"Attention zoo patrons! Clamu the Giant Oyster is on an emotional rampage! Please scream and run around in circles. [Attendees begin screaming and running in circles] Thanks for coming."You can panic now! Why? It's the POLIO AIDS ANTHRAX MONKEY-POX SARS BIRD SWINE ZIKA FLU! Wait. It's actually ACID RAINing AIRBORNE SAR-AIDS-CANCER over THE WHOLE OF NORTH AMERICA as a distraction for a SINISTER TERRORIST PLOT to ASSASSINATE UNWED TEENAGE MOTHERS by INNOCENT CHILDREN mind-controlled by VIOLENT VIDEO GAMES and the LSD SOLD IN PRESCHOOL PLAYGROUNDS... and so on. This one goes hand-in-hand with the Made-for-TV Movie. Whatever the latest media-induced paranoia is, like crime, typhoons and the best show on Earth, we're going to get a show or special report about it. Think Everything Trying to Kill You applied to Real Life and you have the idea. If it's about new technology, then expect Science Is Bad. If it's a new minority or subculture, then lock the doors and hide your daughters — it's the Subculture of the Week! Expecting volcanic eruptions in the midwest? Then it's likely a Disaster Movie. New diseases or health issues like high cholesterol and cancerous artificial sweetener? Then it's probably a Hallmark Channel Made-for-TV Movie about a Pollyanna and her family going through something truly Glurge-y. Often involves a Clueless Aesop. May evoke Poe's Law if its parody status is unknown. Let No Crisis Go to Waste is often implied or stated to be the reason for telling people to panic. Compare: If It Bleeds, It Leads and Monster of the Week. Not to be confused with Fear Is the Appropriate Response, which describes a justified reaction to imminent real danger (as opposed to the sensationalized fearmongering described by this trope). See also: Axes at School, Disaster Movie, Glurge, New Media Are Evil, Pædo Hunt, Ripped from the Headlines, Subculture of the Week, Western Terrorists. Completely unrelated to This is No Time to Panic.
— Announcer on P.A., SpongeBob SquarePants, "The Smoking Peanut"
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- This is such a common advertising trope that listing each occurrence would eat up an entire page of its own. In fact, one of the most basic ploys in advertising is to convince people that the lack of their product/failure to vote for their candidate/etcetera will RUIN YOUR LIFE FOREVER and lead to THE END OF THE WORLD!!! Subversions, aversions, and/or deconstructions are much less common and far more interesting, so please post only them or the most extreme examples of this trope.
- Played straight: Vote for me or you'll get nuked! The ad was only aired once and his campaign got criticized for it, but it helped Lyndon Johnson win the 1964 Presidential election.
Films — Live-Action
- Fatal Contact: Bird Flu in America was a Made-for-TV Movie about Bird Flu coming to America, while, at that exact same time, suddenly mutating into a form more easily communicable to and between humans. On the inverse side, very few people realize that Swine Flu actually is a pandemic already, because the definition of pandemic doesn't actually include death toll in the criteria, just how much it's spread and how hard it is to stop it from spreading further. The fact that it's spread just about everywhere but proven no more lethal than the regular flu is probably why a similar movie doesn't exist for it.
- Not that the media didn't try, but it's hard to get scared of something when the vast majority of the deaths are innocent pigs.
- Reefer Madness: The Musical: The Lecturer says "When danger's near exploit their fear." The one parent who objects to these Red Scare tactics is labeled un-American.
- In Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11, Moore replays a female scream after images of destruction to emphasize how the government exploited the 9/11 attacks to manipulate people.
- Pretty much the whole point of The Host was satirizing this. Giant tadpole running around Seoul, eating people? It must be carrying A HIDEOUS NEW DISEASE! Let us completely focus on this possibility, and ignore the fact that it's eating people!
- Played for Laughs in The Music Man. Salesman "Professor" Harold Hill's standard procedure is to work up a town into a frenzy by turning some trivial incident into a full-blown moral panic, so he can sell them on the idea of starting a children's band (and buy instruments from him).
Oh yes, we got trouble! Right here in River City! With a capital T and that rhymes with P and that stands for POOL!
- Rollover: The public panics and riots after banks fail worldwide.
- Night Watch 1995: after the Hong Kong stock market computers are destroyed by a virus, economic chaos spreads across the globe. The stockbroker that is interviewed says: "Once Joe Average decides the market's unstable, they want out, at any price. They were telling me sell, sell, sell; but nobody's buying." Another report says the market has fallen 3000 points with no end in sight.
- Ra's al Ghul's in Batman Begins.
"Gentlemen, time to spread the word. And the word is panic."
- Mazes and Monsters was a movie made to illustrate to parents the dangers of Dungeons & Dragons and how it could drive kids insane, to commit murder and then suicide. It was entirely based on an urban legend. There are quite a few accounts of active Dungeons and Dragons players who credit this movie for discovering the game, as they were not aware that it existed until this movie got their parents to warn them of its dangers and willfully seek out what sounded like an exciting adventure.
- Parodied in The Areas of My Expertise, when one character is smugly worried that terrorists will attack the Mall of America.
"You know what?" I say. "Fuck you."
- Inverted in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, as the eponymous Guide has "Don't Panic" on the front in "large, friendly letters". But played straight in the fifth book, Mostly Harmless, as the latest version of the guide has PANIC in "small, alarming letters".
- State of Fear, as quoted, manages to make a good point about this despite being mostly an Author Tract about why Michael Crichton thought Global Warming was a sham. And let's just leave it at that.
- In Robert Asprin's humorous fantasy novel Myth Conception, as more and more horrible details come pouring in concerning the supposedly cushy job they've finagled, Aahz finally breaks down and invokes this trope with his apprentice Skeeve.
- Street Ninja, a quote unquote self defense guide, tries to play up the idea that every gangster, skinhead and drug dealer is killing each other so they can have the honor of killing you, personally. To protect yourself learn the secrets of the ninja. It says things like it's impractical to dress up in body armor...then suggests how to make home made body armor.
- The outdoor humorist Patrick McManus wrote on more than one occasion about the proper way to panic upon discovering you are hopelessly lost in the woods. He even invented the Modified Stationary Panic, which is standing firmly in place while you scream and jump up and down. This avoids the danger of getting even more lost or seriously injured if you go with the more traditional "running-blindly" panic.
- There is a book called Big Porn Inc which serves to portray the most extreme, degraded adult material as the norm, with anyone who even looks at a naughty picture is into child and animal abuse and snuff, and the women working in the industry are abused. The authors claim not to be ultra left wing conservative religious however positive reviews are met with comments from them as, "Praise the Lord, another soul saved!"
- Referenced in one of the chapter quotes of Ciaphas Cain (HERO OF THE IMPERIUM!), which is a joke version of the Catechism of Command:
When in deadly danger
When beset by doubt
Run in little circles
Wave your arms and shout.
Live Action TV
- Conspiracy Theory with Jesse Ventura: Every episode is about some threatening conspiracy with nefarious plans that always involve massive harm to the human population. The show will run clips of disasters while the narrator informs us that we'll die any day now thanks to yet another paranoid conspiracy.
- The Leverage takes on a TV reporter who makes a career out of this in "The Three Days of the Hunter Job". She actually turns down a fake story they feed her about secret terrorist prisons in the US because she doesn't think it will scare her viewers enough.
- Stephen Colbert is proud to be a fearmonger.
- Mock the Week also ran a story about Bird Flu, showing the scare-mongering of the English media.
- The Animal Planet series Infested makes it look like infestations are caused by unstoppable pest species that will overwhelm the people dealing with said pests. In reality, such infestations are rare and most infestations can be treated rather efficiently.
- A couple of episodes have focused on bats. Said episodes went out of their way to remind people "Bats have rabies! Your children could be in danger!". While rabid bats are very dangerous, you're more likely to be bitten by a rabid dog due to bats being nocturnal and encounters with them being quite rare.
- Tonight , an ITV Documentary / news show, swings between this mode and sensible, reasoned attitudes - if it's a subject like banking, petrol crisis, war in Libya, then they'll have Shown Their Work, but if it comes to The Internet or New Media Are Evil, then You Can Panic Now is in full effect.
- Inverted on That Mitchell and Webb Look with a sketch about the news declaring that major disasters, explosions, and serial killings are all "fine" because they're over now, or because there isn't any violence except in the few minutes the serial killer is actually murdering someone, so there's no need to worry at all and it's all fine. However, their preview of the next day's newspaper headlines takes a shot at the Daily Mail's habit of playing the trope straight with its headline "Everything's fine, fear it, fear it."
- Drop the Dead Donkey. When Globelink News decide to make a crimewatch program, Gus Hedges assures the police liaison officer that it's not going to increase the public's fear of crime for cheap ratings. Cue the title sequence showing a couple moving fearfully through a darkened street, while an ominous voiceover accompanied by creepy music tells how crime is lurking everywhere, waiting to strike... The music stops as the couple make it to their car, lock the doors and sigh with relief, only for a blood-stained man wielding a huge knife to rise up from the backseat. We then cut to a 'recreation' of a postal robbery, which involves grinning hoodlums knocking an old lady's teeth out and splattering a clerk against a wall with a shotgun.
- Kryten of Red Dwarf, being an android, does this a lot.
Kryten: ...Oh. Wait a minute. No. My brain is part-organic, and therefore it is entirely possible for the machine to transmogrify my physical condition. Engaging panic circuits. Panic circuits engaged.(Cries)
- The entire point of Eminem's song "Without Me" is to parody this trope. Within the song he makes a Take That! at the FCC, teases paranoid parents that he's "infecting in your kids' ears", and invokes The New Rock & Roll trope by alluding to the fact that the Moral Guardians also reacted with You Can Panic Now when Elvis premiered.
- Hawkwind's production of Michael Moorcock's Sonic Attack, in which a robotic and oddly accented voice describes the lethal and agonising symptoms of sonic attack so you can be better informed about one happening in your neighbourhood. This is punctuated with authoritarian commands of "Do Not Panic!" repeated at intervals, as the voices become even more alien and robotic and the accompanying white noise grows louder....
- Parodied in a Calvin and Hobbes strip where Calvin's dad was watching "Eyewitness Action News", which aimed to tell its audience ''why YOU should be paralyzed with helpless fear!"
- This is a common subject in Candorville, as part of its general dislike of "Mainstream Media." Typically, honest information is presented, but certain panic-inducing words are written larger than others.
- Though not technically in featured in a Dilbert strip, Scott Adams has noted that whenever humanity has become aware of a serious problem years in advance, it has been averted. When the Powers That Be said, "Panic!", people went out and solved the problem.
Can anyone give me an example of a potential global disaster that the general public saw coming, with at least a ten year warning, and it actually happened as predicted?
- A cliche at Fark. Submitted headlines for ridiculous scaremongering stories usually include the line EVERYBODY PANIC at the end.
- "You gonna die! Mad-Bird-Cow-Flu Disease gonna kill ya!" — 2, the Ranting Gryphon News rant. (NSFW due to Cluster F Bombs)
- Parodied by CollegeHumor here. Set to R.E.M.'s "It's the End of the World as We Know It (And I Feel Fine)", they showcase basically every ratings-driven media panic frenzy of the past 10-15 years, including Y2K, 2012, Peak Oil, terrorist attacks, Global Warming, and the imminent Zombie Apocalypse, Robot War, and Alien Invasion.
- The Scarfolk Council would like to remind you that the small humanoids living in your home and eating your food may not be your children, that the tall humanoids who live in your house and feed you may not be your parents, and that foreigners may be stealing your thoughts, so you should surrender them to the Scarfolk Council for safe keeping.
- SpongeBob SquarePants. Along with the page quote from "The Smoking Peanut", there's "Wormy" where SpongeBob and Patrick stir Bikini Bottom into a frenzy when they start warning people about a monster (actually a butterfly).
Patrick: Attention, Bikini Bottom! There's a big, scary monster that's going to eat you!
Squidward: Attention everyone, run for your lives! Robots have taken over the world!
- Also in the episode "Krab Borg", after Squidward learns that robots have "taken over the navy",
Squidward: OUR WORLD!!
crowd proceeds to panic
- The parents in South Park, frequently.
- From The Simpsons:
Kent Brockman: Hordes of panicky people seem to be evacuating the town for some unknown reason. Professor, without knowing precisely what the danger is, would you say it's time for our viewers to crack each other's heads open and feast on the goo inside?Professor: Mmm, yes I would, Kent.
- One episode features a hidden media conspiracy to actually release a disease and do reports on it blaming the imminent outbreak on cats.
- In "Homer the Vigilante", Kent Brockman's initial report on the string of cat burglaries ends with him asking a professor if the town should panic. He nonchalantly agrees that they should. Later, Kent brings in the same professor after a large number of townspeople start searching for the cat burglar's loot.
- Anti-Semitic blood libels and conspiracy theories. These carry unique significance because they inspired the Holocaust itself.
- The anti-vaccination movement.
- Anti-immigrant hatred.
- DHMO.org parodies this. Spoiler:It's water.
- Pædo Hunt.
- The PMRC and "Tipper Stickers".
- The related alarm over backmasking.
- Satanic Ritual Abuse and the related concept of recovered memories of child abuse.
- The War on Drugs.
- The Red Scare.
- Any stock exchange or stock market crash.
- The aftermath of an economic bubble.
- Search cracked.com for conspiracy theories.
- Vigilante justice, as vigilantes are almost always acting out of this when it's not direct revenge.
- 24-hour news networks in general. Specifically a lot of coverage of The War on Terror and terrorism post-9/11 has been accused of this; from some reporting, you'd think that there was a terrorist waiting behind every bush planning to assassinate you personally on your way to work.
- Any "tabloid-style" television news, such as that popularized by Rick Sanchez at Miami station WSVN.
- The coverage of the Great Recession, at least early on. You'd think from watching some of the reports that the whole world would implode at any moment.
- In February 2009, Hugo Lindgren-writing for the New York Times-coined the term "pessimism porn" to describe these relentless predictions of financial doomsday and the public's fascination with them.
- The absolute worst may come from a guy named Porter Stansberry, a supposed financial analyst who has been disciplined by the SEC for fraud. He's spent the past year flooding the internet, TV and radio waves with ads suggesting the that one of the most important dates in US history is coming and directing people to a website (whose URL is constantly changing). The site features a video with text and voiceovers only, explaining that the US dollar and economy will definitely collapse within the next year because all other nations are on the verge of agreeing to refuse US dollars (even though doing so would voluntarily ravage those countries' economies) and that the US government will respond by taking away everyone's money and sealing off all entry/exit to the country, so you need to get your money out of the country NOW (but then how will you get to it if the government is going to shut off access to other countries?). What's more, the narrator keeps saying that you MUST believe him because he correctly predicted the collapse of General Motors, Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae (news flash - a lot of people did). Oh, and did we tell you he knows the one thing that will not only save you but actually make money when this occurs, and he'll send you the booklet about it for free - IF you sign up for his $50 a month newsletter? (Spoiler alert - it's "buy a farm.")
- Every Environmental Scare Ever. According to Paul Ehrlich we've all died of skin cancer from UV exposure thanks to aerosol cans, the world is so crowded people are falling off,and there's no clean water left to drink— oh, and the ever popular 'we're running out of resources!'. These issues are real, but irrational attempts to solve them can and have made matters worse.
- Every few months or so, an article comes out saying that Facebook, Twitter and texting make children and teens less socially interactive/have less empathy/have poorer grammar (despite the fact that you could say that about anything that allows you to communicate without actually talking to the person). This may or may not be true, however the way the media goes on about it you would think all people under the age of 20 who use social media are anti-social basement dwellers who spend all their time "sexting". This is probably a continuation of the fear when MySpace was popular that all people children meet on there are pedophile serial killers.
- Every time a new doll aimed at preteen girls comes out, someone will freak out and claim that the dolls are promoting loose morals and/or flawed beauty standards.
- A guy came on Dr. Oz and speculated that apple juice was harmful to drink, mostly because of arsenic being found in the stuff. The guy who made the claims never mentioned that the organic arsenic compounds of the type found in apple juice are relatively innocuous compared to inorganic arsenic compounds. (Still not completely safe, of course, but nothing is completely safe.)
- Every few months, some major media network gets hold of a controversial scene/level/mechanic in a video game and raises a huge stink about it, claiming it's turning people into psychopathic serial murderers or basement dwelling losers.
- Or even just games in general. Minecraft —- a.k.a. the only game a lot of parents will let their under-10's play —- is being investigated in Turkey of all places for disturbing violent content against the in-game villagers. Because Halo, Dead Space, and Resident Evil are all perfectly good, family-friendly games you want to play in view of your kids.
- Every couple of months, there will be an article in some magazine or a book by some non-writer about why African-American women can't seem to get married. The reasons cited will usually be the same: 1) All the Good Men Are Gay (or in prison) 2) Black men all marry white women 3) Black women are too picky 4) Black women are just plain un-marriageable (or ugly, in extreme cases). The solutions will always be the same: 1) BW should only date outside of their race or 2) BW should settle for the high school dropout on parole with 11 baby mamas. Essence magazine in particular gets a lot of heat for this.
- There are a LOT of magazine articles and books that exploit the fear that black women have of black men dating/ marrying women that are anything other than black. Almost to a predatory extent. Like the idea that black men go to Brazil not to experience the culture, but to hook up with Ambiguously Brown women that look like Nicole Scherzinger.
- On a more general related theme. Periodically, upmarket British Newspapers such as the Guardian and the Observer run angst-laden fearful articles about why otherwise hyper-successful professional women who otherwise have got it all are in a state where, unaccountably, they are still single. These articles are invariably written by self-styled hyper-professional successful women who otherwise have got everything going for them, ie by newspaper journalists and opinion columnists who unaccountably remain single despite being young(ish), well-rewarded, attractive, and successful. They invariably come to a gloomy conclusion that all the best men are taken or else gay. Leaving only hopeless losers and deadbeats with inflated opinions of themselves. Of course, as we are successful in every conceivable way and attractive with it, it cannot be our fault that we remain single, despite being pestered by all those horrendous losers and ugly guys who just haven't got the message yet. There just aren't any suitable men out there...
- Disasters that could wipe out the world or at least humanity get a huge amount of coverage from edutainment networks. Most sensible people agree that it's going to happen someday. TV experts keep stressing that 'someday' includes tomorrow.
- There is always some "teen craze" that is being hyped by the news media. Rainbow parties, bracelets telling what sex acts you've done, vodka gummy bears, vodka tampons, etc. Almost all of them are not as common as the news media would have you believe. If anything the news just makes teens want to try it.
- In the case of Rainbow parties, no one actually did them. If there had been a few cases, then it was because they got the idea when the news claimed that everyone was doing it (a claim that was based off of one story in a book).
- The West Memphis Three fiasco is one particularly disgusting example of how the media and rumors can cause innocent people to go to jail. After three young children were murdered, rumors spread out that the crime was part of a Satanic ritual. As soon as a teenager with a passing interest in the occult was linked to the case, his acquaintances were dragged into the mess and the three were blamed with no questions asked. The whole town was so worked up over all the "Satanist conspiracy" claims that conviction of the boys was a slam dunk, even though the only good evidence was their confessionーand with recent discoveries, even that may have been coerced.
- The mass panic over the U.N. Small Arms Trade treaty suggested that U.N. troops or the Department of Homeland Security would personally come to your house and take your guns away, despite the U.N. not having any real power, America being a superpower that can ignore the U.N. if it wants, U.S. law specifically stating that our Constitution overrules any treaties, 'the Treaty itself explicitly saying (in effect) "None of this infringes on gun rights that may or may not be enshrined in any country's constitution or laws," and the Treaty not even being about private firearm ownership, but rather international arms trade: The provisions amount to "Every country has to have records regulations. This to ensure that gun manufacturers have to make sure that whoever's buying their guns won't sell them to rebels, rogue states, organized crime, and other international bad guys." As a happy bonus for American gun retailers, sales ironically went up, as they often do whenever there is a threat (real or otherwise) to 2nd Amendment rights.
- It is joked that a Democrat in the White House is the gun seller's best friend, as his existence ensures heightened demand for guns.
- Which then becomes a Self-Fulfilling Prophecy when gun owners buy up entire ammunition inventories out of fear that they're going to be banned, thereby causing the very shortages/outages they're afraid of.
- It is joked that a Democrat in the White House is the gun seller's best friend, as his existence ensures heightened demand for guns.
- In the United Kingdom, a major Critical Research Failure happened: the British Newspapers confused Trolls with cyber-abusers, and both are very different. A Troll is a user that says "I like Liverpool F.C." on a Manchester United forum, a cyber-abuser is someone who writes hateful things. The two are not connected, but the media always forget this.
- Ever since SNOWPOCALYPSE (the moniker given to the unusually-harsh winter in the US in 2010), The Weather Channel has been naming winter storms like hurricanes and giving them almost as much weight in their reports. It's no longer enough to just say, "Heavy snow will be coming through over the next couple days." Now it's, "WINTER STORM GANDOLF!!" They seem to have pop culture and mythological naming conventions (Khan, Nemo, Athena, etc.), which only makes it that much harder to take seriously. The government-run National Weather Service (The Weather Channel is privately-owned) pointedly refuses to use those names.
- However, the NWS has gotten criticism with earlier and earlier naming of Tropical Storms, with some being named even in the Tropical Depression stage. This has lead to accusations of sensationalism.
- Homophobia and transphobia carry shades of this when they are used as "culture war" issues. Specifically, the All Gays Are Pedophiles canard or "guys in dresses in girls bathrooms" being paired with Pædo Hunt are very nasty variants, or All Gays Are Promiscuous being used to start a moral panic about promiscuity (never mind that heterosexuals can be just as promiscuous).
- During the 2012 election, many believed that the Republicans wanted to ban tampons, based on a satirical article on the Freewood Post.
- Millennials have become a popular media target for inducing panic, especially when it comes to discussions about them in the workplace. From the way the media talks, you'd think that anybody under the age of 35 is a self-centered, basement dwelling text-aholic. In reality, such stereotypes (at least, to the extremes by which the media depicts them) apply to a very small number of millennials.
- The way a lot of modern news coverage is skewed to Accentuate the Negative and sometimes outright revel in You Can Panic Now in all but name, has become so pervasive ever since the 20th century, that psychologists and media experts were forced to coin a new, now rather common condition: Mean World Syndrome (term coined by George Gerbner). This is a psychological condition affecting viewers who take news coverage focusing on tragic, horrible or depressing events a bit too seriously. This results in the viewer adopting a chronic type of Mood Dissonance, where he will convince himself that the world as a whole is a terrible, awful place where evil and tragedies are omnipresent, and where there's no hope or that there is hope only for non-compassionate cynics that doubt everything. Some scholars studying media and politics have been openly critical of Mean World Syndrome and the "culture of fear" it tends to promote. One example of these critics is Adam Curtis, who is rather outspoken about the issue in several of his short documentaries on the topic, in which he often mocks various media's love for negativism as hypocritical, or even a display of self-righteous false heroism (mainly due to equating negativistic, sensationalist coverage with proper investigative journalism). As Curtis points out in one of these documentaries, while the media once uncovered and decried paranoid or Conspiracy Theorist thinking among politicians and celebrities, with the growth of confidence and power of news media, some "media experts" have themselves become obsessed with spreading paranoid or irrational fears among the viewers, while pretending that said fears and moral panics are well-founded. Essentially, he does a What the Hell, Hero? call out towards declining media standards and the increasingly Not So Different similarities between conventional and mainstream paranoid thinkers.
- Any attempt to market renewable energy will be contested by at least one outraged skeptic who believes that fossil fuels are the lifeblood of their respective nation's economy.
- British newspaper The Mirror failed to do their research on Minecraft and turned it into a Pædo Hunt, as this article shows. However, most child abuse is carried out by someone who the victim knows, rather than a mysterious stranger, like the article purports. The article's writers were probably trying to get it published quickly.
There are no more examples! YOU CAN PANIC NOW!