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Friday, February 8, 2013

Fear-Mongering and Loathing In The Path of Nor'Easter Nemo

We're All Going To Die. Not Today Probably, But Someday

Dari Alexander, the newsreader on the 10 o'clock news on Channel 5 (Fox) here in New York called the approaching blizzard "unprecedented" last night.
un•prec•e•dent•ed: [uhn-pres-i-den-tid] adjective
without previous instance; never before known or experienced; unexampled or unparalleled: an unprecedented event.

Dari says snow is "unprecedented."
So according to Ms. Alexander, what is going to happen here today and tonight has never happened before. This is a frightening prospect.

Ms. Alexander is an irresponsible fool who either doesn't understand her own language or understands it and chooses to use it against her audience. It has snowed here before – a lot. The difference is, as a region we are still trying to recover from the blow dealt by Hurricane Sandy, so it’s easier to whip up fear.

This morning, the preeminent clown of morning news, Al Roker, stood in Boston Common in a parka and fur-lined hat with a water-proof bib to hold the tablet strapped around his neck. It wasn’t raining, and a pedestrian walked through his shot with a sweatshirt on, but that’s not the point. My God, I thought, what a moron, which was not the response Mr. Roker was aiming for. Apparently the point NBC was going for--utter fear of the impending doom--was lost on me. Their goal was to make us all very, very afraid of what was to come. And also that we should tune in non-stop for further updates.

Al Roker is geared up and ready to face the blizzard.

Cantore is buff and ready to scare.
The Weather Channel has named this storm “Nemo.” Nor-Easter Nemo. “Nemo” is Latin for no man, or it is in reference to a Jules Verne character who was a captain, or it refers to a Disney fish. The Weather Channel hasn’t said definitively, but it has put us on notice that it is going to try to change the culture from one of adult people dealing with life into a miserable sulking mass of people afraid to confront anything without Jim Cantore telling them how hard the wind is blowing on a beach somewhere.

Feeding Off the Real Fears of Real People

I opened my Facebook account this morning to see the latest pictures of kitties and to catch up on what people were having for breakfast and I saw the following post from an acquaintance who suffered greatly during Hurricane Sandy:
Can our house and property take any more damage?

These nine words put the fear and lingering shock into perspective. There are real people who are affected in reality, and the breathless fear-mongers in the media don’t want to deal with that, because that is way too hard. It’s easier to stand in a rest area on the New Jersey Turnpike and talk about the coming traffic jam than it is to understand what a real person may have to confront.

A great number of people who weathered Sandy and the snowstorm that followed a week later are rightfully skittish about the weather we are expecting. That is completely normal and very sad. The problem is, this actual and real fear is being manipulated brilliantly by the people we – as a society – have handed our good sense and independence. As a community, it’s our responsibility to help our neighbors who have been affected by natural disasters. To run around afraid that it is going to happen to us every time the weather turns ugly is childish, selfish, and irresponsible.

A person with compassion and a semblance of common-sense would not minimize the palpable fear of a property owner who is still recovering from last fall's hurricane as they batten down in preparation for a fairly serious winter storm. They wouldn’t capitalize on it either.

A person who is greedy and narcissistic at their core would prey on those fears and endlessly proclaim our impending doom in order to a) sell products, or b) further their own self-aggrandizement.
  • Social media has been awash for four days with forecasts and predictions of doom on the snow storm to come this weekend from everyone, whether they knew what they were talking about or not
  • Local television news broadcasts are leading with five minute segments on the validity of the European Model versus the American Model. Reporters are standing out on streets breathlessly reporting that those same streets are going to be covered in snow...soon!
  • People are glued to their radios, televisions and Facebook timelines, waiting for someone to tell them definitively what is going to happen so they can plan accordingly

Should our elected officials make common-sense statements regarding limiting travel and preparing for the weather? Absolutely. Should everyone else be acting as if this has never happened before? Seriously, you need me to answer that for you?

The weather sucks sometimes. Bad things result from bad weather all the time. While I truly feel for the people who suffered great damage and are afraid they are in for another round, I despise the fear mongers who are manipulating that fear. We minimize the suffering of people when we maximize the threat of every single weather event we are confronted with. If you are paying attention you cannot help but understand that disasters and suffering are good for business, and therefore, the more people are frightened out of their minds over what might happen, the more people tune in to listen. Social media, and the availability of a platform for everyone – regardless of what they actually know – has only exacerbated the problem.

In the area around the immediate Jersey Shore we are expecting three to 7 inches of snow and tides running 3 feet above normal. This is a regular winter event. Are some properties more vulnerable because of the erosion caused by Hurricane Sandy, and is it possible that some people already reeling from that storm are going to be affected more than usual? Yes, but no one seems to be really concerned about them. The concern we are being spoon-fed is the massive regional destruction that is going to take place from this "unprecedented" storm. That is not helpful it is sick.

A blizzard is a snowstorm with winds blowing at a minimum speed of 35 MPH and visibility of less than one-quarter mile for three hours, it does not automatically mean we are going to eleven feet of snow everywhere. The word has been changed to mean that terrible things are going to happen to us all. The weather professionals know what a blizzard actually means, but their unquenchable thirst for ratings prevents them from being truthful and responsible about it. Boston is going to take the brunt of the blizzard to come, but how can a right-thinking person honestly say that Boston has never dealt with two feet of snow before?

Who's fault is all of this?

It's our fault. We buy the products. We ask the questions of the amateur meteorologists, hoping they will be wise enough to make our decisions about our plans for the weekend for us. The best way to know what havoc a storm may or may not wreak on our lives is to responsibly prepare and then wait. It seems that as a society we are incapable of doing either anymore.

The people at Maine Meme's get it.

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