2012-12-26

Have Things Gone From Worst To Worst-Ever?

NBC News has the story of the "deadly storm" that has been causing severe weather across the country for the last couple of days:
A powerful storm system that erupted Christmas Day, slammed the Gulf Coast with tornadoes and blanketed nation's midsection with snow, headed for the Northeast on Wednesday, spreading blizzard conditions that slowed holiday travel.

The death toll rose to six with car accidents on snow and sleet-slickened highways in Arkansas and Oklahoma.

The storm hit my neck of the woods yesterday, and we were "blessed" with a white Christmas. Around here, snow is never so bad that the cold alone kills. Typically what happens is that the roads get icy and slick, and people continue to drive like morons anyway, resulting in widespread, self-induced destruction. Here's an example.

So perhaps "deadly storm" is a bit of a misnomer, especially since we are accustomed to hurricanes and tornados in this state. Maybe calling a big winter storm "deadly" is going a tad too far. There are, after all, many thousands of deadly car accidents every year. Just because a particular set of car accidents were indirectly caused by winter storms doesn't mean the storm itself kills people or even damages their cars. Ultimately, we are talking about human error here.

Perusing my Google News feed, I see some pretty spooky headlines warning me of impending doom: HW Bush Spokesman Says Ex-President's Fever Is Rising, David Gregory Is A Law-Breaking Monster, Bizarre Texts Could Be A Sign Of Stroke Or Other Health Problems, and the list goes on. We're not just talking about weather, we're talking about a deadly storm. We're not just talking about gun control, we're talking about monsters. If someone sends you a funny text, don't laugh too hard, because they might be having a stroke. And by the way, George Bush's fever is rising!

Text messages, political debates, fevers, and even storms all seem a lot stormier these days, don't they?

Well, I have some more bad news for you. Things just went from worse to worst ever! That is, according to Google Trends, things have been getting worst ever pretty steadily for the last ten years or so. Consider the following graph:
Let there be no doubt about it: There is a decidedly upward trend here. If you don't believe me, then by all means repeat the analysis on your own. The CSV file is freely available on Google Trends.

We now have irrefutable, data-driven evidence that things aren't just worse than they used to be. No, instead of worse, they are worst. And it's only getting worst than worst from here on out!

Here at the nadir of human society's long and painful march to the bottom of hideous, black, grimy pit, it may be worthwhile to pause a moment and ask ourselves: Are things really as bad as they seem?

Or, perhaps, has our perspective on things changed? Sometimes a storm is just a storm, a fever is just a fever, a bizarre text is just a bizarre text. Sometimes the newsman isn't giving it to you straight, he's sensationalizing it. He's selling ads, and you're buying.

But don't take my word for it.