SEVERE WEATHER scares!
BREAKING NEWS: IT'S RAINING IN HILO! EVERYBODY STOCK UP ON A MONTH'S WORTH OF EMERGENCY FOOD SUPPLIES... oh, wait, you already did that after last week's Severe Weather Alert and Updates every five minutes on the morning and evening local TV news shows. Or have you become immune to the incessant, prematurely hyped-up storm warnings that begin the moment there's a cloud on the radar screen somewhere off the coast of Mexico?
Look, we should be aware of potential hurricanes and tropical storms that could impact the islands. But we don't need pointless repetition of speculative "forecasts" five times in the span of a half-hour newscast. It's not news if there's nothing new to report! They are merely fanning anxiety and blowing a lot of hot air to fill time on the cheap instead of actually DIGGING DEEPER or going BEYOND THE HEADLINES and ALWAYS INVESTIGATING (unless the breaking news happens to be about one of their own reporters breaking the law).
Yes, I understand today's version of news reporting is that it has to be "entertaining" and friendly when they're not gravely stating we could be facing an impending weather disaster that we should prepare for by staying glued to the TV set (or download the Weather app!) to track the storm front's minute-by-minute progress. I mean, who knows -- it could get stronger! Or weaker! But it's extremely important to anticipate what you may have to be ready for a week from now, because... well, just because!
What's unfortunate is that all this non-news reporting is actually backfiring. I talk to people every day who say they no longer watch TV news or read the newspaper because there's so much fluff or "might happen/ could happen/ didn't happen" type coverage. I'm a news junkie and started my professional life as a newspaper reporter, so that bugs me. Yet I find I can keep up on things pretty well by skimming the Star-Advertiser headlines and DVR-ing the three local TV news stations, then fast forwarding through all the filler material to watch the 4-5 minutes each day that contain real news substance.
Here's my suggestion: by recording the local TV news and skipping the stuff you probably see via re-posted links and viral videos on Facebook, you will save enough time to watch something that is truly alarming -- like the Merchants of Doubt documentary, which is now available on Netflix. In fact, I suggest the local TV news people watch it and perhaps do follow up segments with one of the executive producers, who happens to live in Hawaii: Pierre Omidyar.
I greatly respect what the Omidyars have done here by creating Civil Beat and the Ulupono Initiative, so the only surprise to me about seeing his name on the opening credits is that locally I don't recall hearing anything in the news about this film project. For all the global warming skeptics and naysayers who contend climate change is just liberal whining and scare tactics, this is NOT something they will want to see. It shows the undeniable link between the same professional PR spin-masters in the cigarette industry and the campaign to discredit scientists who have been warning us for decades about global warming. And yeah, they're backed mostly by conservative Republicans who glibly smile while they peddle cancer-causing cigarettes or try to block regulations to protect our environment.
Instead of devoting so many minutes each day week after week to updating us on "possible" severe weather, couldn't our local news media put a fraction of that time and effort into enlightening the public about real matters related to climate change? Do they have the guts to expose the outright lies of Fox News and conservative Republicans who insist there is "doubt" in the scientific community about the dangers of man-made pollutants that are the cause of catastrophic tornadoes, fires, and flooding throughout the world?
To paraphrase Bob Dylan, you don't need a Weatherman to know which way the wind blows... and you don't need to have local TV reporters go out to Hilo to stand in the rain and tell us it's raining. Sheesh.
Add Merchants of Doubt to your Netfllix queue, or watch it when it comes to cable. Get angry. And the next time someone tries to give you a Fox News or Republican talking point to deny climate change, tell them where they can insert that DVD since they are unlikely to watch anything that conflicts with their myopic world view.
One other side-note about the documentary: it begins with magician Jamy Ian Swiss performing slight of hand tricks to demonstrate the art of deception. I immediately recognized him as one of the bartenders that used to work at the Seventh Avenue South jazz club in NYC, back when I lived there in the early 1980s. Once, while seated at the bar, he asked me to pick a card and insert it back into the deck. After a quick shuffle, he tossed the cards up... and there in the corner of the ceiling, was the same card I had selected stuck into the ceiling somehow. I surmise he must have planted a second identical card there before I arrived. But how did he get me to choose that particular card?
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