If you’ve seen this year’s ultra-mega disaster film “2012″ you already know that the “crazy” end-of-the-world conspiracist played by Woody Harrelson meets his end as a supervolcano’s fireball swallows him whole.
If you haven’t, well… now you know.
But anybody can die. It’s how Harrelson’s character dies that gives us a foreshadowing of our own fate in such a disaster.
Harrelson plays Charlie Frost, a loony who runs a homemade radio station from the back of his RV. With a portable broadcasting unit strapped on his back, he climbs a mountain peak to describe his destruction first-hand to anyone who might be listening.
And then the signal dies.
Radio is just an old-fashioned form of delivering the news, and not everyone controls a signal or owns the technology necessary to keep it running. But take any form of technology today and you’ll find that similar citizen journalists are just as equipped to take on disaster and peril as Mr. Frost was.
Cellular phones are the new radio-backpacks. Twitter, Facebook, Livestream, YouTube, and Cover-It-Live are the new radio-waves.
A craving for Internet fame has turned ordinary people into paparazzi and instant reporters, provided there’s some sort of gripping development unfolding.
Planes going down in the Hudson, protests in Iran, even the tragedy at Fort Hood. If it’s big and it’s bad, it’s retweeted.
It wasn’t always this way though. If you watch disaster films of the past, you’ll notice a strong human instinct to escape. A tsunami crashes into New York City in “Deep Impact” and people run screaming for their lives.
But that was before Internet-in-your-pocket became as common as keys-in-your-pocket.
I’m convinced that if the same massive tidal wave struck Manhattan today, there’d be quite a few citizen journalists risking and sacrificing their lives to capture the breathtaking images that people in Kansas would watch on TV moments later.
Perhaps, when there’s an inevitability of sudden death, the destruction becomes easier to face, and instead of holding their breath and being swept under, these suicidal stringers upload their fate as evidence, warning, or just sheer breathtaking horror.
It’s entertaining to see Weather Channel meteorologists holding onto a microphone and a pole during a hurricane, as the wind threatens to blow them off the air and into the air. There’s just something about reporting despite the danger that keeps us glued to the screen.
And now television networks have turned their viewers into risk-takers while Wolf Blitzer sits comfortably behind a studio desk calling for free footage: “If you have any video of the tornado, upload your iReport now.”
The sad thing is, when the end of the world does come, you can bet there’s going to be a lot less screaming and a lot more streaming.