There are few certainties about the end of the world, but in 1980, Ted Turner knew one: that no matter what specific crisis led to civilization’s collapse, CNN would be there to misreport it. In his recorded announcement broadcast at the launch of his fledgling, 24-hour news network, Turner promised, “We won’t be signing off until the world ends. We’ll be on, we’ll be covering it live, and that will be our last, last event. We’ll play the national anthem for one time on the first of June, and that’s all. When the end of the world comes, we’ll play ‘Nearer My God To Thee’ before we sign off.”
It was a typically bold statement from the man who thought that TV news should fill 24 hours, Casablanca should be colorized, and the Earth could be saved by a superhero with the awesome power to nag kids about recycling. And as it turns out, he remained a man of his word. Over at Jalopnik, former CNN intern Michael Balaban has posted footage from what he says is that same legendary “doomsday video” Turner created to play in our final moments, when no amount of environmental lectures from cartoons or talking heads arguing about how it’s Obama’s fault could stave off our planet’s demise.
As promised, the footage finds a marching band—members of the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine bands that Turner assembled in front of the Turner Mansion, where CNN got its start—playing the song that legend has it sent more than 1,000 souls adrift on their own hubris into the abyss, when it was heard aboard the sinking Titanic. It seems only fitting that we passengers of Spaceship Earth, from steerage to stern, should meet our own doom to its gentle strains, as we claw and trample each other in a desperate attempt to survive one more minute, our knuckles whitening as we clutch the nude sketches of the society women we seduced.
As Balaban notes, the video has existed in mostly mythic terms for decades—though Turner himself would sometimes play it for reporters. And as Vice points out, it was apparently so well known among media circles, it was parodied in Gremlins 2: The New Batch. But this is the first time that the video has leaked online.
Of course, a lot of things have changed since 1980 . For one thing, this video was shot in standard definition with 4:3 aspect ratio—meaning were CNN to actually play it, many would spend their final seconds complaining on Twitter about the shitty picture quality. And for another, the video is clearly tagged in the CNN database with “[Hold for release] till end of world confirmed,” harkening back to a more innocent, less competitive time when CNN still waited to verify facts before reporting them. What you’ll actually see on CNN in your final moments is probably Don Lemon, wondering aloud whether the world is being swallowed by a black hole while noting the smell of marijuana.