Media shapes ideologies

Ashley Owens and Sierra Tryon

Hollywood has been using the apocalypse as a major plot point in movies and TV shows causing some to think more about the end of the world and others to dismiss it as fiction.

Richard Taflinger, a communications professor at the Edward R. Murrow College of Communications at WSU, sheds new light on the reasons behind beliefs about the apocalypse.

“The end of the world has been a common theme throughout history,” Taflinger said.

History has revealed many apocalypses within cultural groups.

“Every religion has its own apocalypse,” Taflinger said. “Christians have Armageddon and Norse legend tells of Ragnarok, of the earth ending in fire and ice.”

Although most believe it to be just legend, such superstitions have carried on into present day.

“There are reality TV shows out there, like Doomsday Preppers,” Taflinger said. “They prepare shelters and gather food, water and weapons.”

Taflinger sees a few sources for apocalyptic misconceptions.

“Political differences can lead to statements about the apocalypse,” Taflinger said. “Some people will say ‘Oh, Obama got re-elected, the world is going to end.’”

Such political play is not new to this day and age.

“Politics playing on the world-is-ending fears has gone back centuries,” Taflinger said. “People who are trying to get power will play on religious fears. ‘Join me, give me your money and I can help you survive.’”

Taflinger believes media portrays apocalyptic events in fictional and non-fictional ways.

“Fictional shows about zombies and vampires take it seriously,” Taflinger said. “Non-fictional shows likeDoomsday Preppers show the audience that there are people who think this way. The shows say if you do think this way,you’re dumb.”

Taflinger explained the reason for producing shows on the non-fictional side is to portray the susceptible side of human nature and to highlight incorrect beliefs.

“Many of the people on such shows are uneducated and the shows belittle them because they have these beliefs,” Taflinger said. “These people are not paying attention to reality because they’re living in their own reality.”

Taflinger attributes a decrease in hype about the upcoming 2012 apocalypse to the media’s choice of content.

“In the news [media] there is an agenda and what the media says is what people will think about,” Taflinger said. “Media tells people what to think about but they don’t say WHAT to think about it.”

With all the political events happening this year, it’s easy to see why the 2012 apocalypse has lost attention.

“The apocalypse of 2012 has been crowded out due to events like the election, the upcoming fiscal cliff or the economy,” Taflinger said.

The lack of media attention in recent times has contributed to the public focusing more on real issues and less on apocalyptic legends.

“The media will pay attention to things that impact audience’s lives,” Taflinger said. “Old legends with no proof will get less attention. And the people who are still thinking about‘2012’ are probably obsessed.”

Junior Drew Janker does not believe the world will end Dec. 21.

“I don’t think the 2012 apocalypse is real,” Janker said. “Hollywood is releasing movies after Dec. 21.”

Despite having many friends who share interests in shows such as The Walking Dead, Janker knows no one taking the apocalypse seriously enough to prepare.

Sophomore Tom Nguyen mocked the idea of the looming apocalypse.

“If the world does really end on the Dec. 21 I’ll be sad because that’s the day the new Jordan Bred 11 shoes come out,” Nguyen said.

Many people like Janker and Nguyen do not take the apocalypse seriously because there is little science to support the claims. The apocalypse can be considered a myth because it is not based on scientific facts.

Taflinger relates the reasons we might believe in such myths to reality.

“Society understands itself through the stories we tell,” Taflinger said.

Keeping that in mind, Taflinger believes that those with a lower level of education are more likely to believe in stories and mythology.

“Having a lower education makes it harder to understand scientific reality,” Taflinger said. “Society has a tendency to rearrange the facts and add new ones to make the story they’re telling more interesting.”

Taflinger believes supernatural creatures are a part of American culture. Throughout history, people have had a need to understand what’s happening around them, so they make up a story to make sense of things.

“In the tropics, people would get bitten or stung by something and therefore were injected with a poison that shuts the body down,” Taflinger said. “They appear dead, [until] the poison wears off and they sit back up.”

Although this was the work of toxins, many people would have explained the events by saying that the infected person was a zombie. Hollywood takes advantage of this and produces popular shows like The Walking Dead from those ideas.

Taflinger explained that scientifically, things frequently happen out of nowhere.

“An asteroid is just a rock, it doesn’t have conscious thoughts,” Taflinger said. “But in the Armageddon movie, the asteroid has intent of hitting the earth.”

Taflinger stood by the “the world is a story” metaphor.

“People view the world as a story and every story has a problem followed by a climax,” Taflinger said. “If you view reality as a story, then everything must have a reason.”