Media Scare Stories As Antidote To (Boring) Real Life
(The below is my translation of an article originally in Italian. It refers to news "episodes" from around August 2008, but the conveyed message is very applicable in most of what the media want to report, climate included)
The Manufacturers of Crises
Nuclear power. pitbull attacks, excessive heat, excessive cold … crises all, until forgotten
by Pierluigi Battista – Corriere della Sera (Italy), Aug 4, 2008
Suddenly, all at once, incidents have started to happen in French nuclear power plants, preferably in those located near the Italian border. Remarkably, after nothing seemingly had happened for years if not decades. From time immemorial there had been no reports of accidents, no failures, no hazard to things and above all to people. But when all of a sudden, on the back of climbing oil bills, there are again talks about nuclear energy, there comes a series of nuclear incidents, as if on cue.
Newspapers report about them, the public is alarmed. It looks like an epidemic of nuclear troubles, but a ‘geographically focused’ epidemic. There are no reports of difficulties at a nuclear power plant away from the Italian borders. The longer the distance, the lower the thrill. It is important that the ghost of a radioactive cloud lies very near: a whiff of wind and here it comes, in homage to the free movement of poisons.
And so it is time for scare stories about a "nuclear crisis". A gift for those in search of plots everywhere, loving the magic phrase "it is no coincidence" more than anything else.
Why are all those news being reported together? What’s behind, and above, and next?
Please rest assured. There’s nothing behind and above. There is no occult Specter of misinformation, no fabled opaque all-controlling network. There’s only the media’s own neurosis, continuously churning a crisis and then leaving it behind without regrets.
There is an impalpable emotional undercurrent, soon transforming itself into a contagious psychosis, a fear, and overemphatic titles, only then to withdraw to a tired, marginal, insignificant, gray routine not worthy of any public attention.
Nowadays it is called "Nuclear Crisis", but as soon as the danger will pass, the crisis will deflate. As it has happened with all past crises, and will happen to all future ones. Like when it seems that the most ferocious dogs have all agreed to maul owners and passers-by at the same time. That’s the "pitbull crisis", followed by another apparent collective agreement among the same fierce dogs to mutate into charming domesticated animals. So the crisis disappears, only to resurface, only to sink again beyond visibility.
Then, as if obeying to a hidden command, in every Italian surgery room tools are casually left inside patients and/or peritonitis sufferers see their knees operated instead. That’s a "health crisis", destined to a temporary fix and then to a temporary crisis and so on and so forth.
A "drought crisis" is replaced by a "flood crisis". A summer’s "heat crisis" is followed by a winter’s "cold crisis". The "global warming crisis" is a harder item to crack, yet it is still slave to the capricious movements of the thermometer.
Some crises are able to trigger apocalyptic, indomitable feelings. The (forgotten) "SARS crisis", the "mad cow crisis", the "bird flu crisis" which according to reliable estimates by reputable global organizations should already have had to reap an incalculable number of human victims.
And do not forget the ‘paedophilia crisis", usually building up with the slow discovery of perpetrators’ networks and ending with spectacular raids.
At this very moment, people talk of a "nuclear crisis". It ‘s a nuclear emergency. And yet, this too will pass.