The 5 Dumbest Right-Wing Reactions to Hurricane Irene
As Hurricane Irene leaves the East Coast behind, residents are assessing the damage.
While some areas, like big cities on the Eastern seaboard including New York, suffered perhaps less destruction and danger than expected, inland mountainous regions like New York's Catskills and nearly all of Vermont suffered terrible devastation and flooding. Many people lost their homes, while buildings from century-old covered bridges to giant ski lodges were destroyed. Several towns remain cut off from the outside due to roads being turned into rivers.
In addition, the AP reports that "Hurricane Irene led to the deaths of at least 27 people in eight states," not counting Vermont which is still reporting at least two dead and several people missing as of mid-day Monday.
So while the storm took a slightly unpredicted path, the projections of devastation, precautions taken by government officials, and media blitz undoubtedly saved lives and paid off. The response to the storm, and the relative public calm during it, is one of the most compelling pieces of evidence we have that government works. From early warning systems and federal safety guidelines to updates provided by the National Weather Service and emergency funds that will come from FEMA, state, local and federal agencies protected people, alerted people and are now helping mitigate and repair the damage from a major weather event.
So why, then, is it no surprise that comments and positions from the glib to the evil to the downright bizzarre have already been proliferating in the media, feeding into right-wing frames about goverment not being a good thing? Here's an example: the Beltway media's dismissal of "Hurricane Irene Hype." Media critic Howard Kurtz took to the Daily Beast to bemoan what he claims was overblown media attention to Irene, surmising that because of the need for ratings and the need for government officials to appear competent, this weekend it was all Irene, all the time on TV. I don't know about Kurtz, but personally I tuned in every few hours to actually find out what I was supposed to do, whether I could leave my apartment, and whether my friends and relatives were in the storm's path (I also saw other world events being covered in the media, including on cable TV).
Kurtz prompted a furious response from Brad Friedman, worth reading including depressing pictures of the damage in New York and Vermont which was occurring while or after Kurtz's glib wrap-up piece was filed on Sunday:
Really, Howard, I am sorry that your reliably regular Sunday morning show on CNN was preempted this morning and you were unable to bring us important planned coverage, including "NYT’s Tom Friedman on lame political coverage; the media scrutinize Rick Perry, and the breaking of UMiami’s football scandal," as 14 people had already inconveniently died by showtime today from the
Without the serious media attention given to the incoming storm --- featuring, as usual, the standard sensationalism that all corporate media, including CNN's Sunday morning shows, routinely bring to the news every single day --- it's likely that many more lives would have been lost.
While it's true that the cable news shows were being sensationalist, I don't think the people who lost their homes were inclined to agree with the over-hyped claim. And the statistics bear out, too. Nate Silver also crunched the numbers to show that the media "hype" was directly proportional to the damage.
For once, the 24-hour news cycle served us well. As for the government wanting to appear competent, it's highly likely that the government wanted to be competent, and avoid the disaster that arises from being incompetent, as it was in 2005 with Katrina.