May 16, 2012

The Virtual Sky Is Falling! Or Maybe Not

I’m all for good stories about media-fueled inflated panics. Y2K. The Rapture. The world coming to an end according to the Mayans. Good stuff, all. But there comes a point where it’s hard to tut-tut the media for feeding a public frenzy when there doesn’t appear to be any evidence that’s what’s going on. Sort of an inflated panic about inflated panics, as it were.

Did you know there’s going to be an Internet “apocalypse” on July 9? Me neither. But according to this article at Salon:
The apocalyptic story line was once reserved for truly apocalyptic events. Nuclear war. The return of Christ. Environmental or economic collapse. But it’s 2012, and the apocalypse has become the basis for everything from Super Bowl commercials to summer romantic comedies . . . Just read coverage of the so-called Internet Doomsday virus, which will supposedly strike and shut down the Web on July 9.
Here’s the thing – the Salon piece doesn’t cite, link to, or quote any of that coverage. If it’s so pervasive, I figured a quick Google search would provide a cascade of it. Alas, all I found was a few techy articles and links back to the Salon piece. This article at TechRepublic about the underlying problem (and how to fix it), too, begins:
If one were to believe some headlines, there’s an Internet apocalypse coming on July 9, 2012, when hundreds of thousands of computers will be unable to access the Internet because of actions by the FBI.
Again, however, there are not quotes, cites, or links to these pervasive headlines. I’m pretty plugged into the news cycle, especially when it comes to Net-related stuff and I’ve never heard of this impending doom. Given the roots of the alleged panic (the FBI is involved, after all), you’d think that it would have spawned some good conspiracy theories, at least. I haven’t found any. The actual details of the criminal investigation are kind of interesting, though, and are set out in the Salon piece.

Don’t get me wrong – the media frequently latches onto some small problem and blows it entirely out of proportion. Like this:

or this:

So it’s good to hold them accountable when they do. But I’m not sure that’s happening in this case. If you’re going to get into a panic about a bullshit panic, at least provide some evidence of the panic in the first place, all right?

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