Thursday, September 13, 2018 at 8:38 AM

Hurricane Florence: Media Hype Smacks of Rooting for Disaster

Posted by Anthony L. Hall

News outlets cover natural disasters purportedly as a public service. But there’s no denying that such coverage is a ratings boon for their bottom line – catering as it does to the perverse thrill of suspense that keeps us fixated on the hype of impending doom.

[But] Americans are blessed with the technology, escape routes to inland shelters, and other emergency management resources to gauge and withstand hurricanes with virtually no loss of life.

(“Run for Your Lives: Katrina’s Coming! Katrina’s Coming!” The iPINIONS Journal, August 29, 2005)

Except that Americans living on the island of Puerto Rico during the presidency of Donald J. Trump proved a glaring exception. Because we now know that they might as well had been Haitians living on the island of Hispaniola. I commented on their unfolding fate in “Hurricane Maria: Puerto Rico Catfished by Whitefish,” October 27, 2017:


Frankly, nobody should be surprised that the shady business dealings that define the Trump Organization are now defining the Trump Administration. …

We’ve already seen that ‘Make America Great Again’ means having the federal government pay millions for Trump’s kids to travel the world doing business deals. Therefore, it should hardly surprise that it also means having the federal government pay hundreds of millions for his cronies to pull off the biggest kickback deal the world has ever seen. …

Reports are that the money men behind Whitefish Holdings [who won the no-bid contract to restore electricity to Puerto Rico] donated huge sums to Trump’s presidential campaign. Which is why, for them, this contract is nothing more than kickback as payback. …

[Not to mention] the sideshow within the sideshow that has characterized relief and rebuilding efforts in Puerto Rico. It has featured the mayor of San Juan, Carmen Yulín Cruz, famously kicking Trump’s ass for the Katrina-like incompetence and outright neglect, and the governor of Puerto Rico, Ricardo Rossello, kissing it for whatever he can suck out of FEMA.


That’s why this news should have come as no surprise:

The official death toll from the hurricane that struck Puerto Rico in September last year has been increased from 64 to 2,975 – a 50-times jump that has sparked a new wave of criticism for the government response to the disaster. … Mr Trump himself said in early October 2017 that he was happy with the federal response to Maria, saying it compared favourably with a ‘real catastrophe like Katrina’.

For comparison, deaths blamed on Hurricane Katrina in 2005 range from about 1,200 to more than 1,800.

(The Independent, August 29, 2018)

Trump promptly compounded his presidential neglect by insisting, even in the face of this news, that his government’s response to Maria was “an incredible, unsung success.”

Even worse, this preternaturally narcissistic, gaslighting president took to Twitter this morning to assure the twits who follow him that this new death toll is fake news, which Democrats are propagating just to “make me look as bad as possible.” But this too should have come as no surprise. After all, this is the same delusional, malignant solipsist who issued this Orwellian decree just weeks ago:

Don’t believe the crap you see from these people, the fake news. … What you’re seeing and what you’re reading is not what’s happening.

(CNN, July 25, 2018)

Of course, he also still insists that the investigation into Russia’s cyberattack on the 2016 presidential election is a Democratic witch hunt intended to delegitimize his presidency. This, despite the unanimous finding by his own intelligence agencies that Russia not only launched the attack but did so to help him get elected.

In any event, my opening quote explains why I’ve become inured to, if not annoyed by, all the hysterics and histrionics that now attend hurricanes barreling towards the United States. This invariably involves people rushing to empty store shelves and reporters doing all they can to stoke fears and manufacture suspense, which includes reporting the same story over and over again like a ratings-conjuring mantra.

Indeed, the reason the media hype hurricanes like reality-TV horror shows is that so many people tune in to watch them as such. I mean, who cares why a few nincompoops are defying orders to evacuate their coastal homes, which are bounded to get blasted.

Yet no less a superstar than anchor Lester Holt of the NBC Nightly News could not resist descending like a media vulture where Florence is tracking to make landfall. There he treated us to interviews with these nincompoops as if they were NASA astronauts preparing to blast off to Mars.

I shall spare you my indignant commentary on the absurdity of reporters ‘braving’ the elements to report on what is plain to see. …

Frankly, only when flying debris decapitates one of these misguided storm chasers will everybody exclaim ‘what the hell was he standing outside in the midst of a hurricane for anyway!’

(“Media Desperately Seeking Another Katrina but Finding Only Gustav,” The iPINIONS Journal, September 2, 2008)

Nothing betrays their histrionics quite like the fact that these brave reporters see no need to stand in the midst of wildfires to report on that seasonal weather phenomenon.

That said, I fully appreciate all the property damage hurricanes like Florence cause, as well as the real hardships they leave in their wake. Unfortunately, there’s nothing anyone can do to alter Mother Nature’s path or wrath. What’s more, there’s an element of chickens coming home to roost in her increasing fury, which stems from our mercenary and myopic contribution to climate change.

Meanwhile, Super Typhoon Mangkhut is barreling towards the Philippines. So, as you revel in the media’s mercenary coverage of Hurricane Florence, please bear this in mind. Because that island nation has very little of the technology, escape routes, and resources that would enable it to limit this typhoon’s impact.

In fact, Mangkhut (with CAT 5, 157 mph winds) is bound to leave devastation in its wake that will be ten times worse than anything Florence (with CAT 2-3, 111 mph winds) leaves.

NOTE: Typhoon is to hurricane as lorry is to truck. Which compels the Shakespearean allusion that a hurricane by any other name would devastate as much.

Related commentaries:
Katrina’s coming
Hurricane Maria
Finding Gustav

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