Saturday, August 27, 2011

Crying Wolf


As a number of people have pointed out, Hurricane Irene is the Apocalypse that wasn't. Indeed, this article suggests that a substantial number of people simply didn't believe the shrill warnings we got from the politicians and the press in the first place.

It puts one in mind, does it not, of a certain Aesop's fable, known to scholars as number 210 in Curry's catalog. (Okay, I'm a pedant. It's my job. So shoot me.) Here it is:
There was a boy tending the sheep who would continually go up to the embankment and shout, 'Help, there's a wolf!' The farmers would all come running only to find out that what the boy said was not true. Then one day there really was a wolf but when the boy shouted, they didn't believe him and no one came to his aid. The whole flock was eaten by the wolf. [Aesop's Fables. A new translation by Laura Gibbs. Oxford University Press (World's Classics): Oxford, 2002.]

Fear seems to be an abundant and inevitable product of the democratic state. I have commented earlier that this means that, if its leaders have their way, its citizens will live in a permanent state of being more or less scared out of their wits.

I now realize that there is also a down side if they don't have their way, and people just stop believing what they are told. There is a legitimate role for alarms and warnings, if they are overused they will cease to work.

Update: On the crying wolf theme, see the last paragraph of this.

But maybe the best comment is this.

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