself and the rest of the jungle claiming the sky was falling.
They 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.
In this week’s Ravaya column (in Sinhala), I take a critical look at our uncritical and fear-mongering media, especially broadcast media. Appears in print issue of 30 Dec 2012.
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:
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.
In this week’s Sunday column, published in Ravaya newspaper of 25 March 2012, I
return to take another critical look at the hype and hysteria surrounding the world ‘ending’ in December 2012.
Last week’s column elicited several reader responses online and offline. While many agreed with my rational reasoning, some were miffed by my puncturing their inflated obsession! A few challenged me to provide an assurance that there won’t be any major disasters in 2012 — we were NOT talking about random disasters, but a planetary scale one which qualifies as End of the World.
This week, we look at how certain environmentalists are linking global warming and 2012 world ending myth, adding to existing public confusion about climate change. I cite as an example of this green alarmism a highly distorted article Sinhala published by Practical Action Sri Lanka, a usually moderate and sensible development organisation. Its country director admits it was an ill-advised public outreach effort.
I also refer to a recent scientific analysis that probed whether highly destructive large-scale earthquakes in the past few years, in countries bordering the Pacific and Indian oceans, indicate an increased global risk of these deadly events. Its conclusion: there is no such evidence.
In this week’s Sunday column, published in Ravaya newspaper of 18 March 2012, I take a critical look at the mounting hype and hysteria about the world ending in December 2012.
The Wikipedia describes the ‘2012 phenomenon’ as comprising a range of eschatological beliefs according to which cataclysmic or transformative events will occur on 21 December 2012. In reality, it’s a blockbuster Hollywood movie, rather than any ancient prophecy, that triggered this wave of public concern!
So 2012 is finally here! I’ve been waiting for you…
Citing various ancient lore, some say this year will see the end of the world — where have we heard that before?
The Wikipedia describes the ‘2012 phenomenon’ as comprising a range of eschatological beliefs according to which cataclysmic or transformative events will occur on 21 December 2012.
And to think that a blockbuster Hollywood movie, rather than any ancient prophecy, likely triggered this wave of public concern!
Wikipedia notes: “The 2009 disaster film 2012 was inspired by the phenomenon, and advance promotion prior to its release included a stealth marketing campaign in which TV spots and websites from the fictional ‘Institute for Human Continuity’ called on people to prepare for the end of the world. As these promotions did not mention the film itself, many viewers believed them to be real and contacted astronomers in panic.”
The campaign was heavily criticized by scientists, of course, but the public chose to believe the scary make-believe rather than the more sober reality.
The film 2012 became one of the most successful of that year, grossing nearly $770 million worldwide. So the film’s producers were laughing all the way to their bank…
The US space agency NASA has stepped into the debate with sobering analysis. Its website says: “Impressive movie special effects aside, Dec. 21, 2012, won’t be the end of the world as we know. It will, however, be another winter solstice.”
Recalling the Year 2000 computer bug (Y2K problem) that didn’t quite materialise, it says: “Much like Y2K, 2012 has been analyzed and the science of the end of the Earth thoroughly studied. Contrary to some of the common beliefs out there, the science behind the end of the world quickly unravels when pinned down to the 2012 timeline.”
Meanwhile, a few weeks before 2012 started, Lankan astrophysicist Dr Kavan Ratnatunga issued a public challenge on prime time TV.
“I will give 10% of the value of any property to (its) legal owner who will write a deed of sale of their property to me, effective from 22 December 2012, after that owner is so confident the World was going to end on December 21st!”
So far, Kavan has had no takers.
But the hype continues, with the media stirring things up as much as they can: after all, if Hollywood made money from people’s gullibility, why not others?
So might End-of-the-World industries end this year? Not a chance. A sucker is born every minute, and this is one industry that will continue to thrive as long as there are credulous believers.