Tuesday, 23 September 2008

ANALYSIS: it's the global apocalyptic financial end-of-the-world money armageddon!!

Far be it from me to suggest that the mainstream media has a nasty tendency to overhype things, but as you'll have seen if you've read Doomwatch in issue two, they have a nastier tendency to reach for the apocalyptic phrase book when things turn sour, as evidenced by the language used in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

So is it unreasonable for the financial press to avoid “crash,” “panic,” “apocalypse,” “Armageddon,” “meltdown” or “freefall” in news stories?

More to the point, does the speed with which they fall back on apocalyptic imagery alter our behaviour towards such events? If we're conditioned to react instinctively and quickly to such strong language then doesn't using it without just cause make over-reaction more likely? Do such words spark an inherent herd instinct to protect ourselves? What effect did the publishing of images of queues outside Northern Rock have?

How easy is it to describe something as an 'apocalypse' yet how hard to explain precisely how - while many people are suffering from the effects of a global economic downturn, will the world's financial sector crumble to dust, leaving us homeless, destitute and eventually eating each other in the streets? Highly doubtful. Yet frightening images are conjured up by these words and when big financial decisions are being made based on the latest rumour, words and how you use them become very important indeed. Image a president or a prime minister using words like 'apocalypse', 'armageddon' or 'end of the world' - we know they don't, simply because they'd spread panic. So what happens when reporters put such words into people's mouths? For all our tomfoolery at The End is Nigh, in the big wide world the apocalypse is not for toying with.

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