An argumentative essay on 2012 and media's role of influence
|Since the beginning of time, the fear of death has taken many forms, based on different branches of society such as religion, science and art. Many of these groups have made predictions about the end of the world given the time and characteristics of the groups, using beliefs and opinions to reason logically that their prediction is correct. In modern times, the end of the world has been exploited due to various reasons such as globalization, environmental shifts, predictions of ancient civilizations, and signs from the Bible. As seen with events such as Y2K and the War of the World’s broadcast, people act in a panic; a logical result of instilled psychological fear. For many, philosophizing an exact date of the end of mankind is necessary as a guide in understanding what’s to come. As the world changes rapidly, certain forms of media exploit the many beliefs surrounding these predictions and therefore use them to their advantage. Possibly one of the biggest controversies in end of the world media is the year 2012. Known through predictions of ancient origins and scientific events, many of these predictions have been heavily regarded within different areas of media. As more media influences become available, the greater the chance is that facts and statistics will be unclear in direction and meaning. In the confusion of right from wrong, media has influenced our susceptible society into believing that predictions of the future are indeed facts; this is wrong. It needs to be clear how media influences people and about how these groups’ actions reflect a common fear that has developed.
Many different media types have focused upon 2012. In media such as movies, television, books, and websites, all have the same common goal: to persuade a given audience that their information is factual. The groups influenced include scientists, religious believers, and individual believers, all of whom have had their ideas and beliefs exploited by the media. The very diversity in types of media shows the exploitation of people’s beliefs. The most popular recent example that has given rise to a greater panic is the movie 2012. Released in November of 2009, the apocalypse is depicted from a scientific perspective using exploding volcanoes, shifting crusts, large tsunamis, and solar flares as tactics of visual display. All of these predictions of natural destruction evolve from the predictions of scientists such as those from NASA; however, in an effort to credit their predictions, NASA has posted a question and answer board on their official website to counteract people’s misled beliefs. According to NASA scientists, such as David Morrison, the level of concern about people’s fear of 2012 has become so serious that they feel the need to take action. “I don’t have anything against the movie,” said Morrison. “It’s just the way it’s been marketed and the way it exploits people’s fears.” Further promotion of the movie, set up by Sony Pictures, includes various set up websites as well as advertising on Facebook. Although most of the websites are fictional, there is evidence that people are taking the movie as fact (Klotz, 2009). Despite the outward surge of fear, Sony Film’s spokesman Steve Elzer said, “We believe consumers understand that the advertising is promoting a fictional film” (Johnson, 2009). If the film were fictional, then people would not have any reason to panic.
Many people’s fears related to the year 2012 are rooted in the natural fear of death. Despite a natural human tendency to fear death, the use of media can manipulate people to believe predictions are fact. With media growing more prevalent in developing countries, different media types have been able to target various groups based upon their beliefs. The media uses three different structural indicators to indicate susceptible groups: reach, the ability for media to influence society, accessibility, and plurality, the number of companies influencing a group of people (widespread or narrowed). These factors determine how much a society is susceptible to being influenced by the messages that the media portrays. According to a United States Institute of Peace Special Report, “Mass media reaches not only people’s homes, but also their minds, shaping their thoughts and sometimes behavior.” Based on the different media types available on the topic of 2012, the evidence that media is influencing more people is the upward surge of interest in the topic and the effects that it has on people, such as fear (Frohardt, M., & Ternin, J, 2003).
There are many anxieties from different groups about the year 2012. Religious followers believe there are signs in the Book of Revelations in the Bible that the end is near. Scientific followers fear scenarios such as solar flaring, polar shifts, an alignment of planets, winter solstice, collision with Nibiru, a meteor strike, or the effects of global warming. There are also independent thinkers who believe in the Mayan calendar and the predictions of Nostradamus. Despite different fears, each group shares the anxiety of an apocalypse, just at different levels (NASA scientists, 2009). A recent study indicated that only the religious and the atheists feel free from fear of death; however, it is the majority of Americans who are moderately religious that fear death the most. In America, a country separated by church and state, how people are able to interpret social contexts of certain material is narrowed (Wilson, 2007). Media is also separated by church and state, largely being independent and scientifically motivated. Since media is influential, the inevitability that people are driven by a variety of media types on a scientific and independent level is greater. The problem lies in the fact that the greater the fear, the more likely the chance that media types will take advantage of it and increase in numbers.
Many media types use certain strategies to instill fear in their audience. The strategies, known as contact indicators, include focus on past atrocities and history of ethnic animosity, manipulation of myths, stereotypes, and identities to “dehumanize”, overemphasis on certain grievances or inequities, and consistently negative reporting.These tactics have been used in the media to exploit people’s fear (Frohardt, M., & Ternin, J, 2003). For example, the History Channel, which features shows such as the Nostradamus Effect, Doomsday 2012, and Armageddon, uses these tactics based on their credibility, to further promote 2012. Although many consider the History Channel credible (as it does feature credible scientists), the recent rise in these featured shows presents the fact that the History Channel is like any other media type; they just want to make money. Instead of focusing on past initiatives, such as the factual education of history, the History Channel has used its credibility to focus on the shock value of the material. Ironically, the History Channel, known for presenting reliable facts and sources, has taken future predictions of people from the different types of groups (religious, scientific, and independent) and used it to gain ratings and money.
Other media types available on 2012 are books. On store shelves, there are over 200 books dedicated to 2012, such as 2012: The Return of Quetzalcoatl and Apocalypse 2012: a Scientific Investigation into Civilization’s End, featuring different viewpoints on the possible events that could occur on 2012. The authors, whose viewpoints often contradict one another’s beliefs, reinforce their opinions through their given audiences while confirming various beliefs of the American society (Klotz, 2009). As many sources of information become available to different interested audiences, a confirmed attitude develops from the viewpoints presented by different media enforcers such as authors. Many people are willing to accept something if the agenda of the media is credited, despite the fact that it may be making mere predictions about an unknown date. Another type of media that is notorious for using predictions as a radical basis for exploiting fear of the apocalypse are websites.
In recent years, the number of websites dedicated to 2012 has reached 1,000, with 300,000 hits coming up on Google and 65,000 clips posted on YouTube (Klotz, 2009). The most influential website available online is known as the Institute for Human Continuity, a marketing campaign for the movie 2012 and advertised on Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, and commercials. The website, dedicated to the survival of the human race, set up a lottery contest in which various people were selected at random to win a chance to live in a remote location in 2012, possibly a certain mountain range. A virtual reality of 2012 phenomena and advertising, many believe that the website is factual. According to a Cosmic Log correspondent Darrell Messbarger, “The Ads seemed very real. And some of my daughter’s friends were in a dead panic over them, even their parents. There has been too little indication that this is just movie advertising. People are actually signing up to win the ‘lottery’, many of whom, I am sure, believe is real. It is just advertising, it has produced a lot of fear among many people, reminiscent of the ‘War of the Worlds’ radio program of the ‘30s” (Boyle, 2009). Messbarger’s quote supports the fact that people’s actions relay the message that many people use the media as a source of confirmation for their beliefs.
Many different groups interpret 2012 media and act upon it in a different way. For instance, Patrick Geryl, a retired laboratory worker for a French oil company, recently quit his job to start a “survival group”, one of the many that have recently risen up in an effort to prepare for 2012. According to Geryl, he quit his job in order to prepare for the end of days, based on the Mayan calendar. Geryl’s survival group currently consists of 16 people; however, a wait list of hundreds will help to build concrete dwellings or outfit caves for survival. Geryl’s website, http://www.howtosurvive2012.com/, features supplies “needed” for 2012. Geryl has even written three books to share his knowledge with others; fully confident 2012 is the end of the world. According to ABC News, when asked what if 2012 was not about earthquakes of tsunamis, Geryl replied, “I don’t really contemplate that possibility, my predictions are so spectacular, they can’t possibly be wrong” (Brower, 2008). Despite Geryl’s beliefs, there are those who believe that these ideas are radical and extreme.
There are many scholars who agree that the end of the world will not be in 2012. One prediction they discuss often is the use of the Mayan calendar predicting 2012 as a sign of Armageddon. According to archaeoastronomer and curator, Susan Milbrath, at the Florida Museum of Natural History, “It would be impossible The Maya themselves would have known that, and we have no record or knowledge that they would think the world would come to an end at that point” (MacDonald, n.d.). On NASA’s official website, an answer to the Mayan calendar prediction quotes, “Just as the calendar you have on your kitchen wall does not cease to exist after December 31, the Mayan calendar does not cease to exist on December 21, 2012” (NASA Scientists, 2009). In an effort to instill the message that the media has portrayed, well-known scientist David Morrison has made effort to spread the message of 2012 as nothing to worry about. On his online column “Ask an Astrobiologist”, Morrison has received over a 1,000 questions and counting, all of which he has used his credited knowledge to counter attack people’s fears (Klotz, 2009). Despite the credibility of different scholars, many would agree that just as media is credited, the chance that they might also have a hidden agenda is possible. Just as media would like to instill fear, scholar’s job is to relieve fear in the chance that widespread hysteria would break out.
Although many people are trying to prevent the hysteria of 2012, different groups are continuing to take their fears to the extreme. According to NASA scientist David Morrison, people have contacted him contemplating suicide, worried because their children won’t eat, or worried by the depression of adults. In one case, a mother was considering killing her children and herself so they wouldn’t have to live when 2012 came around. Reactions such as these have caused scientists at NASA to raise their concern level and take action to reduce fears about 2012 (Klotz, 2009). On their question and answer link, scientist Morrison uses phrases like “Internet hoax” and “not based on science” to describe the many different fears about 2012 (NASA Scientists, 2009). Despite their efforts, societal fears continue to rise as the year 2012 comes closer. The idea of media frenzy has been witnessed before in events such as Y2K, another scare that predicted 2000 as the end of the world.
Almost an exact replica of the year 2012, the year known as Y2K was another time that the end of the world was predicted; the mere difference being the content of the fear. In 2000, the main fear was the beginning of a new millennium and the possible computer crash. In the event of these comings, different layers of overlapping religion, numerology, and symbolism were used to depict 2000 as the end of the world. Today, the year 2000 has come and gone without the end, hinting that the scare was merely media generated. There are many comparisons between 2012 and 2000 hysteria. For instance, just as there are survival groups, their counterparts were also existent. Also, counselors in 1999 reported that many different people reported the same “anxietal symptoms” witnessed today, including sleeplessness, loss of appetite, distraught feelings, and quitting jobs. Most of these anxietal symptoms are also counter parted with the groups that they associate with. According to Bette Evan Wells, a Fort Lauderdale counselor, “The cross subcultures. A theology or philosophy could activate. [The fear]. But the worries of the average man on the street could do the same: the price of food, the job market, the disappearance of Social Security. If they’re clinically depressed, whichever issues are raised by the group they’re in, they’ll latch onto” (David J.D., 1999). The same occurrences are witnessed in the up rise in interest in 2012, no matter what group people associate themselves with. In the case of media, it takes not only created fears to manipulate these groups, but also use natural fear as a source of raising the level of concern.
According to anthropologist Ernest Becker, “The idea of death, the fear of it, haunts the human animal like nothing else; it is the mainspring of human activity-activity designed largely to avoid the fatality of death, to overcome it by denying in some way that it is the final destiny for man.” This quote supports the fact that people’s fear roots from the fact that they have a natural tendency to fear death. There is also the fact that the fear of death is subject to manipulation of social context based on the needs of the society. Media, which is a social context, is the basis of fear when their context is manipulated or biased towards their own hidden agenda. Their bias and manipulation has led human beings to be susceptible to a variety of media types, often confusing and associating different contexts of information with one another. The greater problem in the media frenzy is not just the amount, but also the varied types associated with them. If there is an increase in mass media types, then the result is a confusing mixture of different social complexes, all of which instill a greater fear that the end of the world is inevitable (Moore, C & Williamson, J. B, 2003).
In the modern era, mass media has reflected human’s increasing fears of modernization and how their actions, such as war and genocide, have consequences. Those consequences include many possibilities, 2012 being one of them. “All humans currently live under the shadow of potential nuclear annihilation. Modernity further fuels an existential crisis within individuals by generating knowledge of a world of overwhelming size and complexity, a world in which individual lives and projects seem increasingly meaningless,” quoted Michael Slote, author of Existentialism and the Fear of Dying. According to Ernest Becker, what humankind fears the most is not extinction, but extinction without meaning. The basis for which humans are able to ease the fear of death is the ability to reason, further providing logical truths about whatever given context. Most of the given context today is bias motivated and heavily and immediately directed towards a given audience. In the case of the world, no matter what group people fit into, the message affects everyone. If humans are not able to reason because they are given a definite truth (given the fact that media is so prevalent), their fear of death becomes unnatural and disturbs the psyche of the human mind like no other (Moore, C & Williamson, J. B, 2003). The evidence of this disturbance is seen in the increased interest of 2012, preparation of survival groups, suicide threats, and the most important, the imminent belief that 2012 is undeniable.
The modernization of the world has brought on many changes in social aspects. One aspect that has remained constant is the human tendency to fear death and its unknown qualities. What media has done to that fear is twisted it in a way that relates to globalization and how humans have acted. As a result, people use subjects such as history and science to philosophize on the future; basing their predictions on opinions rather than facts. The media has noticed how people react to events such as the apocalypse and use it to their advantage to make money. With the knowledge of power, their ability to influence a gullible society is greater than ever as the amount of information surrounding the apocalypse continues to grow. Many different areas pertaining to the groups of religion, science, and the independents have been fed by the media and the images and messages that they portray. A mixture of all of these different theories can often be too overwhelming, causing a social panic amongst societies who are most affected by the media. There are many different solutions that need to be considered when addressing this issue; however, the most important is how humans process this information and their ability to research their opinions rather than letting the media dictate their fears. Countries, such as America, need to realize that the information available is not always true or in the best interest of their psychological well being. If people who read the newspaper, watch TV or movies, or go on the Internet continue to believe everything that is said, they will never be able to sort through the jumbled mix of facts and opinions to find the truth.