The Cry Wolf Syndrome

6 Dec

Back when I was working at the library, we had one of those days when something went wrong with the fire alarm and it went off four times during my shift (and more, apparently, later in the day.)

The first time the alarm went off, we did our job and hurried the students out of their desks, down the stairwells and out of the library, where we waited in the cold for nearly half an hour before the staff confirmed that there was a glitch and the alarm had gone off by accident. So we went back into the building and got back to work …

For twenty minutes. At that point, the alarm went off again.

Well, we were a little torn, but we knew better than to ignore it. So we chased everyone out again … blah, blah, blah … for ten minutes, whereupon we were told to go back into the building once again. And then – you’ve guessed it – the alarm went off twice more and we finished our shift having managed to get next to nothing done.

What happened, which should have surprised no one, was how grumpy the students became as we shooed them out of the building. It was the run-up to exam season, after all, and there just weren’t enough copies of the latest books. People were taking the textbooks and hiding them behind the stacks, for heaven’s sake. By the time the alarm went off for the third and fourth time, the students were actively arguing with us, insisting that it was yet another glitch and they didn’t have to leave the building. I shudder to think what would have happened if the fourth alarm had been a real fire.

That, in short, is the ‘Cry Wolf’ Syndrome, where endless false alarms keep people from paying attention to a real alarm.

As you know, I posted an article on the media and Donald Trump on Thursday. It got some interesting feedback, ranging from agreement to suggestions that Obama wasn’t actually the worst President since Buchannan. But it also raised suggestions that Trump genuinely is a fascist.

Ok, let’s assume, purely for the sake of argument, that Donald Trump really is a fascist, a Hitler-in-the-making who intends to enslave the United States and throw the rest of the world into the fire, etc, etc. Except … who’s going to believe it?

The problem with the MSM today is that it takes sides (and yes, I include FOX in this as well as CNN). When it has a favoured candidate (Obama, for example) the media will cheerfully refuse to print anything that doesn’t suit their favoured narrative, while pouring all sorts of scorn on his opponents. People are used to seeing Republican Candidate X (or Y, or Z) hammered for being a [insert something which is a sin in the eyes of the elites] on very flimsy evidence. And they wonder, quite reasonably, why a tiny mistake should lead to the destruction of a promising political career.

(As a side note, the praise and adulation poured on Obama, before he’d done anything to earn it, clearly went to his head.)

The point is simple. There’s only so many times you can hear someone crying wolf before you decide it’s just another false alarm. The MSM has simply proven itself, time and time again, to be untrustworthy. Why should anyone listen to suggestions that Trump is a fascist when the media throws a hissy fit at the slightest opportunity?

The morale of ‘the boy who cried wolf’ is that, eventually, you run into a real wolf … and no one believes you. It’s a morale the MSM would do well to keep in mind.

14 Responses to “The Cry Wolf Syndrome”

  1. Rob Godfrey December 6, 2015 at 6:56 pm #

    Now this is a sad truth.

    • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard December 6, 2015 at 7:07 pm #

      Yep, if a leading Republican isn’t a Fascist, then he’s Nehemiah Scudder. [Frown]

      • Rob Godfrey December 6, 2015 at 8:52 pm #

        Well most of them (and if we are honest most dems) are corpratists to a lesser or greater degree, but that is inherent in a funding system that demands you find the richest donors you can, and those donors wanting value for money.

  2. Steve Callaway December 6, 2015 at 7:15 pm #

    Thank you, Mr, Nuttall. I look forward to your political analysis almost as much as I do to your wonderful books.

  3. PhilippeO December 7, 2015 at 2:32 am #

    Unfortunately, MSM is essentially for-profit entertainment channel, not political education channel.

    Every scandal get overblown, Every governmental mistake become proof that government is non-functioning, every crime become proof that world is now more dangerous than ever, every disaster become new Katrina, every monetary decision now protrayed that it will destroy the budget / social security / medicare, etc.

    And i don’t see any solution of this. Like it or not, despite every scorn that MSM is non-function, have biases, under corporate control, etc. MSM do fulfill TV watcher wishes. people appear to like being frightened and listen to dubious information.

    So National geographic fill its channel with poisonous animal and disgusting parasite. History channel with UFO, FOX News with danger of immigrant crime and socialism takeover, MSNBC with environtmental disaster, corporate abuse, and danger of Fascist takeover. And all channel have advertising about latest drug to cure whatever you think ailing you.

    Like it or not, the user decide the rating.

  4. Mark December 7, 2015 at 3:02 pm #

    I totally agree with you on this one Chris.

  5. Micha December 7, 2015 at 6:39 pm #

    PhilippeO has the right of it. The media news outlets aren’t in the business of reporting news anymore. They’re in the business of entertaining people under the guise of reporting true news.

    Like so many other kinds of businesses, the media are profit driven. They want ratings. They want recognition. The system just isn’t set up to encourage honest reporting with all the facts. The system is set up to report the scandalous and the outrageous, no matter the truth behind everything. Its set up to push out the story NOW before anyone else, no matter that you don’t have the facts or the slightest details. And if they’re wrong? No appology or correction given.

    If this had been a case of Crying Wolf, of sounding fake alarms for amusement, like in the story, that’d be one thing. But this goes further than that. The danger isn’t just the alarm not being heeded when a disaster strikes. The danger is that every time the fake alarm is being sounded and people are checking it out just in case? Someone is slipping in the back door to rob them.

    If a disaster never actually strikes, then crying wolf is pretty harmless on its own, beyond the sheer agravation of it. This is bringing the wolf in the back door while everyone is looking away by the distraction.

  6. Dennis the Menace December 7, 2015 at 9:07 pm #

    And then Peter ran around screaming:

    “The Earth is Warming! Antarctica is melting! By 2013 the Arctic Circle will be totally ice free!”

    • Rob Godfrey December 7, 2015 at 9:11 pm #

      and then the people who deny the simple scientific fact rolled another cigar and raped another child to death.

      • Matthew Bird December 9, 2015 at 8:33 pm #

        Meanwhile the NSIDC which studies the North Pole indicates recovery of 89,000 square miles of ice coverage and the models for Global Warming have been renamed to Climate change. The funding for climate change research is skewed towards those who indicate drastic change but the numbers don’t match.

  7. Jim December 9, 2015 at 1:12 pm #

    Mark Twain was credited with saying that if you did not read the papers you were UNinformed and if you did read the papers you were MISinformed.

  8. Cindy March 28, 2017 at 4:24 pm #

    I totally agree with your article but I have to point out that it’s the “moral of the story”. Morale is “the confidence, enthusiasm, and discipline of a person or group at a particular time.” Sorry to be the grammar nazi but I had to say it.

  9. Ronald Quinton May 22, 2019 at 1:13 am #

    Well, this is what I got, sorta.
    Today, I told a radiation therapist/technician: I have “the boy who cried wolf syndrome.” Afterwards, I thought, I better giggle to make sure there isn’t an syndrome. I dubbed, myself this in the early 90’s, because I’m a serious joker. I come off as if I’m serious, then people that don’t know me well, thinks, I’m a real nut. I don’t own words, and I don’t do friends, but there was also, a time in the 80’s where some felt the need to protect me, and become friends, and it was a dangerous situation. I told them…”I could do bad all by myself.” I don’t do movies, and I’d never heard that phrase before.

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