Monday, August 29, 2011

Irene Apocalypse That Never Was

Perfect Storm of Hype

"For the television reporter, clad in his red cagoule emblazoned with the CNN logo, it was a dramatic on-air moment, broadcasting live from Long Island, New York during a hurricane that threatened Manhattan.
"We are in, right, now...the right eye wall, no doubt about that...there you see the surf," he said breathlessly. "That tells a story right there."

Stumbling and apparently buffeted by ferocious gusts winds, he took shelter next to a building. "This is our protection from the wind," he explained. 'It's been truly remarkable to watch the power of the ocean here."

The surf may have told a story but so too did the sight behind the reporter of people chatting and ambling along the sea front. There was a man in a t-shirt, a woman waving her arms and then walking backwards. Then a bicycle glided past.

Across the screen, the "Break News: Irene Batters Long Island" caption was replaced by an order from the Federal Emergency Management Agency: "Stay inside, stay safe."

The image summed up Hurricane Irene - the media and the United States federal government trying to live up to their own doom-laden warnings and predictions while a sizeable number of ordinary Americans just carried on as normal."

I grew up on Long Island and with my family weathered a number of storms. I'd say right now that the worst of them were the winter nor'easters that dumped a truly unreal amount of snow on us. As a young kid I always had to dig the driveway out and cut through the big plow throw mounds off from the street. Storms like Irene happened occasionally and the rain was intense and the wind blew. Big yawn here. A huge buildup of catastrophic anticipation sort of surprised me about this storm. There's some kind of political juice to be had by hyping something like this, maybe when the predicted disaster didn't happen the lords of the universe can claim their preparations were oh so successful, but who the hell knows. Weather is so easily manipulated and modified these days. So is the reportage, as this breaking news confirms:


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