This morning while flipping between CNN, Fox News and some of the network shows, there was a collective media letdown as predictions were revised downward to match the reality of a storm that was incapable of matching the apocalyptic hype:
There was almost palpable disappointment among the TV big guns rolled out for the occasion when Irene was downgraded to a mere ‘tropical storm”. In New York city, CNN’s silver-haired Anderson Cooper, more usually seen in a tight t-shirt in a famine or war zone, was clad in what one wag dubbed “disaster casual”.
He looked crestfallen fell briefly silent when a weatherwoman told him that the rain was not going to get any worse. “Wow, because this isn’t so bad,” he said. “It’s an annoying rain but it isn’t even a sideways rain.”
For politicians, Irene was a chance to either make amends or appear in control. The White House sent out 25 Irene emails to the press on Saturday alone.
There were photographs of President Barack Obama touring disaster centres and footage of him asking sombre, pertinent questions. With his poll ratings plummeting, Obama needed to project an aura of seriousness and command. He was all too aware that the political fortunes of his predecessor George W. Bush never recovered after the Hurricane Katrina disaster of 2005.
The press mostly reported the message the White House had carefully crafted: “Obama takes charge” read the headline of one wire service story.
When it hit the Jersey shore, Irene unfortunately wasn’t even powerful enough to wash Snooki out to sea.
That said, the storm wasn’t nothing — people died and there will be billions of dollars of damage — but the real danger in over-hyping is that the next time it might be the real deal, and fewer people will pay attention.
We’ll see what the damage from this ends up being, but I for one slept better last night knowing that Chief Meteorologist Obama was on the job.