The Cicada Hype Machine

Re the recent cicada infestation, the eminent arbiters of the New York Times have pontifically decreed that it was all a huge hypefest:

This article is based on the latest available scientific information, which is: If you haven’t seen your Brood X cicadas by now, you probably aren’t going to for another 17 years.

Complaints should be directed to the bug experts who predicted that a biblical swarm of periodic cicadas, Brood X, would sweep like a curtain of white noise across the Middle Atlantic region in June. Or at least that is how it sounded to the swarms of reporters who breathlessly predicted that the bug storm of the young century was headed for the region’s windshields.

So: instead of blaming themselves, as usual, the media will find somebody else to blame. I don’t recall reading a single, and I mean a single, article in which a scientist or entomologist quoted said that there was going to be a cicada infestation of biblical proportions. In fact, many scientists I saw quoted said that although there would probably be a significant cicada emergence this year, there was no way of telling how large it would be. The media ignored this cautionary note, or else buried it in the story so it wouldn’t be noticed among the screeching about the cataclysmic invasion of beady-eyed insects.

Scientists, remember, are the ones who urge caution at every turn (for the most part, anyway). The media are in the business of hyping non-events into events and events into catastrophes. It must be enormously disappointing to editors and news programmers east of the Mississippi that the Brood X Emergence was not the Brood X Pestilence.