Fear Itself

"You're drinking water? But that contains hydrogen oxide!"

“Something about Obama! Or the Koch Brothers!”

As I type this on a Sunday evening, it’s been about twenty minutes since I’ve heard or read something about ebola. What gets on my nerves is that most of the people complaining about it are also the same people who won’t get a flu shot. Many of these people will likely get the flu, which is something they do need to worry about.

But tell people that it’s extremely unlikely that they’ll ever come in contract with someone who has ebola, never mind get the disease themselves, and they get upset. I don’t get it.

Actually, I do. The source of most of our information about ebola and illegal immigrants and terrorist groups comes from the nightly news. In the past ten years, many of the more sensationalist stories have had to be retracted or get debunked on snopes.com. By then, the damage is done. And they don’t care.

Is it a grand conspiracy? Is there some sort of evil agenda at play here?

Well, yes there is. See, the broadcast news services, CNN, MSNBC, and Fox News all need to sell advertising so Tim Matthews and Sean Hannity can go on telling you what to think. Advertisers use advertising to sell you everything from Toyotas to iPhones to tampons to even gold-buying schemes. (Study on it. Pray on it.) And how do those ads work?

Well, they keep your eyes glued. How? Two things: sex and fear. The networks have always used sex. Three’s Company and Friends and any soap, day or night, have contained enough bare skin, double-entendre, and implied or graphic sex to keep eyeballs pointed at the screen. But sex doesn’t work so well on the news. What does? Fear.

Tsunami hits Japan and sends a nuclear power plant in an out-of-control meltdown? Hey, radiation’s coming to America. Film at 11. Radical terrorists trying to take over half the Middle East? Well, the threat of them coming over here keeps a lot of people watching, right after this message from Captain Crunch. Ebola? Hey, there’s a new iPhone out. Let us tell you about that before we get to some horrific disease you likely will never get.

Sweeps months tend to be the worst for this. Local news in Cincinnati is pretty good. Yes, once upon a time, Jerry Springer was a respected anchorman, not a freak show barker. Yet every February, May, August, and November, YOUR SMARTPHONE IS HAVING AN AFFAIR WITH MITCH MCCONNELL AND A GOAT BEHIND YOUR BACK!

CNN actually takes the cake in scaring you to keep you tuned in. Back in the late 90’s, NASA discovered an asteroid that will come uncomfortably close to the Earth in 2029. It’s since been determined it’ll pass farther away than anticipated. However, CNN picked up on this for its 10 PM broadcast and ran with it. I remember watching for news of the end of the world in three decades only to learn, forty minutes later, the chances of humanity’s imminent extinction by dinosaur-killing impact were somewhere between slim and none, leaning heavily toward none.

It gets worse. Pundits make their money telling you everything is those “other people’s” fault, that they’re out to get you. It’s the Muslims fault or immigrants or liberals. Or conservatives. If Obama isn’t out to get you, the Koch brothers are. It’s all a grand conspiracy meant to make you miserable and keep you down.

Uh huh.

First off, I have, as a matter of fact, bought Gold Bond Medicated Powder for some itchy feet. When that happened, I hadn’t listened to a second of Rush Limbaugh since, oh, 1996. It was 2010. Volkswagen is pushing Jettas hard. Know why I bought mine? Internet search, comparison to Edmonds.com, the raving praise my cousin the lifelong VW fan heaped on the cars. Test drive. I didn’t buy it because Obama tried to kill the Koch brothers by bringing the Black Plague to American shores.

You didn’t hear about that one?

Film at 11.