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Posts Tagged ‘sea serpents’

Media and public obsession with the Loch Ness Monster

Posted by Henry Bauer on 2019/04/26

Awareness of, interest in, fascination with “the Loch Ness Monster” is a truly global phenomenon, and has been since the 1930s. Is there any other topic that arouses a comparable degree of global recognition and fascination/? I can’t think of one. Nor have I been able to find a satisfactory explanation for this uniqueness.

At any rate, when a study of environmental DNA at Loch Ness was carried out in 2018, it was reported “in 2962 international media stories, reaching a potential audience of 2,895,059,280 people . . . [during] . . . one six-week period earlier this year [2018]” (Greg Bruce, “What lies beneath? The New Zealander on the trail of monsters”, 17 November 2018).

A recent illustration of this media fascination with Loch Ness Monsters caused me some amusement. My Google Alert for “Loch Ness” brought me a number of links reporting a scientific study suggesting that the iconic public image of the Loch Ness Monster featuring a long neck stemmed from the diffusion into public knowledge of the 19th-century discovery of fossils of long-necked dinosaurs. Given that the Loch Ness Monster has been a prime interest of mine for more than half a century, naturally I followed those links:

Loch Ness monster mystery solved? Study claims ancient dinosaur discovery influenced delusion

Myth Of Loch Ness Monster influenced by dinosaurs: Study

The mystery of the Loch Ness Monster may finally be solved

Study claims ancient dinosaur discovery influenced delusion
“It’s the mystery that’s drawn millions to the town of Loch Ness since the ‘30s. But a new study may have the answer to the sightings”.

Delusional Georgian Britons made up Nessie: Expert blames hysteria surrounding the hunt for dinosaur fossils for the creation of the legend

Scientists might know where the idea of the Loch Ness Monster really came from

Loch Ness monster was mass delusion triggered by discovery of dinosaurs, study suggests

How fossil finds gave Nessie a new image

Study theorizes that ancient dinosaur discovery fueled Loch Ness sightings

How the legend of “Nessie” the Monster of Loch Ness began

The mystery of the Loch Ness Monster may finally be solved

Study: Loch Ness Monster was a delusion influenced by ancient dinosaur discovery

 

All these stories purport to be based on the article, “Did nineteenth century marine vertebrate fossil discoveries influence Sea Serpent reports?” by Paxton and Naish (Earth Sciences History, 38 [2019] 16–27).

However, note the absence of “Loch Ness” in the title of that article. Indeed, in the article’s dozen pages, Loch Ness is mentioned only a single time, and then in a by-the-way rather than leading fashion:
“the pattern in Figure 2 broadly reflects the actual frequency of reports in the English speaking world, especially given that the second peak is at 1930–1934 and thus covers the renewed popularity in aquatic monsters generated by worldwide interest in the Loch Ness monster in 1933. “

 

So far, however, according to my Google Alert, the popular media have all chosen to reference Loch Ness rather than sea serpents, with the sole exception of Forbes Magazine:
Nineteenth-Century fossil discoveries influence Sea Serpent reports

 

I doubt, of course, that all the misleading media headlines are owing to scrupulously fact-seeking journalists who obtained and read the Paxton-Naish article and seized on its single by-the-way reference to Loch Ness. Rather, I suspect that the PR apparatus of the journal, or perhaps of the authors’ parent institutions, generated a press release using the known attracting power of Loch Ness Monsters to bring attention to what otherwise fail to gain much public notice.

No matter the mechanism:
The point here is just to document the unique place that Nessie, the Loch Ness Monster, holds in global attention, recognition, fascination.
Why??

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