In the so-called civilised west, we are becoming increasing used to situations, where the mainstream media attempt to instill a sense of panic in the population by feeding into people’s basic fears.
“The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed – and hence clamorous to be led to safety, by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.” – H.L. Mencken
The ‘Paedophile’ panic is a recent example, which undoubtably will soon be replaced by emerging front page stories of an inevitable Ebola pandemic, which of course will run alongside the ever-present threat of Militant Islamists hiding in every corner, poised and ready to strike anywhere at a moments notice.
According to the mainstream media that is.
By tapping into our deepest primal fears, the media can quite easily control many aspects of our everyday behaviour and, you only need to think back a few short years to the much-hyped ‘swine flu’ pandemic, the one that never actually materialised – to see how successful this can be.
And lucrative for those who manufacture the promoted ‘cure’ that is.
Even when conclusive evidence emerges (somewhat later) that the vast majority of these lurid, fear-inducing and entirely misleading headline stories are nothing more than complete rubbish, it is still highly unlikely that most people will wake up.
There are still millions of people in this, and other western countries who still fall time and time again for whatever they read in the papers, see on the television or goes ‘viral’ on the Internet.
Do you honestly believe, that anything that contains even the slightest chance of genuinely enlightening people to what is really going on, would be allowed to spread in the same way – as say – a half-dressed Miley Cyrus straddling a wrecking ball?
Or ‘No Make-Up’ selfies?
Or thousands upon thousands of people pouring buckets of icy water over their heads?
Or God knows what else has been rolled out to tittilate, distract and steer people away from anything that may actually educate them?
However, the fear of your children being stolen, killed or abused by a manufactured bogey-man, or your loved ones succumbing to a ‘deadly’ virus, or a ‘terrorist’ attack, are of course very real and genuine fears, which are guaranteed to concentrate the mind somewhat, which is why they work so well.
Every time they are used.
However, by preying on people’s fears and relying on what they believe to be the general ignorance of the population, the media can at times, create a panic which, with hindsight, can seem almost too ridiculous for words.
In September 2003, a Khartoum newspaper printed a story of a merchant’s ‘vanishing penis’, which occurred after shaking hands with a ‘mysterious stranger’.
Ordinarily, this would not not be seen as anything more than an amusing, if somewhat unfortunate tale, but the story caused a major panic in the area, with local hospitals being flooded with dozens of hysterical men claiming that their penises had also been stolen.
Doctors couldn’t find a single case of a missing organ and announced the ‘illness’ to be psychosomatic – but this didn’t stop the local police from rounding up 50 ‘foreigners’ on suspicion of practising sorcery.
The panic continued with one newspaper even reporting that: “The situation has reached the point where a wife accompanying her husband to the front door at home bids him farewell by saying, ‘Be careful not to shake hands with men, but you can shake the girls’ hands as much as you want’.”
The panic that swept through Khartoum in 2003 was believed to be an outbreak of ‘KORO‘, a psychiatric disorder that causes men to believe their penises (or, more rarely, women to believe their labia) have shrunk back into their bodies.
The ‘Koro’ panic of course only became widespread because of the religious beliefs and teachings in countries where ‘Sorcery’ and ‘Black magic’ practices are far more common among the populace.
In the UK and the USA, however, something more ‘believable’ would be required for anything like the above to have a similar effect.
Like an Alien Invasion?
Many people may be aware of the Orson Welles’ ‘War Of The Worlds’ CBS Show, that went out to an unsuspecting radio audience on October 30th 1938, which caused very real and genuine panic.
Or the lesser known media ‘story’ that was broadcast by the BBC in January 1926, which appeared to be a supposedly ‘live’ report of a revolution sweeping across London entitled ‘Broadcasting from the Barricades’.
“On 16 January 1926, BBC Radio interrupted a broadcast of a speech from Edinburgh to give a special announcement: an angry mob of unemployed workers was running amok in London, looting and destroying everything in sight. Listeners were stunned. Anxiously they gathered around their radios as the alarming reports continued, informing them that the National Gallery had been sacked, the Savoy Hotel blown up, and the Houses of Parliament were being attacked with trench mortars”
What about the Central Park Zoo escape of 1874?
Or the panic that was spread on social media in the Philippines when a TV report misleadingly uncovered a “flesh-eating skin disease” and then linked it to a prophecy made by an Indian holy man.
“The Philippines Department of Health has told the BBC that there is no “flesh-eating” bacteria epidemic in Pangasinan province and claims to the contrary are a “hoax”. But fear about a plague there has spread through social media, using the Twitter hashtag #PrayForPangasinan.”
People are far more sensible and clued up these days though eh?