Sunday September 10 was a gorgeous day on Fire Island — warm in the sun, cool in the shade, the air fresh and early-fall-like. My husband and housemates were lying around on the deck reading and doing crossword puzzles. I, meanwhile, was inside the house in the den, glued to the television, watching Hurricane Irma’s painfully slow progress up the Florida peninsula. It made for riveting TV.
The all-Irma-all-the-time coverage on MSNBC may have seemed excessive to people who aren’t news junkies, but to those of us in need of a constant fix, it was like a nice big hit of China white.
As Little Edie from “Grey Gardens” would say, Florida is a very long state, I don’t know if you know that, do you know that? It took forever for Irma to make it from the Keys to Marco Island. Now I confess to never having heard of Marco Island before Irma provided television news with the opportunity to give the nation an extended lesson in the geography of Florida. While anchor Brian Williams remained safe and dry inside the MSNBC studio, a parade of waterlogged correspondents kept the action going outdoors. Soggy and windblown, Mariana Atencio and Sam Champion reported from Miami Beach, while the ever-intrepid Miguel Almaguer literally lashed himself to a concrete post to ensure that he wasn’t blown to oblivion by the fierce winds and unforgiving rain in Florida City. Must-see TV!
PERSPECTIVE: Media Circus
My friend writer David W. Rudlin took a contrary view on Facebook. Rather than finding the whole thing mind-blowingly entertaining, as I did, Dave, inexplicably, found it tasteless. Above a photo of the tethered Almaguer, Rudlin wrote: “Below is a news reporter lashed to a building while he tells us what rain looks like. He is also telling viewers to either evacuate or hunker down, depending on where they are. Yet he’s standing outside with goggles on, blithely disregarding his own advice. And that undercuts his message… I know the networks are trying to maximize the ratings bonanza that is a natural disaster. But it’s gotten pointless, unseemly, and arguably even ghoulish.”
Ghoulish? That’s scarcely a surprise. Ghoulishness his been the backbone of American entertainment since at least 1920, when audiences watched in rapt excitement as poor, unconscious Lillian Gish floated down the river on an ice floe toward a fearsome waterfall, wondering whether they’d get the chance to see her smash against the rocks in D.W. Griffith’s marvelous “Way Down East.” With MSNBC’s Irma coverage, I found myself musing on the likelihood of seeing Sam Champion get beheaded by a flying coconut.
One curious element of MSNBC’s coverage was the presence of Chris Hayes, the host of the political talk show “All In with Chris Hayes,” which has a prime time spot at 8 p.m. I thought this was very odd, since Hayes is the straight man’s answer to Rachel Maddow, albeit without quite the same high ratings. Weirdly, the network stuck Hayes in a rain slicker and sent him out into the elements to face the same projectile coconuts that threatened Sam Champion. At least they didn’t subject the increasingly annoying Chris Matthews to the same degradation. Or perhaps they should have.
Meanwhile, Mad King Rump merrily cheered the United States Coast Guard’s efforts to brand itself during the colossally destructive natural disaster. As Matthew Rosza posted on salon.com, “‘If you talk about branding, no brand has improved more than the United States Coast Guard,’ Trump said, according to the Associated Press.” To make matters even tackier, Rosza noted, “Trump’s social media director Dan Scavino caught heat for retweeting images that he incorrectly claimed showed Miami International Airport being flooded after Irma, according to the Washington Post. The airport later corrected Scavino, and one initial report suggested that the video was actually taken at an airport in Mexico City.”
Oddly, the world’s premiere fashion magazine, Vogue (of all places), featured a damning assessment of the Rumpian position on climate change. As Mary Wang wrote on vogue.com, “Harvey and Irma have hit US soil within a timespan of two weeks: one is a superstorm whose torrential rainfall forced the National Weather Service to add two new colors to its maps, another is the hurricane said to be one of the strongest ever recorded in the Atlantic. While we seem to have gotten used to the word ‘unprecedented’ to describe our current political climate, meteorologists are still happily applying the same term to hurricanes. The problem is, these extreme weather events are going to be less and less ‘unprecedented’ as our earth heats up, and our only chance of survival lies in acknowledging exactly that… Hurricane Irma is currently raging over Florida, but to many Texans, the memory of President Trump’s reaction to Harvey (and perhaps, Melania’s “hurricane stilettos”) is still fresh. Not only did Trump not mention climate change at any point, but when he first visited the disaster-stricken state, he didn’t even address Harvey’s victims. While many media outlets have picked up his failure in optics, we shouldn’t forget that his failures to our climate are much bigger: he withdrew from the Paris accord, he signed an executive order to reverse flood-protection measures 10 days before Harvey made landfall, and, starting right after his inauguration, his administration wiped mentions of climate change off of government websites completely.”
It’s great to see the world’s preeminent arbiter of women’s fashion take such an angry stand.
And they say I never cover good news: From thehill.com: “A reporter for NBC helped rescue two dolphins stranded on shore in the wake of Hurricane Irma. Kerry Sanders, a Florida-based correspondent, twice found dolphins stranded on beaches while covering the storm on Marco Island. He first found a baby dolphin and, with the help of a passerby, guided it back into the ocean. Sanders said he asked wildlife officials for their advice on how to help the stranded dolphin, according to ‘The Today Show.’ Sanders later came across a second stranded adult dolphin and helped to carry it back into the water with the help of others who were also on the beach.”
I always loved “Flipper,” but that was because the boys usually ran around shirtless.