Saturday, October 18, 2014
Rooker’s unnamed character in “Driving Dead” gives a vague soliloquy about life over a flashback of him and other characters escaping zombies. The seat belt message comes unexpectedly when the driver of the armored car insists that Rooker’s character in the flashback buckle his seat belt. Rooker’s character demurs, and the driver takes off, careening through a building and hitting several obstacles.
“Do you know how stupid it is not to wear your seat belt?” the driver says over the whine of the engine. “What did we talk about? You’ve got to be responsible.”
A scraggly character in the back seat chimes in with a line that sounds like it came straight from a brochure.
“Did you know you can reduce the risk of serious, crash-related injury by fifty percent, just by buckling up?” the unnamed character says.
Ann Strahle, an assistant professor teaching about film in the Communications Department at the University of Illinois Springfield, says the video is probably intended to reach male viewers in the upper teens to early 30s age group, but she’s not certain whether the message is effective.
“Frankly, I thought that the message was rather muddled and not clear until the very end,” Strahle said. “Plus, the question is whether their audience will stay with an eight-minute piece.”
Kathy Jamison, an associate professor teaching about film in the same department at UIS, says that while basing the public service announcement on a popular theme like zombies is a clever approach, the film is “quite extravagant for a mere message to buckle up.”
“The expense of producing this piece … to educate the public about buckling up seems a bit ridiculous,” Jamison said. “The attempt here is no doubt to bring something new to the buckle up campaign, since it is ‘old news,’ in essence. Remember, though, audiences today are so savvy and so onto anything you throw at them, that while the caliber of production is very good on this film PSA – and audiences would scoff and not pay attention to anything less – at the point that we get the message to buckle up, I believe the audience has to chuckle.”
Jamison says the money may have been better spent on educating the public about the dangers of texting while driving.
Although the video was funded with a federal grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation, Nathaniel Hamilton, spokesman for the Illinois Policy Institute, points to a study from the same agency showing media campaigns like IDOT’s are less effective than simply enforcing the law. The 2008 study, titled “How States Achieve High Seat Belt Use Rates,” says states with low rates of seat belt use spent 40 percent more on seat belt media campaigns than did states with high rates of use. Meanwhile, high use states issued twice as many citations to drivers for not wearing seat belts as low use states.
“The statistical analyses suggest that the most important difference between the high and low belt use states is enforcement, not demographic characteristics or dollars spent on media,” the study said.
Hamilton concedes that IDOT’s Driving Dead video is well-made, but he says the money would have been better spent elsewhere.
“People should be asking whether the goal was to make an exciting video or to accomplish better road safety in Illinois,” Hamilton said. “The fact is that this is not the best use of taxpayer dollars. If the real purpose of this campaign is to encourage safe driving in the state, then campaigns to toughen seat belt laws and increase enforcement are the best ways to get results.”
IDOT spokeswoman Paris Ervin says the project was competitively bid, and its aim was to reach 21-34-year-old males, which she says is the largest group of people killed each year in accidents while not wearing seat belts.
“This new approach speaks directly to our audience where they spend most of their time: online and on social media,” Ervin said. “We believe that talking to this group in their preferred digital language, tailoring our content for mobile devices and sharing our message in a new way is exactly what is needed to reach our target demographic, keep Illinois motor vehicle fatalities on the decline and save lives.”
More than 700 people have died in auto accidents in 2014, according to Ervin, and 190 of those deaths were attributable to lack of or improper use of a restraint. The video has received more than 380,000 views on Youtube, and Ervin says the response has been positive.
“Our intent with this new approach is to reach a very specific, targeted demographic,” Ervin said. “Our main goal is to save lives.”
In 2006, I released a novel about a global zombie plague that drives humanity to the brink of extinction. While the zombies may have been fake, I tried to anchor the human response (political-military-economic-cultural) in reality. I studied the history of pandemics, natural disasters and industrialized warfare. I interviewed doctors, soldiers, journalists and someone who “has never gotten a check from the CIA” in an attempt to illustrate the fragile global systems that shield our species from the abyss. As a result, I’ve been repeatedly asked if the current outbreak of Ebola is the real-life incarnation of my novel. As much as any author would love to crow about how “I predicted this!”, this time, I’m happy to say, my fictional plague could not be more different from the truth.
It could be argued that there are some similarities between the initial Ebola outbreak in West Africa and my fictional virus. Early on, there were missed warnings, such as a U.S. intelligence group’s failure to mine data that was written in French. There was also an obvious lack of interest on the part of the industrialized world. Not only were the headlines already taken up by Islamic State and the war in Ukraine but, let’s be honest, ignoring the plight of Africans is shamefully commonplace in the First World.
However, roughly one month ago, when the world reached its collective-conscious tipping point, the response deviated sharply from both World War Z’s plot and from responses to AIDS and SARS, which inspired the book. For starters, media coverage of the Ebola virus has been both loud and consistent. Try opening a newspaper, or your laptop, or flipping on either the television or radio without hearing something about Ebola. You can’t. Even President Barack Obama has dubbed the virus a “top national security priority.” UnlikeWorld War Z where the “Great Denial” gave way to the “Great Panic,” real authority figures have tried to temper potential hysteria with sober honesty. While the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Thomas Freiden, promised “a long, hard fight,” he also assured listeners that “we know how to stop it and we’re stopping it in West Africa, community by community.” Likewise, General Daryl Williams, who commands the U.S. military mission to Africa, has declared that mission will continue “for as long as it takes.”
Just the fact that there even is a U.S. military mission to Africa is a crucial difference between fiction and reality. In my book, the main reason that the zombie virus spread out of control was because the industrialized world did not want to be inconvenienced. The United States in particular — war weary, apathetic and eager for a return to happier times — cringed at the prospect of any potential sacrifice. That might describe the U.S reaction to the situation in the Middle East but certainly not to Ebola. Nearly 4,000 American ground troops are being deployed to West Africa with a gargantuan logistics and support train behind them. The American homefront is also being mobilized with enhanced airline passenger screening, as well as new training and equipment for airport employees and medical personnel all across the United States.
Another reason the World War Z zombie plague spun out of control was a lack of cooperation from the initial host country. The country in the book is China, and I based my story on its very real reaction to SARS. But unlike China, which prevaricated and stonewalled during the SARS epidemic, the countries of West Africa have been both transparent and welcoming of foreign aid. Liberia’s president went so far as to call the actions of Liberian Ebola patient Thomas Eric Duncan, who lied on a departure screening questionaire before flying out of Monrovia, “unpardonable.”
The final reason my fictional pandemic managed to nearly wipe us out was that the global village failed to form a neighborhood watch. The nations of World War Z all acted out of self-interest, allowing themselves to be divided and conquered. Fortunately in the case of Ebola, truth is better than fiction. There has rarely been a time in history when the world community has responded so quickly and massively to a health crisis, from America’s CDC to the United Nations’ World Health Organization to a tsunami of nongovernmental organizations and startup charities. A 9-year-old friend of my son actually launched his own website to raise money for rubber gloves for health workers in West Africa (and he achieved his goal in just one week!).
Behind all this coordination is a shockingly rare bout of clear-headed strategy: defending against the virus at home while attacking it at its source in West Africa. We are all connected — that is the warning the world community is taking from Ebola (and that it did not heed inWorld War Z).
Several days ago, on Fox News, Frieden stated that, “When a wildfire breaks out, we don’t fence it off. We go in to extinguish it before one of the random sparks sets off another outbreak somewhere else.” Imagine if the global community had responded to other outbreaks with this kind of clarity and action. Just to put Ebola in perspective, since the initial reported cases 10 months ago, more than 4,500 people have died of the disease. While those are genuine tragedies, so are the roughly 600,000 Africans who died of malaria last year and the 1,000,000-plus Africans who died of AIDS. As an American, and as a parent, I’m not nearly as worried about Ebola as I am about the polio-reminiscent threat of Enterovirus D68.
Yes, it will be a long hard fight and, yes, there will be more heartbreaking death and suffering, but if I was writing World War Z today and I had decided to base it on our planet’s response to Ebola, it would have been much shorter and with a much happier ending.
JEFFERSONVILLE, IN – Joseph Oberhansley has been accused of stabbing his ex-girlfriend to death, then eating portions of her brain, heart and lungs.
On Thursday, police were called to the home of 46-year-old Tammy Jo Blanton at about 3 a.m. to complain that Oberhansley was outside her home trying to get in. Officers were able to defuse the situation and get Oberhansley to go home.
Police were back at the home at about 10 a.m. after someone called to report she hadn’t shown up for work. They found Oberhansley inside and acting suspiciously when questioned about Blanton’s whereabouts.
Police performed a quick search and found Blanton dead under a vinyl camping tent draped over the bathtub inside the bathroom. Her body was in the bathtub with portions of her skull had been removed.
Oberhausley admitted to stabbing Blanton to death and “cooking a section of her brain and eating it.” He also admitted to eating her heart and part of her lungs. It doesn’t look like he was lying, either. Police found a “plate with what appeared to be skull bone and blood” on it, as well as a skillet and pair of tongs with blood on the handles and tissue in the garbage can.
An autopsy report would reveal Blanton died from multiple stab wounds and parts of her heart, lungs and brain were missing. Oberhansley was arrested and charged with murder, abuse of a corpse and breaking and entering in the case.