Last night Atlanta had some pretty rough storms roll through town. High winds, rain, hail, and lightning made quite a mess outside. My 11 mile commute to work had four detours from roads blocked by trees, utility lines and debris. About half of the neighborhoods I drove through were pitch black because they had no power.
The FM DJs on the station I was listening to were being pretty factual about their reporting. They were just stating the facts. Roads x, y, and z are blocked. Power out in x, y and z areas of town. But when I get in to work a coworker is complaining about how bad the am stations were reporting the storm. In his short commute he heard the aftermath compared to a “war zone” several times. Really? A war zone? Really? Were they bodies in the streets? Gunfire? Burning buildings? Sure there were trees down and leaves and crap spread everywhere, but a war zone? Come on. I remember as a kid being told the story of the boy who cried wolf. Apparently some people need a refresher course.
The boy who cried wolf caused the public to ignore his pleas. He had changed the definition of the word “wolf”. It no longer meant the same thing and was now something that could be ignored. Same goes for calling the storm damage a “war zone”.
A few years ago a gas pipeline blew up in California and completely blew up or burned an entire subdivision. I did not criticize anybody for saying that looked like a “war zone”. Now, if something like that were to happen today in Georgia what words are left to describe it? “War zone” now just means limbs and stuff spread around. You have diluted the words and they no longer have their original meaning.
It hit me today that the problem I have with this type of exaggeration is the same problem I have with the political inflammatory rhetoric. Suppose a real Socialist, a real Nazi, or a real Fascist were to run for election. What words are you left with to describe them? The past few years people have been throwing the words around without understanding that they are diluting the meaning. The three term are used as synonyms, they aren’t, and they are all used to mean “anybody who wants to control something I don’t want them to”.
Perhaps we could all benefit from asking an elementary school kid to retell us the story of the boy who cried wolf. Remember the moral to that story? He used scary words when there really wasn’t anything to be afraid of and people stopped listening and stopped caring when the real wolf showed up.
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