Heather Wilhelm describes at National Review Online a disturbing change in our approach to news that bothers us.

We’re not just soaked in theoretical short-lived catastrophes, helpfully filtered for lackadaisical consumers through a numbing, blinking screen. Weirdly, a growing segment of the population seems bound and determined to seek out — nay, even to create — their own catastrophes as well.

The most recent high-profile hair-on-fire fake catastrophe unfolded at the very serious New York Times. The paper’s new right-leaning columnist, Bret Stephens, faced a blowtorch of panic and outrage for writing a column — simple words on paper, expressing an opinion, which Americans are completely free to ignore or rebut — on climate change.

Stephens did not deny that climate change existed or question whether it was man-made. He simply suggested — and this is my example, not his — that science isn’t exactly clear on whether New York City will be swamped any time soon by massive and vengeful tidal waves from an angry and warming Gaia, all helpfully narrated in a play-by-play by an exasperated Al Gore, in a baritone drawl: “I told you so!”

But lo, witness the rallying cry of our time: Does someone disagree with you on an issue dear to your heart? Sound the emergency klaxon! (This happens every day.) Did someone make a terrible or tasteless joke? It is a crisis! They need to be banished! (This happens at least once a week.) Did an academic write a paper on an uncomfortable or touchy subject? It is a disaster! They need to be persecuted! (This is happening, as we speak, at campuses around the country.)

In the age of the fake catastrophe, we go from zero to outrage in the blink of an eye. As for Stephens, readers and pundits alike called for him to be fired, pretended to cancel their subscriptions or otherwise suggested that this was the beginning of the end of the world. The existence of his column offered up a classic fake crisis, and here’s how you can tell: Actual actions did not line up with the copious amount of panicked words.

I mean, call me crazy, but if you genuinely think we’re on the verge of imminent disaster, wouldn’t you, you know, live differently?