Trust, the News, and Irrationality

When the girls and I got home from Playa Punta Tuna on Saturday, Ms. Dees was all shook up about the two storms headed our way. You see, her brother had called to warn her about the storms coming and to ensure she was prepared. Her response was just like mine, "what storms?"

After unpacking, showering, etc, I was finally able to sit down at the old compu and see what this whole storm nonsense was all about. My first and only stop in situations like this is to pull up the National Hurricane Center. After a quick check of the public advisories and projections, I went back to Ms. Dees and said, there is little risk that these storms will cause us any problems.

Of course, she had already gotten an earful of hyperbole from her brother and my assurances fell on deaf ears. On Sunday, she was still in freak-out mode and insisted that we go buy water and batteries, blah, blah, blah. I needed to pickup a few things for dinner from the supermarket, so I begrudgingly agreed to head to the store. I swung by Walmart and there was already a line of cars, just waiting to get in the parking lot. So I rerouted to Ralph's and was happy to find the parking lot free of lines. However, once inside I could see that everyone there was also in freak-out mode.

Back at home after waiting for an unbelievably long line at the checkout counter, the missus was satisfied but still in freak-out mode. I told her that a new update would be available at 5:00 pm, and we went about preparing dinner. At 5:00 pm she headed to the television, and called to me to join her. As I was headed for the computer for an update from the National Hurricane Center, I called out, I don't care what they have to say.

Now this may come as a shock, but sometimes I come off as an arrogant Mr. Know-it-all. Ms Dees had a few choice words to that effect as I said that I didn't give a shit what the local news was saying, but she declared that she was still going to watch the news. That's when it hit me. There was a huge difference between what I was reading and viewing on the Internet and what the local news coverage were reporting about the two storms. (See the projected path above, as of Sunday at 5:00 pm)

I think that it is a sad state when we can not trust our local news coverage of hurricanes. While they were still running around, waving their hands, and screaming "The sky is falling," it was very clear to me that the storms posed little or no risk to Puerto Rico. (Have you ever noticed that when the local news starts to do special hurricane coverage they put on these dark blue windbreakers? Even the Governor usually does it. It's almost as if they enjoy playing "dress-up" while simultaneously inciting mass hysteria. And the viewers are like, OMG, OMFG, they've got the windbreakers on, this MUST be serious!)

In the end, while we're still waiting for Bill to pass WAY to the north of Puerto Rico, it clear that the National Hurricane Center was right, and that most of the local coverage was inaccurate, tending towards exaggeration. It makes you wonder, if they screw up the reporting of a hurricane, how badly are they doing with general news?

5 comments:

Gil C. Schmidt

19 de agosto de 2009, 09:24
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dijo...

Ab-so-lute-ly on target!! Unlike the local news and government birdbrains...

My neighbors were aflutter about the "impending disaster" and yesterday morning (Monday), DESPITE the obvious projections of the NWS, My landlady closed out her house and skeedaddled to her daughter's home nearby. She relied only on the local news and phone calls and thus spent almost 3 days in a near-panic.

Last year I got flooded out of this same house. Storm watches? Don't need 'em. The NWS will let Me know when I have to batten down the hatches. No PTSD for Me and a saner life by avoiding the drivel and hysteria of local so-called news.

MC Don Dees

19 de agosto de 2009, 11:14
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dijo...

What really gives me the creeps is to consider the imposing question, "If the Puerto Rico hive mind can be so easily mislead and manipulated, what other news have they screwed up?" Swine Flu pandemic anyone? 29 deaths divided by 4,000,000, let's see, that comes to a mortality rate of 0.0000072%, OMG, OMFG, let's all gargle with hand sanitizer!!!!

Thanks for the comment Gil.

Gabriel

19 de agosto de 2009, 16:32
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dijo...

You know, I have never been to that beach. I tend to go to Boqueron, Combate...
Oh yeah, hurricanes. Dunno if you are familiar with Alvarez Guedes, a Cuban comedian. He has a hilarious routine about Puertorrican attitudes to hurricanes. If your Google-Fu is true, you can probably find it online.
Hurricanes are like a holiday here. People go berserk, Its a cultural thing. And next hurricane watch they will do the same. Its so stupid, we live in the tropics, we should be reasonably prepared during hurricane season and while the average is not a meteorologist we should know enough to interpret NOOA advisories and graphics. No need to run like crazy.
I don't think its a government control issue as much as attitudes to that type of disaster.
What gets me about the swine flu hype is that violent deaths keep rising on the island but no one cares, but you cough in a elevator and they run you out of the building!

Gabriel

3 de septiembre de 2009, 16:51
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dijo...

did you see today' s newspapers with the Erika news? It was almost joyful the way the encouraged people to go nuts!

MC Don Dees

3 de septiembre de 2009, 21:32
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dijo...

This morning Susan Soltero said that we could expect 5-10 inches of rain, or maybe more. That was completely inconsistent with the 5:00 am advisory by the NHC. They were predicting 3-5 in., with as much as 8 in. possible. Complete hyperbole.