In case you missed it, a couple of days ago the Doomsday Clock was moved 30 seconds closer to Global Armageddon, catastrophe, destruction, devastation – pick your best adjective. The Doomsday Clock is a symbolic clock face that has been maintained since 1947 by the The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists‘ Science and Security Board. The rise of extreme nationalism, the potential consequences of the election of Donald Trump, rising nuclear tensions and climate change are all reasons for the resetting of the clock from three to two and half minutes to midnight. An arrival at midnight represents Armageddon and Global Catastrophe.
Much might be made of numerous factors: political insecurity, leadership recklessness through a distinct lack of foresight or comprehension of the consequences of statements and policies, an inadequate display of responsibility appropriate to political roles, North Korea, the complex and proliferating problems of Russia and US or China and US symmetries, the accelerating race into a potentially irreversible climate-altered future. Climate Change represents a vast unfolding disaster which is being boosted by a rampant head-in-sand denialism of those for whom the very concept may be beyond comprehension, imagination, or the ability to recognise something beyond their limited ideological silos of comforting self-reflective narrative, of a psychologically-soothing fiction or politically-oriented mythology of self and nation. It is all quite clearly a complete mess.
On the topic of the denial of climate science: a person (or group) holding a strong belief on the topic just because they fundamentally doesn’t understand it or because its revelations are unsettling, uncomfortable or fundamentally question the ideological world and beliefs they hold most closely – this is akin to a child’s tantrum. This is the childish belief that refusing to accept reality as it actually exists because you want something else to be true will actually change reality, that the world will shape itself to ultimately selfish and fundamentally self-interested motives and desires. The thing about science is that it remains true regardless of whether or not you believe it. While it is true that science remains incomplete and is forever progressing towards its object of study, it is still the best description of reality that we have. Only a spoilt child will unremittingly continue to behave the same way when confronted with a fact that they do not accept.
Climate Change is one of the most consequential revelations science has ever made and the existential shock which should be acknowledged in reception of the message is only trumped by the fact that a human political and social order under the extreme stresses of unremitting climate-induced disasters and extreme weather events will be much more prone to international conflict.
We now live in an era where the mass manufacture of biased and untrue “facts” is becoming an accepted part of the global information economy and media landscape. This is actually where the most simultaneously interesting and discouraging feature of the recent adjustment of the Doomsday Clock can be observed. In an information environment of ubiquitous over-supply and proliferating white noise, there is a diminished likelihood of significant numbers of people becoming politically or socially activated around an issue such as looming global disaster. The message of burgeoning cataclysmic tragedy is swept away by the rising tide of home-improvement TV shows, sports and entertainment news, celebrity piffle, game shows and distractions. The received message of the sobering statement that we are all that much closer to annihilating ourselves becomes indistinguishable in value from the latest Marvel movie extravaganza or celebrity stunt.
There is currently a genuine sense in which the not necessarily well-planned 140-character statements of a US President have the ability to set in train a sequence of events which escalates rapidly and ends with every major city in the world becoming dark glass, twisted steel and radioactive ashes. An era in which the information over-supply have devalued the received significance of meanings has reflexively led to a world in which anyone can construct messages to gratify themselves or to irritate others. There is a maelstrom of information and confused meanings and interpretations which has led to a majority of participants in the information economy to desensitise, to switch-off their critical faculties. This is not purely about the construction of safe information spaces and the acquiescent acceptance of personal filter bubbles, this is about a large number of people not noticing the critically important events taking place in the world around them because they are distracted by trivial narratives and commercially-biased media content of no lasting significance.
I dream of a world where the truth is what shapes people’s politics, rather than politics shaping what people think is true.
— Neil deGrasse Tyson (@neiltyson) January 24, 2017
A general semantic devaluation and flattening of the topography of significance attributed to the meaning of any particular communicated message has meant that serious and world-shaking news, scientific discovery or political revelation all becomes about as important on statistical average to the global media audience as does celebrity gossip.
For example: a tale of two media narratives:
What matters to you ? What is more important and deserves to be shared and discussed ? Take your pick.