Gerry Canavan

the smartest kid on earth

Posts Tagged ‘mass hysteria

Republicans in Disarray

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Fire and brimstone coming down from the skies! Rivers and seas boiling! Forty years of darkness! Earthquakes, volcanoes! The dead rising from the grave! Human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together! Karl Rove and Sean Hannity arguing! Mass hysteria!

How Atheism Destroys the World

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My only quibble is that they forgot to include “dogs and cats living together” and “mass hysteria.” Via Pharyngula.


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The first two rules of Terrorball are:

(1) The game lasts as long as there are terrorists who want to harm Americans; and

(2) If terrorists should manage to kill or injure or seriously frighten any of us, they win.

Paul Campos explains the rules of Terrorball. Via Kevin Drum.

These rules help explain the otherwise inexplicable wave of hysteria that has swept over our government in the wake of the failed attempt by a rather pathetic aspiring terrorist to blow up a plane on Christmas Day. For two weeks now, this mildly troubling but essentially minor incident has dominated headlines and airwaves, and sent politicians from the president on down scurrying to outdo each other with statements that such incidents are “unacceptable,” and that all sorts of new and better procedures will be implemented to make sure nothing like this ever happens again.

Meanwhile, millions of travelers are being subjected to increasingly pointless and invasive searches and the resultant delays, such as the one that practically shut down Newark Liberty International Airport last week, after a man accidentally walked through the wrong gate, or Tuesday’s incident at a California airport, which closed for hours after a “potentially explosive substance” was found in a traveler’s luggage. (It turned out to be honey.)

As to the question of what the government should do rather than keep playing Terrorball, the answer is simple: stop treating Americans like idiots and cowards.It might be unrealistic to expect the average citizen to have a nuanced grasp of statistically based risk analysis, but there is nothing nuanced about two basic facts:

(1) America is a country of 310 million people, in which thousands of horrible things happen every single day; and

(2) The chances that one of those horrible things will be that you’re subjected to a terrorist attack can, for all practical purposes, be calculated as zero.

Written by gerrycanavan

January 9, 2010 at 10:36 pm

Wednesday Night MetaFilterFilter

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Wednesday night MetaFilterFilter.

* NASA climatologist James Hansen, recently arrested at an anti-mountaintop-mining demonstration in West Virginia, says we’re almost too late to stop climate change. I wonder about that “almost.”

* Nate Silver considers the legislative strategy at work in the upcoming Waxman-Markey vote.

* Mapping relationships in the X-Men Universe.

* An early Christmas present for my father? Corzine trails badly in New Jersey.

* Lots of talk lately about Robert Charles Wilson’s anti-Singulatarian Julian Comstock: A Story of the 22nd Century. Here’s an interview at io9 that takes up that angle, while Cory Doctorow highlights this blurb:

If Jules Verne had read Karl Marx, then sat down to write The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, he still wouldn’t have matched the invention and exuberance of Robert Charles Wilson’s Julian Comstock.

* Dancing plagues and mass hysteria. Via MeFi.

* How complexity leads to social collapse: some intriguing historical exploration from Paul Kedrosky. Also via MeFi.

* Roger Ebert explains how Bill O’Reilly works.

O’Reilly represents a worrisome attention shift in the minds of Americans. More and more of us are not interested in substance. The nation has cut back on reading. Most eighth graders can’t read a newspaper. A sizable percentage of the population doesn’t watch television news at all. They want entertainment, or “news” that is entertainment. Many of us grew up in the world where most people read a daily paper and watched network and local newscasts. “All news” radio stations and TV channels were undreamed-of. News was a destination, not a generic commodity. Journalists, the good ones anyway, had ethical standards.

In those days, if you quoted The New York Times, you were bringing an authority to the table. Now O’Reilly–O’Reilly!–advises viewers to cancel their subscriptions to a paper most of them may not have ever seen. In those days, if the wire services reported something, it probably happened. Today the wire services remain indispensable, but waste resources in producing celebrity info-nuggets that belong in trash magazines. Advertisers now seek readers they once thought of as shoplifters. If nuclear war breaks out, the average citizen of a Western democracy will be better informed about Brittny Spears than the causes of their death.

Discussion (where else?) at MeFi.

A Distinct Lack of Mass Hysteria

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Michael Socolow takes aim in the Chronicle at the conventional wisdom surrounding Orson Welles’s famous War of the Worlds radio broadcast, arguing that the well-known reports of mass hysteria are wildly overblown. Via A&L Daily.

Written by gerrycanavan

October 22, 2008 at 4:11 am

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‘Terrorist Watch List Hits One Million Names’

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July 15, 2008 at 12:27 am

[Undisclosed Location] Minus Three

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[Undisclosed Location] minus three and counting.

* This summer’s Battlestar Galactica TV movie looks like it might improve on the superfluity of Razor; judging from who’s going to be in it I’d guess the storyline will involve the secret origins of this season’s replacement Starbuck.

* Dark Roasted Blend has a brief item with three weird examples of mass hysteria: the Tanganyika Laughter Epidemic, the Mad Gasser of Mattoon, and the Monkeyman of Dehli.

* All about the Tunguska Event.

* And David Owen explains the surcharged services on his airline in the New Yorker.

Laughing out loud at anything in any movie, whether it is playing on the cabin system or on your own DVD player, is fifty dollars per incident. Asking me to turn off my reading light so that you can see the screen better: also fifty dollars.

If you and your spouse are dressed almost identically, or if you are carrying your passport in a thing around your neck, or if you are wearing any form of footwear or pants that you clearly purchased specifically to wear on airplanes, or if you make it obvious (by repeatedly turning around and talking to passengers in seats not adjacent to yours) that you are travelling with a group, the charge is fifty dollars.

Written by gerrycanavan

July 2, 2008 at 11:21 am

Superhuge Terror List Update: Mandela’s on It

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Colbert has an update on the superhuge terror list I blogged about a few weeks ago: it turns out notorious freedom-hater Nelson Mandela is on it.

Here’s a BBC report with more.

1 in 300 Americans Is a Terrorist

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Bad news, ‘muricans: there are 900,000 terrorists among us. That’s right; 1 in 300 people is a terrorist. I’ll let that sink in.

This is why we can’t have nice things civil liberties.

Written by gerrycanavan

March 13, 2008 at 2:18 am

Somewhere far away, where there are…no phones

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Larry David on the red phone. I like Larry David, but I wish he’d chosen a few lines that didn’t rely on the “hysterical woman” trope. Clinton’s discredited herself on the merits, there’s no need to call her Sybil.

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March 7, 2008 at 5:45 pm

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The most disturbing part of this entire Paris Hilton prison debacle is not, as previously suspected, that it has forced me to sympathize with Paris Hilton, but rather that it has now forced me to link approvingly to Christopher Hitchens, who only just last night I was calling “a nasty, useful idiot for the neo-cons.”

And now here I go, clearing my throat as above before deciding to do something I would have never believed I would do, and choosing to write about Paris Hilton. Choosing to write about her, furthermore, not just as if she were some metaphor or signifier, but as a subject in herself. At some point toward the middle of last Friday, it seemed to me, one was being made a spectator to a small but important injustice. Those gloating and jeering headlines, showing a tearful child being hauled back to jail, had the effect of making me feel sick. So, you finally got the kid to weep on camera? Are you happy now?

Written by gerrycanavan

June 12, 2007 at 3:40 pm

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