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In My Own Words

End Times?

Nick Pane

(3/2013) The populace of Chelyabinsk, Russia received quite the wake-up call last month when a meteor traveling at incredibly high speeds exploded across the Siberian sky. According to various sources, the meteor entered Earth's atmosphere on Friday, February 15 just before 9:30 a.m. local time. The meteor was initially believed to only be about the size of a bus, but later reports confirmed that it was actually much larger, weighing about 10,000 tons - good for being the biggest object to hit Earth in 100 years. More than 1,000 people were injured and numerous buildings were damaged from the amount of energy released from the blast.

While Chelyabinsk is located in a relatively remote area of Russia, the rest of the world had a pretty good view of the meteor strike as well. Russia is a country notorious for the use of dash cams due to the high amount of corruption within law enforcement, making them all but a necessity for motorists. As a result, we had front-row seats to the spectacle that was this giant meteor blazing across the sky. Some of the footage included a blinding light over a roundabout, people being knocked over from inside buildings, and doors and windows getting blown out.


It was all a very fascinating thing to behold, but only seeing it from afar, we can only imagine how scary it must have been for the people of Chelyabinsk to witness. It's a scary thing to think about a meteor exploding over your city, and considering that there were no reported deaths is definitely a pleasant surprise. What was surprising was the amount of coverage the event seemed to receive given its newsworthiness.

If you recall, my February article (The Dumbing Down of America) discussed the state of television today, and talked about how Edward R. Murrow predicted the direction television was going in back in the 1950's. Murrow's show covered the biggest stories and provided the facts, but he worried that television was beginning to reflect the traits of American society. I bring this up because certain aspects of the meteor coverage, at least in my opinion, were improperly handled, and Murrow surely would have had a problem with it.

One thing that Murrow would have taken issue with was the initial report regarding the size of the meteor. At first, it was believed that the meteor was no bigger than a school bus that weighed roughly 10 tons. Later night, scientists released new information that they had acquired, confirming that the meteor was actually three times as large as the first approximation, and weighed closer to 10,000 tons. Talk about readings being a little bit off. I commented on this issue in that same February article, suggesting that journalism today is all about being first and not necessarily right, and this story just exemplifies that claim. It is likely that someone in the media got word of the early reports about how big the meteor was, and without doing enough research to ensure that the numbers were correct, they decided to report on the story using numbers that turned out to be completely off. I suppose you would expect scientists to have the technology to give a much more accurate reading on the meteor, but my point still stands that someone went ahead and reported those numbers to the public.

I also think Murrow would have been surprised at how the meteor was covered by some news outlets. I couldn't help but notice that the story itself didn't seem to be receiving the amount of attention it deserved. For example, CNN's website had the story covered as one of its featured stories, but it was grouped together in the "In The News" section with the likes of the cruise ship accidents and Oscar Pistorius, among other things. Personally, I just feel like a story about a meteor crashing into Earth and doing the amount of damage that it did should stand out as the exclusive story, especially when the other stories were ongoing at this point.

It felt like the meteor was being thrown together with other stories as if it didn't merit more coverage, especially when there was so much footage available thanks to the dash cams. Coupled with the fact that so many people were caught up with the "end of the world" speculation back in December, you would think that the meteor would have received more exclusive coverage.

People are obsessed with the idea of the world ending. Whether it is from a natural disaster of catastrophic proportions, a war, or a random prophecy made up by some loon in a cult, it seems that an incalculable number of people believe they will see the world end in their lifetime. In fact, The Christian Science Monitor reported that half of the readers of one Russian newspaper believed that the meteor could have been a divine symbol, a UFO, or an attack from the United States. If you type "Chelyabinsk Meteor" into Google's search engine, four of the articles on the first page have something in them about the meteor possibly being something else. A fifth article questions whether the meteor brought a deadly virus to the planet.

The end of the world spinoff that stories like these receive is absolutely ridiculous, yet people are infatuated with the idea. There is even a National Geographic show called "Doomsday Preppers", which documents and follows the lives of people who have lost all sanity. These "preppers" truly believe that the end of the world is a legitimate possibility, and viewers get to see the great lengths that these people go to to ensure their survival in the event of something catastrophic taking place. I can't believe that there are enough people with this type of mindset to have a show about it, and events such as the meteor just gives these people more material to capitalize on, and sway the opinions of anyone dumb enough to listen to them.

Even Emmitsburg had a end-of-the-world cult of its own at one time, and I'm sure they remnants of the cult are spinning this story as proof of their leaderís prediction that we would soon see "two suns in the sky" was true. Unfortunately for them, the prediction of that 60-70% of all life on Earth would be wiped out was wrong - instead all they got was a lot of broken windows.

For anyone that still needs reassurance, the object that entered Earth's atmosphere and exploded roughly 15 miles above Chelyabinsk, was a meteor and nothing more. We should be focusing more about how fortunate the town is, because an explosion of that magnitude could have done significantly more damage. In no way does this meteor have anything to do with the end of the world, although not everyone will believe that. I can only imagine what the "preppers" are currently saying - and what adjustments they are making to their bunkers below the ground while the rest of us continue to go on with our lives above ground.

Read other articles by Nick Pane