Anything For A Story


Sea_Cliff_Bridge_During_Rain_StormWestern society lives for pleasure–an adrenaline high or sexual titillation or culinary delights–if it feels good, then that’s what we want. The sad thing is that the parts of our day that don’t feed into these wants are often considered boring or second rate or something to be endured, to be gotten through.

Any wonder, then, that TV ads tell stories or make people laugh? The motto seems to be, whatever it takes to keep people entertained. Horrors if a product is described in boring terms. Why, even the dire warnings about possible side effects to prescription drugs are communicated in soothing tones while pictures of active, healthy seniors playing golf or basketball or swimming speed past our eyes.

So it’s not a surprise that TV news has joined the entertainment business. That happened some time ago. The sensational gets a hearing, especially if it comes with pictures.

What seems to be a new twist to this scenario, however, is the interpretation of facts to make them entertaining, one way or the other!

This tendency seems particularly noticeable here in SoCal concerning our weather. Maybe the meteorologists are simply tired of having nothing much to talk about, but I think it has more to do with creating a sensation. That, it seems, is now the role of TV news.

As most people have heard, all of California has been experiencing a drought. But at long last, news poured in this week that we had rain in the forecast. But not just any rain. We were looking at the BIGGEST STORM in YEARS! In fact, the “in years” turns out to be the biggest to hit the southland in three years.

Well, yes, since we’ve been having a drought during that time, there haven’t been any big storms. So this storm that has triggered mandatory evacuations and sandbagging and the construction of berms and barricades–to keep runoff out of homes and high surf out of neighborhoods–isn’t actually a particularly large one if you were comparing it to the storms in a non-drought year.

But the news media can’t pass up an opportunity to sensationalize even the weather. We can’t simply celebrate the fact that we’re getting rain, that farmers who have dealt with the lack of water, and ranchers who have had to truck in feed for their cattle, and small towns that have seen their wells dry up, are getting a little help.

Rain can’t be good. It can’t be an answer to prayer, most assuredly. Instead it has to be sensational. The irony of it all is that the one mention I heard of the rain and its affect on the drought was that it would help very little.

Sure, I get that this one storm isn’t going to replenish the lakes and rivers that have steadily shrunk over the last several years. But no help?

Must the story always be woe and beware? Well, yes, apparently the extreme and the dire fit the entertainment model, so that’s the kind of news we get. Even for the weather.

Published in: on February 28, 2014 at 5:49 pm  Comments Off on Anything For A Story  
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Carmageddon?


Armageddon or Har Megiddo (and variant spellings of both) references the final battle leading up to the end of the world and God’s judgment (See Revelation 16). But someone in the gaming world co-opted the term and turned it into “Carmageddon,” the name of a violent vehicular combat video game.

Now that word has been hijacked. Here in Southern California someone in Cal Trans (the transportation arm of state government) or the media used it to describe a condition feared by many: the shut down of a major freeway.

National news services are carrying this story. I just read a Tweet from someone living east of the Mississippi wishing us well. After all, some reports have traffic snarled in gridlock from Los Angeles to San Diego. But hold on. You haven’t heard all of it.

This freeway closure is happening over the weekend, when most people don’t have to go to work. What’s more, the entire 405 freeway isn’t closed. Only a ten mile stretch. Ten miles!

Just to put things in perspective, out here, ten miles is nothing. I drive ten miles to church every week. I used to drive seven miles to work every day (which of course made it a fourteen mile round trip). Places are far apart out west, so ten miles is a short stretch — a mere ten minutes if freeway traffic is flowing somewhere near the speed limit.

And this short stretch of freeway being closed for a short period of time, on a weekend, has been dubbed carmageddon. Car apocalypse! The traffic gridlock to end all traffic for all time (until Monday morning).

Besides the obvious overkill of the phrase, I’m disturbed by this silliness. First, to employ a term that evokes thoughts of the end of the world shows the perspective of our society — it isn’t sin or evil that we’re battling. It’s whatever might inconvenience us for a weekend. That’s what brings the world to an end.

As a corollary, there’s a tongue-in-cheek implication that we don’t have to worry about an actual Armageddon as part of God’s judgment on the world. It’s all myth, and therefore the term is fair game if we want to play with it, tweak it, and make it strike horror of a not-so-horrible nature.

It’s as if the person who coined Carmageddon is saying, God? Judgment? The end of the world? Get real. The serious matter at hand is what threatens our roads. This religious stuff is fodder for us to use to draw a figurative image.

It chills me to realize that God’s Holy Word is being treated by our culture in the same way that we treat Greek mythology — as a book filled with stories about made up people and pretend gods.

I wonder how many Southlanders mouthing concern over “carmaggedon” have the slightest idea that there is a just God who will one day bring judgment on the earth.

We focus our attention on the most ridiculous concerns. Last week it was “the Royals” visiting LA. This week it’s “carmaggedon.” Next week will be something else.

Perhaps it’s all a smokescreen to keep us from looking at the serious business we have with God at some point in the future, either personally or cataclysmically.

Published in: on July 15, 2011 at 5:42 pm  Comments (7)  
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