Pharyngula

How to cover doomsayers

If you’re disappointed in CNN, you can always turn to MSNBC…ooops, never mind, they’re solemnly reporting on the end-of-the-world nonsense from the Harold Camping Cult. They’re predicting the Rapture will come on 21 May.

I would like to propose a novel version of Pascal’s Wager for the news media. When apocalyptic cults come along and announce disaster and doom, ridicule them. Just rip into them, send your most sarcastic, cynical reporters to cover the story, and just shred all the followers as loons and gullible freaks. There will be two possible outcomes.

One, they’re right, and the world ends. Your business has nothing to gain or lose by taking them seriously before the big event — it’s going kaput no matter what. So have a grand time before the catastrophe and make money with laughter. It’s not as if listening to crazy ol’ Harold Camping will make a bit of difference in your fate.

Two, they’re wrong, and the world keeps rolling on beyond 21 May. We all win! It means your coverage was spot on perfect, and got all the right answers, while the cultists are going to have to go glumly back to living their miserable little failed lives. Follow up with a feature on all the broken-hearted crazies. Start looking for the next mob of nuts to mock.

See? That’s how to handle it. All this sober pandering to derangement gains you nothing.