Germans generally are very critical people, and when things aren’t exactly as they should be, they tend to get awfully bent out of shape over it.
Anything outside specifications quickly gets labeled by Germans as a “disaster”. And if it meanders beyond that, it gets labeled a catastrophe. Example: if Germany loses a World Cup football game, say 2 to 1, the game is immediately called a disaster. And should the German squad get trounced, say 3 to 0, then it is: a catastrophe.
“Katastrophe” is one of the favorite words of the German media. It gets used all the time.
Anything that finds itself not in a normal state is automatically described as “catastrophic”. That’s just the way Germans are. And since global temperature has been 0.8°C above “normal”, it’s no surprise that Germans have called it the Klimakatastrophe (climate catastrophe).
And since then, every severe storm and weather anomaly has routinely been called a “catastrophe” by the media. All departures from normal weather are called “catastrophes”. But because there have been so many “catastrophes” lately, the word itself has lost all its psychological and emotional impact. The word catastrophe in Germany is literally worn out. That has become a real problem for the German media. Today using the word “Katastrophe” produces yawns from Germans. It has no effect at all.
So what are the German media to do now that the word catastrophe no longer delivers the desired punch?
No problem- since Haiyan struck the Philippines the German media have found a new replacement word with which to wow the audience: apocalyptic, or apocalypse. Over the last few days the German public have been bombarded by these two words everywhere in the German media. The apocalypse has arrived!
Naturally, when the big ones like Spiegel start employing hyperdramatics, the other media outlets are forced to follow. In today’s world of diminishing media credibility and audiences, it’s a question of bare survival. The race to out-hype is on.
The Austrian website FORMAT.at here describes the Philippines as an “apocalyptic situation“. For the German media it seems the world is really coming to an end. Fanning the fans of fear and panic has become their top priority. FORMAT writes: “The dimension of Haiyan’s destruction is enormous.”
The Ruhr Nachrichten here writes of the “storm’s apocalyptic dimensions“.
The online Berlin daily Berliner Zeitung here calls Haiyan the “apocalyptic horseman“.
That the media is no longer content with sticking to the usual words for describing disasters and feels it has to upgrade to the “Sensationalize Deluxe” media package likely has a lot to do with headline grabbing.
The disaster left behind by the Haiyan is a truly serious and newsworthy. Yet when one considers that its death toll is likely to remain well below 10,000 and that history has seen far deadlier storms, the language is way over the top. The media are behaving like desperate merchants on the last day of a disaster clearance sale.
People have lost their fear of climate overall, and when the data lack and fail to stir the desired emotions of fear, panic and general hysteria, then hyperbole and extreme drama have to be resorted to. This is the sorry state to which the German media have devolved.