Beware the media monster

Powerful it is. Harmless it isn’t. Treat the media with caution

A New Scientist article (Oil Shock – you ain’t seen nothing yet – June 28th 2008) explores the outcome of a sustained world oil crisis. The potential consequences are so frightening that Governments are busy drawing up emergency plans. In one exercise, experts simulated what would happen if a ‘psychological avalanche’ struck… in other words, if everyone screamed at once. Here’s an excerpt from the simulation:

A small, distant country one day finds it can no longer import enough oil because of a spike in prices or problems with local supply. The news media whip this up into a story suggesting an oil shock is on the way, and the resulting panic buying by the public degenerates into a global grab for oil.’

The remainder of the article goes into horrid detail about what happens next. But I’ll stop there. My point is that the media’s ability to create unfounded panic is being acknowleged at the highest levels all over the world.

Governments are planning for the fact that the media is capable of, even reasonably likely to, bring about an international human disaster of unbelievable proportions. Needlessly, for all of us, everywhere. How scary is that?

I’m not saying that sending a crap press release to your local paper or radio station will result in apocalypse. But it’s wise to be aware that people put an inordinate amount of faith in what the media says. So take care what you let them get their hands on.