The media’s new toy

The media’s new toy

by Travis Vandermeer

Travis is a school teacher in Australia and has a naturally integral way of thinking; not only is he able to see the wood for the trees he can also utilize complex systems theory to give fresh insight and perspective on what's happening. Just like his favourite rock band: TOOL, he thinks it is vital to question authority and also to learn to tolerate discomfort and vulnerability as 'this is where it's all at' (I share this distinct impression with him as well: it forms the cornerstone of my own world view and is a tool for self insight). Travis has contributed a thought provoking article here: that the media is turning its focus of fear-mongering to Mother Nature and its natural disasters. He states that whilst there may be a slight change in weather, it is over-emphasised as fear sells media stories and captivates attention, and most people are becoming bored by ongoing reports about war and terrorism. In my view this critique may also be informed by the concept of the 'simulacrum' which posits that media play a role in co-constructing reality; that if it isn't in the news it is as if it didn't really happen. I wonder if the media also serve to focus our collective energies and consciousness to create self-fulfilling prophecies? Perhaps it is time to put fear in perspective and to understand how the powers that be manipulate and exploit us by keeping us in a constant state of fear paralysis: as uninformed human beings we like to maintain the status quo when we feel uncertain and afraid ( BB).

2 Feb 2011

The Media’s New Toy

by T. Vandermeer

With 2012 coming we’re going to see a lot more reports in the news about “Devastating Floods”, “Terrifying Cyclones” and other fierce natural weather occurrences.  Is this because in the lead up to 2012 the planet’s magnetic poles are shifting causing strange changes to normal weather patterns?

Or is there another reason?  Media tycoons like Rupert Murdoch know how the general population think and the conclusions they will draw based on what they see in the news.  They, if anybody, should know as they are mostly responsible for the mindset of the status quo.  Today the concept of the world changing in 2012 is not just new age or occult knowledge.  It has become mainstream knowledge with movies such as “2012” and other things like this popping up in the mainstream media, though with the definite conclusion that the world WILL end rather than leaving the conclusion a mystery which most informed people tend to believe.

One of the common beliefs is that earth will see major changes in its weather patterns and an increase in severe weather activity such as tsunamis, floods, cyclones, volcanoes, bush fires, earthquakes etc.  We are tending to see more reports of such events in the news or at least an increase in their severity even if the quantity is remaining the same.

This raises many questions and areas open for speculation.  Therefore are we, in fact, seeing an actual increase in their frequency?   After just returning from Queensland and speaking to the locals after their “Worst floods in 30 years” as it has been described by the media, the general feeling over there is that this is just another normal summer of flood activity.  The only difference being the flood levels are a bit higher and more places got struck at once.  What would normally happen is one area would get struck one summer, than the following year another area would be struck and the other would receive a break from flooding for the year.  This flood rotation through the region meant that each flood would appear like a small separate incident.  This year all NORMAL flood-risk areas became flooded at the same time giving the appearance of a large, “unprecedented” statewide flood.  Yes, Brisbane CBD was flooded which was slightly unusual but their dams were also at 100% due to “water hoarding” because these days once a city is put on water restrictions due to a dry season, cities are reluctant to lift them even when the dams are full, through fear of a future drought.  This is an example of authorities trying to control the future rather than living in the present and making decisions according to present circumstances.  Brisbane paid the price for water hoarding this year as their dams were supposed to be no higher than 60% to leave room for diverting flood waters and minimise the damage caused to towns and communities.  This year, prior to the Queensland floods the dams were sitting at 100%!  And the city was still on water restrictions.  Where is the logic in that?   Hence, when the rivers began to flood there was nowhere for the overflow to be channeled and collected.  Dams such as the Wivenhoe Dam were built for this exact purpose.  The media did report this, perhaps in an attempt to put blame somewhere as everybody's looking for a scapegoat these days.

Following the floods, Cyclone Yasi hit the coast of northern Queensland.  In the lead up to this event the build up was reported with many amusing adjectives such as “fearful”, “terrifying”, “frightening”, “destructive”, “deadly”, “devastating”, “howling monster” and likening it to an “atomic bomb” in a pitiful attempt to generate fear.  It was mentioned several times that Australia has NEVER seen anything like this and its winds of 300km/h will “destroy all in its path.”  Now correct me if I’m wrong, but I do remember in high school geography we learned that 300 km/h was a normal speed for gusts of a tropical cyclone.  Cyclone Yasi hardly had a sustained wind speed of 300km/h, which was omitted from the report.  By the time it hit land it was officially rated as a Category 2 cyclone (sustained wind speeds of 154-177 km/h) and due to be downgraded to Category 1 (119-153 km/h) within hours as it moved further inland.  While winds of this speed are certainly enough to cause widespread damage they are hardly the 300 km/h which was reported during the media’s fear mongering build up to the “event”.

By stretching the truth or omitting certain facts a story can be made out to be worse than what it actually is and the viewer, if not alert, can forget what they already know about common occurrences as well as the fact that they have probably already witnessed or experienced something similar before and got through it okay whilst dealing with and overcoming their own fear.

The fear mongering used by the media uses many tactics.  Thankfully there are many who are awake to their tactics and there are those people in the middle of a situation who are not too phased by the current events and remain calm and go about their life with little fear, accepting the situation for what it is and waiting for it to pass so they can go back on with their lives.  This was clear when the TV news showed footage of people in evacuation centers leading up to Cyclone Yasi, chilling out and looking quite relaxed despite the fact that the media were contradictorily reporting them as being terrified or “scared out of their skins.”  I actually find it quite amusing to witness this contradiction on the news.

However, you can always find a couple of strays in any mass of people, who act like this has never happened before and cry and carry on like they’re so scared.  These are the people who are still yet to accept reality as it is and probably carry on in the same way if they cut their finger peeling potatoes.  “Oh my God!  How could this happen???  I NEVER in all my life would have expected a tragedy like this to occur!”  These are easy targets for the media and serve well to support their agenda so are usually the ones chosen for up close interviews.  It must be remembered that they do not represent the majority of the population in the middle of those situations.  I would have liked the people I spoke to in Queensland after the floods to have been on the news to hear their side, which as I mentioned was the general consensus amongst most Queenslanders.  They would have told the media to get over it and find another story!

The “cyclone” that was supposed to hit Perth was another fallacy.  Remnants of cyclones have carried on as far inland as Kalgoorlie or as far south as Esperance since before weather was even recorded.  They have NEVER been reported as actual cyclones in the past as they were in this instance.  As we soon learned with the recent one in Perth it was nothing more than a light breeze and light rain with some heavy cloud.  The winds didn’t even reach gale force that’s how extinct this cyclone already was.  It wouldn’t even rate as a storm.  One only needs to log onto the Bureau of Meteorology website ( to find every recorded cyclone and its tracking patterns mapped out to see that this recent one was not an unusual event.  It was only reported as such.

So it would seem the media has found a new toy.  Everybody is sick of hearing stories of terrorism, wars, Iraq, North Korea, Iran and the Israel/Palestine conflict that have been going on forever.  These stories don’t bring with them the fear they once did as people have come to accept that these situations will probably never change and all news reports regarding them are the same.  People probably switch off when news of this type is reported.  However, human beings have always been interested in natural disasters and severe weather.  There is something about an unexplained force that we have no control over spreading its wings and demonstrating what it is capable of that captivates us.   And that is exactly what it does.  It holds our interest.  We all want to witness the beauty of mother nature.  The media knows this and this is the medium they are now using to manipulate us.  By adding all these fear mongering adjectives to normal weather patterns and throwing in (probably un-researched) “facts” that “This is THE WORST cyclone EVER!!!!” or “WORST floods in 30 YEARS!!!”  they are contributing to people’s dormant ideas that we could be living in the so-called “end times” and what once may have been just a slight question or dismissed possibility in people’s minds is now becoming a potential reality based on the “evidence” being given by the media.  Never mind the fact that flooding and cyclones in that region are perfectly normal occurrences this time of year.  It’s just the manner in which they are reported which has changed.  You'll never hear a cyclone being described as "a beautiful act of Mother Nature" or be asked to "witness and embrace the beauty of a volcano or tsunami."

So in all, nothing has changed.  The media is doing what they have always done- manipulating the truth of common and normal occurrences in the world to generate fear.

So move aside Terrorism!  The media has found a new enemy that we can all be scared of and come to hate:  Mother Nature.

Travis Vandermeer

8 Feb 2011


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