Saturday, September 3, 2011
The real disaster will not be televised
Television coverage is driven by images.
Dramatic pictures almost write their own stories. When the telegenic scenes pass so does much of the coverage.
So the moments when the television audience watched as Hurricane (and later Tropical Storm) Irene bore down on the American coastline were news. Pictures of intrepid (or if you prefer silly) reporters standing out in the driving rain popped up across the channels.
Then the storm was over. The television audience, watching Irene the way they watch NASCAR (in other words, secretly hoping to be able to see tragedy from the comfort of their living rooms) lost interest when nothing spectacular happened and decided that the storm had been overhyped.
Nothing to see there. Move along.
Except Irene hasn't finished hurting people. There are people who still have no power. There are communities isolated by the destruction of roads and bridges. People who worked and saved all their lives have lost their homes, their businesses and their jobs.
As the headline writers at Salon.com put it Hurricane Irene is working-class disaster for NC and Irene's flooding threatens Vermont's leaf season. At a moment in American history that working class and middle class have been disappearing Irene has damaged job generating areas of the country. At a time when governments are struggling just to maintain existing infrastructure Irene has destroyed crumbling roads and washed away old bridges. How will cash poor local governments raise the money to replace and rebuild?
Irene may not have made a direct hit on New York City but she did land a massive blow on the working and middles classes along the east coast of the United States.