The history of humanity is a succession of stories of triumphs over disaster. That’s why they call us homo sapiens sapiens, which translates as “really, really smart dudes.” (Oh, wait. That’s not what they call us, it’s what we call ourselves. Still.) This past weekend, yet another triumph over yet another disaster. And I’m not talking about the resilience of the people of Florida, or the bravery of first responders or the fiendish cleverness of global-warming hoaxers; I’m talking about modern TV journalism as applied to disasters.
For days now, the best available satellite technology, fiber-optic communications, digital electronics and state of the art rain hoods have been deployed to provide us, the viewers, with unparalleled views of people who are too dumb to come in out of the rain. There are, apparently, hundreds of these people working in television. They are marvelously diverse, they come in all colors, genders, races and religions — although there are probably no conservatives, because they don’t believe in hurricanes.
(In case you think I’m exaggerating, the case was made on the air last week by right-wing guru Rush Limbaugh. He said Hurricane Irma’s strength was being hyped by liberals who are desperate to hoodwink a terrified public into accepting the existence of climate change. Having denied Irma’s importance, Limbaugh immediately fled the state to a place not threatened by the imaginary storm. One can only hope that this morning his luxurious Florida digs are under six feet of imaginary seawater.)
But back to our intrepid reporters. They were everywhere in Florida all day Sunday, standing up to their asses in foaming surf, up to their knees in flooded intersections, while savage winds driving torrential rains beat the snot out of them for hours on end. “It’s blowing hard here,” they revealed exclusively to us, “and the rain is really coming down. Over to you Pete.” And then Pete says, “Yep, breaking news, it’s raining hard here too, and the wind is really coming down.” And on and on, all day long. They reported, and I decided: they are idiots.
One of them was in a sturdy building in Naples, in a warm and dry room overlooking a nondescript street lined by the mandatory thrashing palm trees. But he was standing out on the balcony, in a wind that threatened to snatch him away to a better place, in rain that seemed to be coming from fire hoses. He looked like a drowned and abused rat, all day long.
When a studio meteorologist had the temerity to suggest that, with the eye wall of the hurricane about to arrive, and with parts of trees and buildings sailing past his ears, he might consider taking two steps forward into dry safety, the intrepid reporter bridled. I know what I’m doing, he insisted, I’ve been doing this for a long time. He said this with the level of pride you might associate with Winston Churchill admitting that in his spare time he dashed off the four-volume History of the English Speaking People.
I once had a flock of turkeys that were just like that reporter. I was a kid on a farm, looking to make a little money, and there were 25 of them. One day a thunderstorm approached and I went out to put them into their shed. They didn’t want to go in their shed. The thunderstorm arrived, with wind and hail and lashing rain, and there I was, trying to shoo these idiots into the safety that awaited them a couple of steps away, and they just kept running circles in place.
As the rain was running down my body and the hail was beating on my head, it dawned on me that, wait a damn minute, unlike them, I was a really really smart dude, yet here I was taking the same punishment they were. I went home, got dry, and had a hot chocolate. I never saw them again. And that’s why I’m not a wealthy turkey farmer today. It’s also why I’m not a weather reporter.
At one point in his coverage, the turkey on the balcony spotted a pickup truck driving down the storm-lashed street below. Look at that, he said, obviously about to unload on the insanity of being out in this weather, of ignoring orders to evacuate or shelter in place, orders given so that first responders did not have to risk their lives to save the lives of people too dumb to live. But that’s not what the reporter said. “Oh, wait,” was what he said. “That’s one of us. Media.”
Media. To whom common sense and evacuation orders do not apply, who seem to think they are adding to our understanding of hurricanes by doing all the dumb things they constantly admonish us not to do, and by reporting ad nausem, “Yes, it’s raining here. And the wind is blowing.”
Turkeys, singing in the rain.