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Five times the media declared WWIII in the past two years

By Pieta Woolley

This is it. World War III has begun.

Well, at least, the media predicted the same now that Russia and Turkey have entered into the conflict in Syria.

This, of course, isn’t the first time the media has cried, “WWIII.” But now, with increasing frequency, headline writers and political hopefuls are whipping out the apocalyptic term. In fact, it’s happened at least five times in the past two years.

So is the declaration of WWIII a simple case of overzealous newspaper marketing and campaigning? Or, is the world, indeed, on the edge of the next Great War?

1. Syria

Headline: ‘Slouching Towards World War III’

Media outlet: USA Today, by Glenn Reynolds, a U of Tennessee law professor, Feb. 18, 2016

Idea: Russia’s actions in Syria, together with a weak response from America, has created a new Cold War . . . and could easily trigger an active WWIII.

Note: this isn’t news. Check out this 2013 headline from the U.K.’s Daily Mail: “Could Syria Ignite World War 3? That’s the terrifying question as the hatred between two Muslim ideologies sucks in the world’s superpowers.”

2. Ukraine

Headline: ‘Ùkraine-Russia Crisis: Could this be the start of WWIIIÉ’

Media: U.K. Daily Express, April 17, 2014

Idea: This was a basic explainer article about the complex conflict, with a provocative headline. But the author pointed out that if Russia had continued and invaded the Baltic states, which are NATO members, other NATO members would be drawn into the conflict, igniting WWIII.

3. North Korea

Headline: ‘Donald Trump outlines plan to tackle North Korea amid World War 3 fears’

Media outlet: U.K. Daily Star, Jan. 7, 2016

Idea: After North Korea detonated a hydrogen bomb, presidential hopeful Trump said that China should put pressure on North Korea to `tackle the growing threat of WWIII,’ and if China won’t, the U.S. should.

Note: In 2003, CBC News ran a story called, “North Korea raises spectre of `Third World War.’”

4. Iran

Headline: ‘Rick Santorum: We have entered WWIII.’

Media outlet: CNN, Republican presidential debate, December 2015

Idea: The presidential hopeful blames U.S. President Barack Obama for Iran’s nuclear program, declaring that WWIII has already begun and that the president has not been truthful with the American people.

5. Diffuse war

Headline: ‘Pope Francis Warns on Piecemeal World War III.’

Media outlet: BBC, September 2014

Idea: At a WWI memorial, the pope noted that WWIII may have already begun, given the many tense and active conflicts around the world, including Iraq, Syria, Gaza, Ukraine and parts of Africa.

Still and all, if you’re tempted to write off such rhetoric, watching this short video is a sober reminder of how bloodthirsty we’ve become over the past millennium.

Author's photo
Pieta Woolley is a writer in Powell River, B.C.
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