The word "Godzilla" was trending on Twitter this morning, as an army of would-be wits reacted to the catastrophe in Japan with identical wisecracks. The joke is dumb and tasteless. But it's actually worth taking a moment to think about Godzilla right now, because what happened last night illustrates an important but terribly underappreciated point: the striking difference between the ways people respond to disasters in the movies and in real life.
Here's a panicky crowd stampeding away from the monster in a Godzilla flick:
Here's real people reacting to a real disaster:
Human beings tend to be far more calm and resourceful in an emergency than the movies—and far too much of the news media—will ordinarily admit. Unfortunately, officials often make decisions with Godzilla's footprint on their mind, withholding important information from the public for fear of "spreading panic."