Viral Panic Attack
It’s clear we all need to panic immediately! At least that was the take away from every single bit of news coverage I saw the past couple of days except for one guy. I’ll got to him in a moment.
As you’ve already gathered I was watching a lot of coverage over the weekend of Hurricane Irma and the impending end of the universe. Well that is the clear impression given by countless breathless reporters. The adjective train doesn’t carry much of a load anymore. I have heard the terms “unprecedented, unlike anything we’ve ever seen before, there has never been anything like this” and so on. Those are pretty hefty claims about something that we would actually have little evidence to back up.
Then when I thought the coverage couldn’t get any more shrill it did. Shepard Smith on Fox News Channel proclaimed that Hurricane Irma was the biggest storm in the history of the planet! Wow, the biggest in all of history now that is one gigantic claim and totally reckless reporting. I sent Shep a Tweet pointing out the startling comment and wondered if he “exaggerated much”. A few minutes later Shep was continuing on with his commentary when he singled me out live on Fox News. He repeated his wild claim that Irma was the biggest storm in the history of the planet but then added; there has never been a bigger storm “in the history of meteorology on this planet, so no Steve Gruber (I) didn’t exaggerate.”
Well lets take a closer look at the facts: the first weather satellite was not put into orbit until 1960, at about the same time weather radar was being introduced and improved. So in the interest of being accurate we have only had modern weather measuring equipment capable of reaching all corners of the earth for about 50 years. We didn’t have Hurricane Hunter airplanes dropping into the eyes of these giant storms full time until 1963. And not until 2013 were the planes sophisticated
I have no idea how powerful hurricanes were that plowed into America 100 years ago or more. Nobody does. I know because I have read on the subject extensively and the data put forth is from limited observations and estimates put together by modern scientists. To put it simply they are just guesses.
This has no effect however on the constant flow of Tweets, Facebook posts and ‘Breaking News’ headlines roaring from every device in our possession. The barrage of doom and gloom is hard to ignore and for many triggers a sense of panic. The more it is drummed the more our heartbeats pick up the pace.
It doesn’t take long for all of these things to work in unison and work the whole country into a collective lather. It comes like machine gun blasts while we hunker down in our electronic bunkers getting bits a pieces from the crumbling world.
I mean in this case how many times can you hear “Irma is pounding Florida relentlessly” and is the “most powerful Hurricane ever” before you feel a sense of despair? It is only natural to feel that way. I mean most of us have empathy for our fellow travellers and worry about their wellbeing in a time of crisis. I know I do. I also know from experience that the coverage is usually ratcheted up as the reporters and anchors are selling it to you. And yes make no mistake they are selling it. By the way I think Shepard Smith is among the best when it comes to covering breaking news but like others he has a tendency to buy into the hype and get carried away as well.
Don’t send me a note about how you hate Shep, I already know many of you do but I am talking about his straight breaking news coverage abilities. He is very good in that arena. He loses credibility when he strays into openly biased positions when it comes to politics. So don’t worry I already know that and you don’t have to point it out to me.
What I am saying is this, take a breath from time to time from the incessant coverage of any story. Don’t get caught up in the Facebook posts and Tweets and yammering talking heads on TV. Yes Irma is a bad storm and yes Harvey was a bad storm but it is not the end of the world. Is there massive damage? Yes there is, all the way from Galveston to Miami and north into Georgia. We are already beginning to clean up the whole mess just like we always do and always will.
My suggestion the next time we see an “unprecedented” weather event take the appropriate precautions but don’t get too carried away. Skip the viral panic attack and watch an old movie.