Howard Kurtz poked fun at his media counterparts in a Wasthington Post editorial today, shedding light on how the media-as-entertainment hypes events to new heights of fear when, truthfully, they’re really not that bad.
“As the storm of hype continues, bear two other things in mind. First, Isabel is a Category 2 event. Sixty-five worse storms — Categories 3, 4, and 5 — have made landfall in the United States in the past century, according to NOAA . The media is so disaster-hype-prone at the moment — partly because disaster predictions keep the ever-larger demographic of senior citizens glued to the tube — that Isabel will be spoken of as some kind of weather event without precedent. It’s been worse 65 times in the last century.
“Second, you’ll hear that property damage is unprecedented. This will be cited by hype-meisters to justify the notion of Isabel as a phenomenal mega-event, and cited by enviros to back claims the hurricanes are increasing in intensity. But of course property damage will set new records: property is becoming more valuable. Between inflation, the strong market in housing values and a 30-year trend of building upscale housing in coastal areas, with each passing year, what stands in the paths of hurricane is simply worth more. All the National Weather Service record-damage hurricanes (Andrew, $26.5 billion, 1992; Hugo, $7 billion, 1989; Floyd, $4.5 billion, 1999; Fran, $3.2 billion, 1996; Opal, $3 billion, 1995) are recent. This is a result of rising property values, not rising storm intensity.”
Coincidentally, I watched Michael Moore’s Bowling for Columbine, in which his central theme is the idea that fear is in large part respnsible for our odd view of guns, and that this overwhelming sense of fear is due to the overhyped media. Sesnationalized infotainment such as “Summer of the Shark”, escalators that can kill, and other ridiculous oddities receive outsized coverage. In fact, there was a 20/20 special in the last year or two that essentially makes the same point. Ratings, in short number, trumpet any need to feel responsible by the media to actually put forth measured responses. Except in politics, where lies repeated en masse are sufficient in determining what may be true.