Disasters - Island of Sanity

Island of Sanity



Liberals & Conservatives

Disasters


Hollywood liberals seem to believe that we are really in one of their disaster movies.

You know how these disaster movie plots always go. The hero discovers that the supposedly-extinct volcano is going to erupt, or the ocean liner is going to sink, or the aliens are going to invade, or whatever. He warns the authorities and tries to persuade them to take steps to prevent the disaster or protect the people in some way. But they don't believe him. Instead their only concern is that he is going to "cause panic", and so instead of preparing for the disaster, they spend all their efforts trying to shut him up. They usually talk about how much money a false alarm will cause: "You'll scare all the tourists oout of town at the height of the tourist season", or "People will be afraid to fly on our planes and we'll lose business", etc. Then, of course, the diaster really does come, and many people die needlessly, though the hero manages to save some.

In these movies it is sometimes implied, sometimes clearly stated that the people who fail to react to the warning are acting out of either laziness or greed. They think their comfort or money is more important than human life. The underlying assumption is that when someone warns of danger, we should err on the side of safety. If someone warns that the volcano is about to erupt, maybe he is right and maybe he is wrong. If he is wrong and we evacuate the city or whatever safety measures are called for, we inconvenience a lot of people and cost local businesses money. No one denies that that would be a bad thing. But if he is right and we don't evacuate the city, then thousands of people die. Surely the danger of people dying is more serious than the danger of people losing money. So clearly the smart thing to do is to take the warning seriously and take immediate safety measures. Any other action is lazy, greedy, or stupid.

Hollywood liberals apply the same thinking to real-life warnings of danger. When someone warns of danger to the environment, or that some product is dangerous, or that an epidemic threatens, they expect everyone to immediately take steps to protect people from the disaster. When pressed they will often concede that proof may be lacking, but, they reply, if the danger is real and we do nothing, people will die. Under the circumstances, the cost or inconvenience is irrelevant: the danger is too great to not take action now. We cannot afford to wait for proof. Anyone who disagrees is lazy, greedy, or stupid.

The problem with that thinking is that it ignores the question of how probable the danger is.

Suppose the decision was entirely up to you. You hear a warning that a volcano is about to erupt and destroy your town. If you want to survive, you are told, you had better flee the city now. Anyone who remains will surely be buried under the lava. Would you go, or would you stay and continue about your regular business?

Surely the answer depends on how credible you think the warning is. If you live at the base of a volcano, and it's been making ominous rumblings for weeks, and the people giving the warning seem well-informed and knowledgable, you probably would evacuate. But if you live on a grassy plain that has never shown any signs of volcanic activity, and the person giving the warning also warned last week that there would be a flood and warned last month that Martians would invade, I strongly suspect that you would just write him off as a nut and ignore him.

That is, you base your response on the probability that the disaster will really come. Oh, you don't actually calculate a probability of such-and-such a percent, but you form a rough idea. If you think it is very likely that the disaster really will strike, of course you will be willing to take time off work and pay for gas and so on to escape the danger zone. It wouldn't even have to be that near certainty: I'm sure I'd evacuate if I was convinced that the chance of disaster was fifty-fifty. But if I think the person making the warning is a nut and there's less than 1% chance that anything will happen, I'm not going to do anything that costs me a lot of time and money. Yes, my life is valuable to me, but if I headed for the hills every time some nut warned of disaster, I'd never have a life.

Often they'll play up the danger, tell us how the whole world will be destroyed or everyone will be enslaved or whatever, and they seem to honestly think that the more dire the warning, the less we should demand evidence. After all, when the danger is so great, we can't afford to sit around and wait for absolute proof. By the time we get it, it may be too late.

Suppose I started running around warning that there was a conspiracy of red-haired people to take over the country, kill all the brunettes and torture all the blondes. My proof is that I had a nightmare about this last night and once before I had a dream that came true. Okay, that's not much evidence, but the whole country could be destroyed! The danger is so great, there's no time to wait for more evidence. We have to act now, by killing all the red-haired people before they kill us.

Would you take action based on that? I certainly hope you're not that crazy.

That's why I don't run in panic every time Hollywood liberals warn me of the latest doomsday scenario. I don't care how dire your warnings are. Your last three hundred warnings of doom turned out to be false alarms. If you want me to take action, show me some real evidence. Ratcheting up the scariness of the warning is not evidence. It's just Hollywood.

© 2007 by Jay Johansen


Comments

Ryan Jul 23, 2014

Henry Chan, I second that.The first movie swehod how to blackmail the Queen into abdicating: By holding her dog hostage. XDAnd then Johnny saves the day by crowning himself King and ordering John Malkovich locked away, and the guards actually obeyed. Man, that was funny like hell.A pity we won't be seeing Natalie Imbruglia for the sequel, but Gillian Anderson would do just as fine.

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