Science Fiction News Slant

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), March 29, 2006 | Go to article overview
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Science Fiction News Slant


Byline: Dan Gainor, SPECIAL TO THE WASHINGTON TIMES

The end is near.

As near as your remote control, at least. All you have to do is turn on, tune in and drop ... any pretense of news. "CNN Presents," the network's "award-winning" weekly documentary, has done just that. It's given up just reporting the news of the day. Now it's predicted it three years into the future.

That was special correspondent Frank Sesno's strategy on March 19. He claimed his report, "We Were Warned: Tomorrow's Oil Crisis," was a "dramatic scenario." Those were TV news code words for something even a child would understand - they made it up.

Viewers received an hour-long mixture of hype and fantasy about the combined threat from a fictional storm and terrorists who apparently watched the Weather Channel for kicks. Mr. Sesno's disclaimer was just as bad. "We can hope it never happens, but it's entirely plausible," he told the audience in somber tones. In effect, CNN was setting up a perfect storm of its own. If there are real oil supply problems in the future, the network can say "we told you so" while blaming evil oil companies and foolish consumers for the problem.

The show was set in the year 2009, as the category 5 Hurricane Steve threatened Houston and the Gulf. Mr. Sesno portrayed it as "this year's monster storm," with winds more than 200 mph. It hit and devastated the oil industry, sending gas prices shooting above $6. And things went down hill from there, with gas hitting $8 and the world economy literally running out of gas.

CNN's timing was perfect. Spring is the beginning of driving season for most people, and gas prices do tend to rise. Currently, the average price per gallon is about $2.50, a significant increase from just a few weeks ago. Thanks to threats from both Iran and Venezuela to cut off oil, the prices are already high. A March 13 Business Week analysis estimated that "the world paid the Persian Gulf oil states an extra $120 billion or so last year because of the premium in prices due to fear of unexpected supply disruptions." CNN should get kickbacks from OPEC for feeding that fear premium.

That kind of useful information was left behind as the network introduced the show as the "Best Documentary Series," according to the International Documentary Association. Apparently, the competition in that category included "Battlestar Gallactica," because the CNN program was the same kind of science fiction - minus the robots.

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