I just finished watching a press conference from the Centers for Disease Control, and I can't help but think that I've seen that scene before.
You know, the one wherein the lead character turns on the TV and some faux news broadcast covers an emerging crisis (from Global Cable News, or some other made-up network). We know it's a hint that the utter destruction of civilization is coming in about 20 minutes or so, but our protagonist simply notes it, which makes sense, since portent of Armageddon haunts almost every hour of the daily news (and swirls across the Internet far more frequently, as well as virulently).
We've seen the entire movie, actually, only today I think it feels like it's really happening.
Maybe it's a symptom of my loss of faith in our public institutions. I mean, come on now, our government couldn’t predict the fall of the Soviet Union, the miasma in Iraq, the devastation of Katrina, or the collapse of our economy. What has it done or said that proves it knows what's going on with the swine flu outbreak?
Every declaration is nuanced or caveated with blatant wiggle room: it's a public health emergency, only not really. Travel is being restricted, well, on a voluntary basis. Nobody in the U.S. has died from it, but that could change. Families need not panic, but they should start thinking about how they'd feed themselves if stores were closed.
The Feds can't clearly tell us what's known, and what's unknown, even when they try. I understand that the situation is changing minute-to-minute, but the TV news segments come across with this overwhelming sense that everyone is chasing the story, instead of getting ahead of it. Like it's a movie plot that we viewers alone know will inevitably lead to Will Smith doing battle with mutants.
Worse, without clarity from the authorities, we turn to the Internet to find plot twists. I bet there's a disgruntled bioengineering researcher (played by Russell Crowe) sulking out there, somewhere, with this computer printout that predicts the demise of the human race. There's a Denzel Washington character who can explain how 4 different strands of flu DNA got woven together into a terrorist plot to kill the President. The fact that Americans are recovering from the disease means they're slowly turning into zombies, and Milla Jovovich will have to waste 'em all.
I mean us.
The excruciatingly precise verisimilitude of the movies isn't helping things. We've watched actors living ordinary lives, like Tom Cruise in "The War of the Worlds," or Jake Gyllenhaal and his pals in "The Day After Tomorrow, " so we know that it's rather common to bicker with your kids or chase the ingenue, and then WHAM! Now, you're running from blood-sucking alien harvesters, or camping out in a public library buried under a mile of snow.
It all seems so very real, almost possible, because we've seen it happen so many times before. And, whether real or just a really good yarn, the news media -- and through it, our government -- help move the story along, usually with a large dose of foreshadowing...like you want to yell at the screen don't you dolts see what’s about to happen?
Well, don't we?