Wednesday, May 20, 2009

A Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On

By Mark W. Danielson

Last Sunday, the earth shook LA with a 4.7 quake. I was lying on my hotel bed near the epicenter when it happened. For about fifteen seconds, the walls and furniture shook. Even the television rocked a little, but no power was ever lost. And then it was over. Well, sort of. You see, the media can't seem to let it go.

I’ve ridden out many earthquakes. The house I grew up in was built directly atop the Hayward Fault near San Francisco Bay. When I lived in San Diego, I frequently awoke to small quakes. Once I was even tossed from bed while sleeping in the Philippines, and although that one got my attention, earthquakes don’t scare me much. Apparently, I’m the exception.

Judging from the news clips, one might think that this quake decimated LA. Images of broken glass and groceries lying on market floors repeat themselves during reporter voice-overs. Within minutes after the 4.7 quake, local news stations began taking calls from Nervous Nellie’s; one of whom said the shaking lasted twenty to thirty minutes. Really! Buildings would have crumbled had the tremor lasted that long. But then, we’ve come to expect this from the media. In fact, we even thrive on it. Why else would we have 24/7 news stations?

News moguls figured out a long time ago that sensationalizing stories is big business. Perhaps this explains the extensive coverage of the swine flu. And while I feel sorry for the families of the six people in the United States who have died from this virus, the flu annually claims thirty six thousand US residents without any mention of a pandemic. By comparison, this latest flu scare seems rather out of proportion. Of course, like this LA quake, the swine flu has our attention, thus we stay glued to the TV for the latest coverage . . .

So what’s really going on here? One word explains it: fear. A few years ago, “Fear This” was the anthem for bad-ass kids because of its endless connotations. Of course, nowadays, kids’ put grenade decals on their cars. Regardless, fear pumps adrenaline for fight or flight, and we love this rush so much that we can't get enough of it. If that wasn’t the case, we wouldn’t see endless news broadcasts about minor earthquakes. We would also be without horror movies, and no one would be writing suspense. So enjoy the fear, for it is an essential emotion. Just balance the media's attention with reality, for not everything you see on TV is real.


Chester Campbell said...

I agree, Mark. Most stories with a sensational possibility get blown out of proportion. It's the old adage that bad news sells. It would be nice, though, if people would occasionally use a little common sense and not get carried away with "what could happen."

Mark W. Danielson said...

I must have been tired, for I slept through a 4.0 aftershock. Sadly, common sense seems to be a thing of the past, Chester. Of course, there's always hope that things will change for the better.

Anonymous said...

Is that a new photo or an old one? Just curious.

Pat Browning

Mark W. Danielson said...

Pat, this is actually a photo from a Japanese earthquake. Sensationalism works for me, too:)

Jean Henry Mead said...


I remember being tossed out of bed by an earthquake on my 16th birthday and, like you, I'm not really afraid of them because I've lived through so many. The swine flu is pure hype designed to get people to take the forthcoming vaccines which are going to be more dangerous than any pandemic as most innocuations are because they contain mercury and other additives.