Posts Tagged “panic”

Jack-o-lantern Pumpkins, via PubliDomainPictures.NetFolks my age will remember the panics that kicked up, back in the ’70s and ’80s, about trick-or-treat candy being tampered with at Halloween. Either they were injected with poison or drugs, or had razor blades shoved in them. Every year, the media ran stories about this “danger” and advised parents to check their kids’ Halloween candy (as though the average parent would be able to easily detect any sabotage). That this annual scare was an urban legend with no basis in truth, didn’t matter; reporting on this danger was a reliable annual affair.

Over the last few years, with several states permitting the sale of marijuana, including what are called “edibles” containing the herb, the focus of this annual panic has shifted a bit. As reported, for example, in Philadelphia magazine, warnings are out that kids might be given marijuana treats (Archive.Is cached article):

New Jersey officials are warning parents to beware of a little “trick” this Halloween – marijuana-laced candy.…

According to the state Department of Health, there is “a significant presence of marijuana candy and other edible forms in New Jersey and nearby states.”

Wes Culp, a spokesperson for the Pennsylvania Department of Health, said the department “is on high alert for any number of things that could affect children” during this time of year, but the department hasn’t seen any issues with weed-laced candy yet.

I appreciate that Culp admits officials haven’t “seen any issues with weed-laced candy yet.” But that’s the real point here: There’s no evidence any children have ever gotten “edibles” in their trick-or-treat bags (cached). None!

People really need to stop with all of this bullshit. Yes, it’s at least plausible that, given the existence of pot-laced “edibles,” some idiot might give it out to a trick-or-treater. Yeah, it could happen. But that it’s plausible does not mean it will happen. It just doesn’t. Let’s stop panicking already over something that’s never even happened. OK?

Photo credit: PublicDomainPictures.Net.

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Ebola Facts - v by SouthernBreeze, on FlickrIt’s old news by now that Ebola virus has been on a tear through three different west African countries. It’s also not news that a man came to Texas from Liberia carrying Ebola and eventually died of it in a Dallas, TX hospital. What’s more, it’s also not news that two nurses who’d cared for him have contracted it (cached). All of that is bad enough. But the reaction to these stories has been … well, the phrase “fucking insane” may not quite do it justice.

First, we have the inevitable political reaction from Republicans using this as another way of tearing into Barack Obama’s hide. Their reactions range from the calm yet still irrational, demand that the CDC’s director resign (cached), which will accomplish nothing whatsoever, as well as demanding travel bans from the affected countries (cached), which also isn’t likely to do much good, to the extreme and ridiculous, such as bundling several crises into one big, neat package of hate, sanctimony, and paranoia by claiming ISIS/ISIL/IS fighters have contracted Ebola and are (cached) trying to get over the country’s southern border to infect Americans en masse (cached) — there is, of course, no evidence of any such conspiracy. And then there’s the garden-variety wingnut Religious Right wackiness of claiming Obama caused (cached) the Ebola crisis as a way of “taking over” or something (cached) — as though that makes any sense at all.

But on top of all this, we have a number of other asinine reactions (cached):

That’s not the limit of the insanity, but it’s enough to illustrate what I’m talking about. It really needs to fucking stop already.

I’m with Shepard Smith of Fox News. Please watch as he decimates the (largely media-driven) insanity:

Smith cites influenza, which annually kills thousands of Americans, as a much greater danger than Ebola, but I can think of another, that being Enterovirus D68, which currently is something of a problem in the US. Although Ebola is more deadly than either of these, Americans are incredibly less likely to contract it. Which means it’s not something they have any reason to be terrified about. The panicking lunacy is enough to make me tag this post “you’ve gotta be fucking kidding me.”

OK, people, I get it. You don’t want Ebola. Really, I understand. I don’t want it either. But this blind panic isn’t going to help you avoid it. I’ll tell you what will: Calm down, grow up, and get over it, fercryinoutloud!

Photo credit: SouthernBreeze, via Flickr.

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Mexico - Museo de antropologia - LivreThe fraudulent “Maya Apocalypse” is just under two weeks away as I type this. As one would expect — with humanity being a collective mass of ignorance and stupidity — this lie has touched off panics in various places around the world. The (UK) Telegraph reports on several of these (WebCite cached article):

Ahead of December 21, which marks the conclusion of the 5,125-year “Long Count” Mayan calendar, panic buying of candles and essentials has been reported in China and Russia, along with an explosion in sales of survival shelters in America. In France believers were preparing to converge on a mountain where they believe aliens will rescue them.

The article cites panics in places like Russia and China. But it adds:

Meanwhile in Mexico, where the ancient Mayan civilisation flourished, the end time has been seen as an opportunity. The country has organised hundreds of Maya-themed events, and tourism is expected to have doubled this year.

I say, good for the Maya in Mexico! Go ahead and take advantage of the “Maya Doomsday” fraud, and milk the idiots who subscribe to it for all you can get. When December 22 dawns, laugh at the fools all the way to the bank!

As I always do when I blog about this, I’ll make the situation as clear as possible. The Maya “Long Count” calendar will not “end” on December 21, 2012. All calendars are cyclical and perpetual. They never “end.” The Maya calendar can no more “end” than our own can. What will happen on that date, is that we’ll go from the 13th baktun to the 14th. That’s all. As for Nibiru, it doesn’t exist, it never has, and it will never collide with the earth. It’s a fantasy spun by a crank who claims to be the world’s only expert on Sumerian and Babylonian texts, but who actually knows nothing about them. Put bluntly, it’s a lie.

NASA has a very useful page explaining everything you need to know about the so-called “Maya Apocalypse 2012.” There’s also an excellent compilation of “Maya Doomsday” bullshit — and a thorough refutation of it all — at 2012hoax. I suggest going to either site and being educated about this presumed doomsday.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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Never underestimate the power of a moral panic to turn a society upside down. One example of a kind of moral panic which often gets out of control and leads to violence and death, is the phenomenon of the witch hunt. Other kinds of moral panics are a little less disruptive, such as the craziness over Satanic ritual abuse (which never really happened anywhere on the scale that was claimed back in the 80s). Another moral panic in the 20th century a bit less disruptive and sillier than that, is the campaign against comic books.

We may think we’ve risen above irrational moral panics, but the fact is that human nature has not changed, and — even though we live in the Information Age, with the entire Internet available to us — we are still vulnerable to “the madness of crowds,” as much as we ever were.

The most recent example of this is the vilification of “sexting,” or the sending of erotic images via electronic means (usually by cell-phone picture message), usually by minors. For instance, the Hartford Courant filed this “scare-journalism” report on this insidious trend which threatens to destroy America’s moral fiber and subject teens to the whims of the criminal justice system (WebCite cached article):

Sexting’s Pervasiveness, Dangers Detailed As Police, Lawyers Offer Ways To Shield Students

As if booze, drugs and tell-all Facebook profiles weren’t sufficiently alarming, parents should now add “sexting” to their well of worries.

That was part of the message Wednesday night at a district-sponsored public forum on technology and teens that drew about 200 people to the Conard High School auditorium. They were mostly parents, some of whom brought their kids, but it was the police officers and attorneys in the crowd and onstage who underscored the topic’s gravity.

As if to hammer home the horrific nature of this unconscionable crime, the Courant goes on to report:

“Sexting” is sending or receiving text messages that include nude or sexual images, and as Lt. Donald Melanson, a West Hartford police spokesman, told the hushed crowd, such images can be criminal.

Sexually explicit images of a child under age 16 are considered child pornography, and law enforcement finds itself “in a very difficult place” when dealing with sexting cases, Melanson said.

This article dutifully adds polling data which — supposedly — demonstrates how pervasive and damaging “sexting” is:

A report on sexting last month from the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project, based on a survey of 800 minors, stated that 18 percent of youths aged 14-17 with cellphones reported receiving “sexually suggestive” nude or semi-nude images of someone they know. Moreover, 17 percent of teens who pay their own cellphone bills said they have sent provocative images via text messaging.

Unfortunately, polling data such as this … based as it is on self-reports … doesn’t actually prove anything. Teens have been known to make stuff up so they can brag about their behavior. (Really!)

To make this “scare” even worse, the Courant gratuitously adds that it’s not just a phenomenon of poverty … sexting is a plague that affects everyone:

State police spokesman Lt. J. Paul Vance said Wednesday afternoon that complaints about sexting have popped up across Connecticut, “across socioeconomic borders,” because young people don’t seem to realize that “a message can last for an eternity on cyberspace.”

“Once an image is sent, it cannot be retrieved,” Vance said. “You lose control over it. … Parents just don’t believe this goes on. But it does. It does.”

I could go on and relate the many scare tactics in this article. The facts of the matter, however, are two:

  1. Teens will be teens. They do occasionally trade erotic pictures. They once did this with snapshots. They now do it with camera phones. There’s nothing new here except the method they use. Figure it out, people.

  2. “Sexting” between minors is against the law in Connecticut (and I assume other states) solely because the laws against child pornography are absolute; there’s no reason an exception can’t be added for willing minors sending pictures of themselves to other people they know. Laws forbidding the sending of other children’s erotic pictures, even by other children, can be allowed to remain as is.

Really, there’s nothing to this except to encourage parents to be aware of what their kids are up to. Then again, it’s always been the case that parents should do this; nothing has changed in this regard!

Move along, folks. There’s nothing to see here.

P.S. Note that I am not in favor of kids sending erotic pictures to each other. It is a very stupid thing to do and they’re likely to regret having done it almost as soon as they hit “Send.” Nevertheless, there is no way I know of, to utterly prevent teens — or anyone of any age for that matter — from engaging in stupid behavior. The fact is that we need not frighten people or turn society upside down over it. It’s a problem that can easily be solved by proper parenting, but there is no reason why proper parenting should not be the norm, rather than the exception.

P.P.S. Memo to the Courant: I know circulation is off, but “scare journalism” is beneath Connecticut’s newspaper of record and the oldest paper in the country. Just stop already.

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