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."