A long, long time ago, in a galaxy called Oregon, the local Empire decided to used tons of explosives to blow up a whale on their beach. It did not go well. But it was a prophecy, foretelling the explosion of weird news we see today.
Why is the exploding whale footage such a harbinger of things to come?
Maybe I just like to use the words harbinger and prophecy in nearby sentences.
Maybe I’m a trained journalist who loves to collect, analyze and dissect weird news stories.
- Florida Man: Why one state is the absolute mecca for weird news
- How weird news teaches us great storytelling (WordPress put this on the front page)
- Psycho killer raccoons terrorize Olympia … and Tacoma, and Seattle
And maybe, just maybe, I have a theory that explains the whole glorious Florida Man-style mess.
A Grand Unified Theory of Weird News
First: Weird news is omnipresent.
You’ll find it on an Oregon beach, in the middle of Alaska or on every acre of this land I call Florida.
There are strange people and bizarre bits of mayhem anyplace you look.
While my wife was in law school, I worked in this small-town paper in a place you can’t pronounce.
And listen, you would not believe the amount of mayhem I witnessed and wrote about, and not because the little town was a war zone.
Massive floods, with houses floating down the river. At least two serial killers. Political scandals. A man who died when a mobile home fell on him as he installed it. A sniper who shot at me (and everybody in sight) until the county sheriff deputies rolled up in a tank.
Here’s a little taste: The killer beside you
But if you look, there are always crazy stories happening locally.
Second: Weird news is not related to the crime rate.
This seems counter-intuitive. Criminals and criminally idiotic people make up the majority of weird news.
Take away petty crime and Florida Man stories would wither and die.
Yet the numbers are nuts, when you look at them. Crime is down and has been going down for years.
Things were actually wilder and crazier before today’s explosion of weird news. I mean, the late ’70s and early ’80s were Animal House.
You just didn’t know about every single thing that happens like you do today. Why is that?
Third: Weird news lives on the interwebs
Without the speed and reach of the Series of Tubes, you’d never hear about 99.9 percent of weird news.
Before, the only real way crazy news would spread was by newspapers, so feeding your need for Florida Man stories would require serious resources. Because your local paper would not devote a full page to random wire stories about crazytown happening far away.
There are entire sites devoted to the daily collection and curation of funny and bizarre stories.
Fourth: Weird news is intensely visual
This is the most essential ingredient. As a writer, it’s hard to fully describe the insanity of what you see.
Video is better. There is no substitute.
This is why Russian dash cam footage goes so viral. It’s raw, it’s real and the cameras are on all the time, so they capture all kinds of crashes and cray-cray.
Fifth: Smart phones, smart phones and more smart phones
Now that everybody has iPhones or Samsungs in their pockets, weird news is constantly being not only captured, but shared with the world.
All day and night. Everywhere.
You don’t need to have a TV crew on site, or watch the broadcast at 11 p.m.
So get out there and keep your phone handy. Florida Man doesn’t just hang out in Florida–he’s everywhere you look.