Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Poor Unfortunate Souls

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There's something about watching the coverage of a natural disaster before it hits that's like MSG in food-- I just can't get enough. I'm one of the assclowns who watches channel 7 non-stop during a blizzard to stay up to date. Why? I'm in the blizzard. I know it's snowing. If I wanted to tell if it was slowing down or getting more intense, I could hang my head out the window and see. So Sunday night while I was semi-consciously doing my freelance work, I turned on the news to watch people prepare for the hurricane.
I don't relish the fact that so much damage is about to come to people. Kristen's most excellent roommate Colleen just moved to Boston from New Orleans, and I can't imagine how worried she must be about the people she knows there. I worry about the elderly people who don't have anyone to look after them and encourage them to leave. I care a little bit about the people who are too fucking stupid to get the hell out of the way of an oncoming storm and stay in their rickety homes.
The problem I have is with the media coverage after one of these disasters. Today I was watching the Today show over my bowl of Kashi, and they were interviewing this guy who stayed in his house for the storm, his house got flooded so he rode his son's surfboard to the attic, somehow put a hole in his roof, climbed out and clung to a tree for hours until someone got him down. Now, this is a sad thing, and I am glad the guy is okay. But why is it that they always find the one stereotypical guy to interview for these stories? This guy had a handlebar mustache and a flannel shirt that was tattered and unbuttoned until halfway down his chest. All they needed was a busted-up replica of the General Lee in the background of the shot and a big neon sign that read "REDNECK!" pointing at this guy to make the point more clear. And, of course, they set the guy and the neighbors who found him in the tree in front of a gigantic pile of rubble, in soft focus behind them, a gentle reminder of how awful this is. NotKatieCouric and Matt Lauer nagged this group of people, using phrases "during the many hours you clung to life" and other loaded questions to make them cry, and it worked. The "human drama" made it to air. The whole proceeding made me so ill I had to turn the television off.
Nevermind doing an entire story about how you can help the hurricane's victims (just a reference to visit the Today show's Web site) or a story about how people survived, or a story about the environmental impact of the hurricane on the New Orleans area. They had to find the redneck who didn't leave his house. NotKatieCouric also said that they'd be checking in with a woman later in the show who stayed on her shrimpboat with her four-year-old daughter for the entire hurricane.
Listen up, dumbasses who stay in the path of a hurricane-- you are not heroes. You are not miracles. You are stupid. This is not like a tornado where you don't know if the disaster will actually strike. We have radar and television and even radio to tell you that danger is coming and you should get the hell out as soon as possible. Matt Lauer made a point to say at the end of the story that emergency warnings aren't issued lightly, and if you're told to evacuate, get out. It's foolish for the media to hold these people up, to give them their fifteen minutes of fame for being absolutely stupid and somehow making it out unscathed. Do a story about the responsible parents who got their kids the hell out and ended up playing Uno in a hotel room in Texas for three days straight.
So, I hope that if anyone in the South reads this, that you're all okay. I mean, we have hurricanes up here too, and sometimes they really fuck us up. So I know how you feel. And, to anyone at all who's interested, here's how you can help the people affected by the hurricane.

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