Thursday, September 29

Alarmism, apocalypse and show in the year of the snow and the volcano

«Intergenerational dinner, danger mortal», La Sexta labeled in rabid technicolor last Wednesday the 22nd. Only hours after the Ministry of Health published in its ‘Update number 529’ on the ‘Coronavirus disease’ every Thursday that the tweekly death rate with full vaccination was 0.02 per 100,000 people aged 30 to 59 years. Above, up to 80 years of age, the fatality rate was 0.38 and from 29 and below, it was 0.00. Zero.

That same Friday, with Christmas Eve already bogged down, the Government would fire the controversy with the imposition of the mask again outdoors, perhaps noise calculated to hide the very significant

absence of restrictive measures. Neither closures nor closures nor gauges. It would be for a reason.

Since the beginning of the pandemic in 2020, catastrophism –“Information terrorism” According to Javier Marías– he has not given a truce, not even in this year of the snow and the volcano. “Vegetable hecatomb caused by Filomena”, it was written (, January 25). Predictions of “acid rain on La Palma” were not lacking (‘El País’, September 22) typical of the Apocalypse according to Saint John. And when between one anniversary and another the tension fell back in September, coinciding with the mirage of the end of the virus, the masses were stirred with the psychosis of the alleged great universal blackout and the threat – full eve of ‘Black Friday’, oh coincidence – from a terrifying shortage. Fear precipitated purchases and emptied stores of items such as camping gas or generators. And most likely, he filled the odd cash register.

«There have been changes in the media sphere and they have to do with the transition to digital environments“, Says the director of the Department of Sociology of the University of Valladolid and doctor in Audiovisual Communication, Miguel Vicente Mariño, who explains that the classical media,” which before they had the monopoly When it comes to raising the alarm about what is happening, they fight today with many more voices that speak at the same time, thousands of people who reproduce, alter, modify the messages, everyone can launch their own, governments, parties … that do not always compete in terms of rigor, of respect for the norms of journalistic method ».

Welcome to the empire of networks, the algorithms of the platforms that are monitored in real time. The stampede of atrocities to capture attention in the virtual jungle is served. And with it the crossroads faced by the media from before, radios, newspapers or televisions: «Running a lot to get to the top and making messages so that people are aware, alert and consume the contents or respect the rules of the profession and make messages more leisurely, more based on evidence and data “, describes the professor.

Record numbers

In recent times – “What to give to someone who is preparing for the end of the world due to the energy blackout”, (Elle, November 22); “The ‘perfect storm’ that shakes the world: shortages, light through the clouds and a new variant of Covid”, October 29 in this same newspaper – the option of the spectacular seems to prevail. Because it cannot be ignored that high audiences, clicks, are money. The more audience, the more expensive you sell the seconds and the square centimeters of your ads.

“It is one of the strategies that draws the most attention due to the emotional connection: the high-impact image, the tragedies, will leave us petrified in front of the screen. And unfortunately it is what is sought, it is a value. Having more and more viewers is monetized», Indicates the professor of Audiovisual Communication and Advertising of the Autonomous University of Barcelona Illiana Ferrer. Vicente Mariño points out that there is also “an almost anthropological tendency” that both individually and collectively tunes us in with the alarming: «To think that we live in the worst and most critical moment in history. It is a constant, a way of understanding that it is very close at hand and we are constantly activating ».

Put the focus on what happens in the TV to observe these drives has immense logic. It is the “fastest, most credible and understandable means for families” and one that is “used systematically when it comes to finding out about especially relevant events», Recalls Enrique García Maroto, director of Geca’s National Consulting. Underline a date that has gone down in history: March 15, 2020, first Sunday of confinement due to the coronavirus crisis, when Spain registered «the highest television consumption »ever seen: 335 minutes on average per viewer. In the same way that the storm Filomena caused that last January “seven newscasts sneaked into the ranking of the 25 most viewed programs of the month.” The unusual.

In the regional channels, also data from Geca, the snowfall made Telemadrid double its daily quota on January 9 (11.9%) and on January 20 it reached 10.6% by devoting its entire programming to coverage of another misfortune, that of a gas explosion in Toledo street that caused four deaths. It is not surprising that with the eruption on La Palma, TV Canaria «increase your audience by around 400% in the first days”. At the national level, this content “came to account for more than 80% of the list of some newscasts in several days.”

Sensationalism is addictive, it hooks. There are informative pieces to music that seek to excite. There are no more barriers between genders »

“The spectacularization of news on television It has a significant impact on the audience, not only by increasing the time of consumption of those who usually watch it, but also by attracting those who do so sporadically and who tend to get information through the internet and preferably by mobile phone ”, explains José Manuel Eleta , attached to the management of Barlovento Comunicación that, regardless of catastrophes, affects the “great interest” that other issues arouse. Many of them, «of an economic nature, such as pensions or unemployment»And that depending« on their treatment and frequency of emission, –precisely– they can reach this category of ‘crisis alarm’ ”.

What is likely to end in show format and fix yourself a ‘prime time’ is much more. “We have also identified others such as gender violence or highly media crimes that give good acceptance rates and not only are a growing part of the news, but in many cases they constitute complete sections of magazines and current affairs programs of some channels.” Around the assassination of Samuel Luiz in July, an alarm was built against hate crimes and “gay hunting” that came to take on a threat to national security.

When we bet on scaremongering, so magnetic, we find ourselves faced with «almost soap operas … with beginning, middle and end», Summarizes Illiana Ferrer. “Sensationalism, dramatized coverage is addictive, engaging” but, in addition, formally, it is increasingly presented using the visual and sound language characteristic of entertainment spaces, computer graphics, post-production effects, dizzying rhythms in montages, amenity, fascination … «We have found pinformative songs set to music, that appeal to the senses, to excite. There are no more barriers between genders, “he concludes. It is ‘hybridization’.

The parallel news

The interest in extending lucrative content to the endless, with specials one after the other that squeeze every last resort, live shows that last hours, often leads to the deformation of the news with the trivial and the insignificant. It is trivialized until the speech is accessible to the largest possible number of viewers. To the extent that the doctrine already recognizes the phenomenon of the express manufacture of «pseudo-events» for the cameras, «whose informative value is zero», Warned the political scientist Giovanni Sartori in« Homo videns: The remote controlled society ».

The line between manufactured and invented is very thin. Gérard Imbert, author of ‘The Visual Zoo: From Spectacular Television to Specular Television’ spoke of the creation of a ‘parallel news’, a sort of «Fiction of the everyday» which is also contagious from one medium to another. Today, the fables of the blackout and shortages would belong to that category.

It should be recognized that from this exaggerated hypertrophy of everything that seeks audiences, readers, punctures, what is damaged is the sense of reality. «All the apocalyptic theories, the conspiracies that we want to see, point to simplified solutions and accounts of reality, quite biased“, Determines Vicente Mariño, which” does not help people to have a rational vision of what is in front of them.

The expert adds other risks that catastrophic overdoses entail: «If the speech is kept in alarm code, at a very high level of tension, the effects are not uniform or easy to predict, but a part of the audiences will disconnectIt will not matter to him if they continue to raise alarms because he will have already adjusted his daily life to that state. What in the long run makes this counterproductive practice, even for the purpose of capturing audiences.

It is important not to lose sight of the fact that not only do the media live out of inertia and their own interests, but also those of those who are a source of news and, why not say it, of income. Governments that dose and extreme alarmism because, as Professor Ferrer indicates, «This over-information covers other topics that they should have more relevance, and that they are left without a place ”. Nothing like a good catastrophe, even an imaginary one, to act as a smokescreen.

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