The further to the left or the right you move, the more your lens on life distorts.

Sunday, August 02, 2020


When you live in South Florida, hurricanes get everyone's attention. By the time the storm is 1500 miles off the African coast, the daily NOAA storm track predictions begin. Local meteorologists start speaking in hushed tones backed by an ominous music track, telling us all about worst case scenarios, asking questions like, "Could this be another Dorian (a catastrophic Level 5 storm)?" 

It's a Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt" (FUD) strategy that is reminiscent of the COVID-19 coverage of the past five months, but in this case, intended solely to increase viewership and clicks.

On Friday, storm Isaias was in the Caribbean, degrading over the Islands as it moved toward SoFla. Even as the storm began breaking up, the local news media kept up their catastrophist narrative.

"Don't let your guard down," they intoned. 

"There could still be a nightmare scenario that turns Isaias into a Cat 3 storm," they warned.

"Stay safe," they said, repeatedly.

By Saturday morning, the storm was struggling to stay significant, yet many (but not all) of our neighbors had begun the arduous task of putting up storm shutters. Some ran out to buy bottled water (I never understood this, given that in the 20+ years I've lived in SoFla, we have NEVER lost our water supply due to a hurricane). Yet store shelves were empty.

Later in the day, an exhausted neighbor who had put up shutters asked, "No Shutters"?

"Nope," I replied. "it looks like the storm has broken up. Chances of it reforming with winds that're dangerous are approaching zero.

"But it might get bad," he argued.

I shrugged. "Always been a believer in the power of risk analysis. Everything I see tells me that the impact of the storm will be minimal. So I'm happy to risk it."

The storm did break up in our region, and by Sunday morning (as I write this) there's a light breeze and little rain, although the sky is slate grey. No trees are down, no damage of any kind, no flooding, nothing.

In the case of Isaias, the response of the many catastrophists was harmless. They spent a day putting up shutters (in 90 degree heat) that must now be taken down. They have cases of bottled water that must be stored. They would argue, I'm sure, that "it's better to be safe that sorry."

Maybe. But it's much better to assess risk and act accordingly. It's much better to understand the motivations of "experts" who provide us with their preferred narrative on hurricanes (or viruses), and use your own common sense, information sources, and analysis to decide on the right course of action. It much better to recognize that the media treats its customers like children, providing infantile guidance when a more mature assessment of a potentially threatening situation would be far more appropriate.

This morning, the national news (on NBC) gave us a reporter on a deserted SoFla beach. The waves were 2 - 3 feet (small by SoFla standards). There was a strong breeze, but nothing serious. No one else was in frame. He didn't mention that for SoFla, Isaias was a nothingburger, talking instead about "threats" that never happened. The reporter—in the middle of a deserted beach, grey sky in the background, a strong breeze moving the palms—was wearing a face mask. Perfect!