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.


10 Responses to “Irene: The Perfect Storm of Hype?”

  1. Getreal! on August 28th, 2011 5:59 pm

    I just lost a tree on my property. There are trees down all over my town and major power outages that could last days. This is hype to you?

  2. Doug on August 28th, 2011 6:20 pm

    I think I mentioned property damage as a problem, but in conjunction with the media's incessant inferences that a weakening cat-1 storm was going to in any way be "another Katrina" but on a more massive scale, yes, it was hype for ratings.

    I'm glad you and yours are safe though. Trees can be replaced.

  3. SignPainterGuy on August 28th, 2011 6:26 pm

    Someone linked to early Irene damage yesterday at MM`s place a pic of a white plastic lawn table and chairs. One of the chairs had been blown backwards onto its back.

    The damage for you, Getreal, is real indeed and plenty serious. No one wishes to belittle your circumstances, but you must admit, the weather forecasters and reporters and even some gooberment agencies have over played this storm !

  4. Turbo on August 28th, 2011 7:04 pm

    Think that was the earthquake damage pic (the lawn chair).

    Sorry to hear of the property damage from the hurricane. As was pointed out elsewhere though, "flyover country" routinely gets much worse. Glad it wasn't catastrophic to match all the hype.

  5. SignPainterGuy on August 28th, 2011 7:37 pm

    You are correct, Turbo, thanks !

    The westernmost outer cloud band passed over me yesterday afternoon. Whew, it may be a couple more days before I recover completely ! ;-)

  6. Turbo on August 28th, 2011 8:44 pm

    Wow, hang in there SignPainterGuy! But our Big Sis is a good swimmer, strong like bull! I'm sure she'll make it out there soon and start the relief efforts for ya! ;)

  7. Ralph Gizzip on August 29th, 2011 8:29 am

    I think the Media was in kind of a Catch-22. Since Irene was tracking towards major population centers they had an obligation to "sound the alarm" to a greater extent than they did during Katrina. Many, many more people would be affected if Irene hadn't weakened and nobody wanted to see a repeat of New Orleans. (not seriously, anyway). That Irene turned out to be nothing more than a tropical storm was fortuitous to the population affected but left the Media looking like Chicken Little.

  8. SignPainterGuy on August 29th, 2011 7:15 pm

    Yeah, it was terrible here. A couple walnuts fell from the tree and rolled out into the street; dodging them and a squirrel too was almost too harrowing ! There must be at least three leaves blown out of my maple trees in the backyard ! Do you suppose I could get a fed. fuel reimbursement grant for my leaf blower !?

  9. mcmeador on August 29th, 2011 10:53 pm

    Haha, that picture reminds me of this one I saw last week:

  10. Rising Criticism Of The Hurricane Irene Media Hype And Obama’s "Theatrics" | FavStocks on August 31st, 2011 7:53 am

    [...] Powers That Be”, columnist Doug Powers observes in his piece of August 28, 2011, entitled “Irene: The Perfect Storm of Hype?”: “This morning while flipping between CNN, Fox News and some of the network shows, there was [...]

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