Saturday, October 22, 2011

OMG! Shark Attack Hype!

Cue the theme music for Jaws. This morning the LA Times ran a front page story about a great white shark attack that killed an American diver today off southwest Australia. It is the third such fatality in recent weeks and "has shaken beach-loving residents and sparked fears of a rogue predator targeting humans." The diver's death is of course unfortunate. But the story is patently ridiculous. Sharks do not lie awake at night salivating at the thought of People Happy Meals. In fact, most sharks attacks are accidental and non-fatal. (But hey, why let the facts get in the way of a good meme, right?) Nor do these predators specifically target humans (as the movies and the news media keep suggesting). Sharks dine when the opportunity presents itself. Period. The notion of "rogue" sharks is equally preposterous. Some shark species (the great white among them) are believed to be territorial animals who tend to attack when threatened, according to the National Park Service. In the case of today's breaking news, large numbers whales happen to be migrating off the west Australian coast. That kinda explains the presence of the sharks. Your odds of being shark food? Remote in the extreme. You are 30 times more likely to be killed by lightning than by a shark. In fact, dog bites are 1,000 times more common than shark bites. And yet the media-driven hysteria is such that even sane government officials are forced to "do something." Aussie officials have "promised to hunt the killer." Uh huh, right. Cue the scene in Jaws when Sam Quint says: "Y'all know me. I'll catch this bird for you, but it ain't gonna be easy. Bad fish. This shark, swallow you whole. $10,000 for me by myself. For that you get the head, the tail, the whole damn thing." Here's the bottom line: To be foolish is human. To hype foolishness is to be a newspaper.

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