Lauers SciFi Disaster Examines Our Lack of Future

Lauers SciFi Disaster Examines Our Lack of Future
World wont end before more viewers subjected to Today co-hosts wacky predictions of doom.

By Dan Gainor
Business & Media Institute
June 15, 2006

      We are the problem, declared NBCs Today co-anchor Matt Lauer doing a stint as host for the SciFi network. Lauer was referring to mankinds alleged misuse of planet Earth, but his comment better suits the media and his apocalyptic documentary.

     Lauers program, Countdown to Doomsday, merged nearly every science-fiction disaster flick ever made The Terminator, Deep Impact, I, Robot and, of course, the SciFi Channels own Battlestar Gallactica. Lauers news background gave an air of respectability to the documentary and the show was filled with news footage from Hurricane Katrina, 9/11 and more to reinforce that impression.

     In it, Lauer addressed what he called the 10 biggest threats to mankind from aliens to evil robots to, of course, global warming. It was up to viewers to decide whether they should include media hype as one of the prominent dangers.

     Predictably, climate change crusader Al Gore brought his campaign to the program with video of him declaring: I think what were facing is a planetary emergency. Its by far the most dangerous crisis our civilization has ever confronted.

     Gore must have been very disappointed. Lauer and his own horsemen of the apocalypse didnt think global warming rated higher than No. 4 on the list of top 10 threats. While Gores lecture was scary enough to beat out evil robots, volcanoes and terrorism, it fell two spots behind the current media frenzy for avian flu.

     Us Homo sapiens are turning out to be as destructive a force as any asteroid, claimed Lauer during the two-hour long disaster film. Thats some feat considering the devastating danger from comets and asteroids was listed as the No. 1 threat.

     When Lauer wasnt quoting song lyrics, he was citing discredited threats about over-population. Earths intricate web of ecosystems thrived for millions of years as natural paradises until we came along, paved paradise and put up a parking lot, said Lauer, channeling singer Joni Mitchells Big Yellow Taxi song.

     But he was serious about the harm mankind had done to the earth. The stark reality is that there are simply too many of us and we consume too much. Had this been the History Channel instead of the SciFi Channel, someone might have pointed out to Lauer that claim has been around for more than 200 years. It traces back to 1798 and Thomas Malthus whose work An Essay on the Principle of Population has been proven wrong as the world population has grown.

     Malthus claimed that mankind was growing at a rate faster than its food supply and eventually we would run out of food. The late professor Julian Simon argued that Malthus was entirely wrong and that human beings are a resource, not a drain. Human beings, the Cato Institute quoted him writing, are not just more mouths to feed, but are productive and inventive minds that help find creative solutions to mans problems, thus leaving us better off over the long run.

     But instead of someone of Simons stature, Doomsday had Al Gore and a lengthy list of left-wing groups and spokespeople, several focused just on global warming. None of them was any worse than Lauer who claimed: Freakish violent weather around the world is becoming the norm and no place is safe.

     Lauer didnt point out that no place has ever been safe from weather and that climate has changed numerous times throughout history without mankinds help. Instead, he was hyping the immediate risk. The devastating effects of global warming may be much more imminent than most people realize, he said.

     Apparently, not soon enough since there were three dangers listed that were even worse. One of them, a gamma ray burst, occurs spontaneously in space and could destroy the earth instantly. That was only No. 3.

     Lauer was happy to talk about solutions all of which seemed to cost money. Some of those, he said, included control population, recycle, reduce consumption, develop green technologies. Still, Countdown to Doomsday was almost entirely pessimistic about mankinds ability to handle the threats.

     SciFi Channel promos before the show morphed the word iF into the networks name, but for this movie the better word would have been when. When will aliens attack? When will mankind be destroyed? SciFi viewers might well hope that when will be before rerun season.

Gainor has previously written about the science fiction slant on the news.