Why We Need Hourly Updates on Hurricane Death Tolls

Why We Need Hourly Updates on Hurricane Death Tolls

Why We Need Hourly Updates on Hurricane Death Tolls

Because…in a democracy it’s important that the citizenry remain informed, in order that….

Ah, who are we kidding?

It’s not because of that.

Blood leads, they used to say in the newspaper game when I was a young reporter. Why? Because of something called morbid curiosity.

It is also present in the rat species. My rat catcher told me that after one rat has been killed in the trap, I no longer need to reload that trap with bait. The smell of the last dead rat will inspire a morbid curiosity in the other rats. They will sniff around trying to see exactly what happened to their brother. And then, whack! They’ll get it too.

Humans, too, like to sniff around at the edges of other people’s suffering. Each hurricane brings with it a hyped pre-landfall score. This is a category 4 storm. By the time it reaches land, it could be the storm of the century.

If all the pre-landfall hype about hurricanes is not bad enough, the ominous weather graphic, with the darkest colors in the center of the circle of the hurricane, moving over the population center — this is rather repulsive, don’t you agree?

Then we have to be subjected to the brave weatherman or woman, standing there in front of the beach, being blasted by the wind, having a real career moment.

Finally, landfall. And the morbid counting begins. Hurricane Michael responsible for one death so far.

And this was the storm of the century? Appalled viewers switch their TV from the weather channel to a Seinfeld rerun. I mean, six hours into landfall and we only have one death. Come on.

After a few days, these death tolls gradually nudge up. People die, after all. If we took the weekend death toll of any American metropolitan district, well, things happen. According to this article in the NY Times, some death toll counters include the deaths of old people in hospitals who may or may not have died, hurricane notwithstanding. What kind of sick fucks are we exactly? Doing the best we can to juice up the death toll for some kind of ratings boost? Or cheap thrill?

Were you disappointed in Hurricane Michael? As of press time its death toll has risen to 17. What about the last one — Florence? She too was meant to be the storm of the century. The death toll of that sits at 51.

Florence has apparently the superior storm.

Michael is nevertheless proud of his performance. It was a decent showing.

Neither of them can hold a candle to Maria, who devastated Puerto Rico with over 3000 deaths, but who knows, those figures are disputed as well.

Do you live in Los Angeles? If you do, you know a light rain causes quite a few deaths out here, since Los Angelenos don’t slow down one iota in the rain. We’re not used to it because it never rains. So we just keep driving at the speed of traffic.

But do we get light rain death tolls out here? No. Nobody wants to hear about the light rain. We want to hear about the storm of the century.

In this age of attacks on media, I don’t think the fourth estate does itself any favors by meticulously tracking deaths they way I used to track Hank Aaron’s homer tally when I was a kid.

So why do we let them do it? Because we’re either 1) sick fucks, 2) rats, or 3) profoundly compassionate Mother Theresa’s who need to be kept abreast of the heart-breaking suffering of the unfortunate Other.

I don’t know the answer but I ain’t putting my money on 3). Are you?

Please follow and like us: