2011.06.08 Hot air over disasters

Written by David Green.

By DAVID GREEN

When those crazy e-mails arrive—the ones that are sent to a couple dozen people after they were forwarded to everybody in someone’s address book after they were sent to a few dozen other people, etc.—those e-mails that sound so authoritative and persuasive but are actually closer to hogwash and tommyrot...I usually do one of two things when one arrives.

I either hit “delete” while rolling my eyes or I head to Snopes.com and send an e-mail back to the sender showing how the letter just sent to me is entirely wrong. That latter approach is leaning toward rudeness, but I don’t want people believing this poppycock and twaddle. And then I’m done with it.

What’s so different about the letter I received three weeks ago, that one still sitting on the edge of my mind that seems to be thumbing its nose at me? Why can’t I let that one fall away?

I’m not really sure. Every time I think about this letter, it makes me wonder how people can be so full of hatred. And the person who sent it to me wrote “interesting” at the top, as though what followed was actually true information.

The e-mail is called “two standards?” and compares Hurricane Katrina with floods in the Midwest. Here’s how the e-mail starts off:

“After Katrina, the media blamed the lack of response on the Bush administration’s dislike of black people.

Can we then conclude from the lack of media coverage and response by the Obama administration that Obama doesn’t like white people?”

That’s a pretty heavy opening, and it all begins with “the media.” The next paragraph lets you know the media has not reported on the flooding in North Dakota and Iowa. Then it asks why the media is not asking the tough questions about why the federal government has not addressed the flooding in the Midwest.

This caught me off guard. I didn’t know Iowa had experienced major flooding this spring. This was May 19. I searched and couldn’t find anything. Then I went to Snopes and learned this twisted e-mail started years ago about a blizzard. It’s been reworked over the years about other natural catastrophes whenever someone’s racist feelings boil over a little too much.

There’s a good reason for the media’s lack of coverage. It’s been months since there was a serious flooding problem in Iowa. This letter is actually comparing Hurricane Katrina with the flooding of the Mississippi River in 2008—about five months before that uncaring Barack Obama was elected president.

The e-mail wants to know why the media isn’t asking about the lack of FEMA trailers and supplies. Why isn’t the government helping? Where are the looters?

For the record, President George Bush did respond quickly with aid to Iowa and nearby states in June 2008. There were even FEMA trailers delivered to Iowa. There were even a few looters.

As with most of this sort of e-mail, there’s just enough mention of things that annoy many people that they want to believe what they’re reading, to accept it as “interesting” and truthful.

“More people died in these floods than from Katrina...how come the media doesn’t report that?!!!!!”

I can answer that one. Because the media isn’t that stupid. More than 1,800 people died from Hurricane Katrina and about 14 in the Midwest floods of 2008.

But why even compare the two? Why am I even spending time with this? Because it’s just so troublesome to think that people believe this garbage, and all the other forwarded e-mail “facts.”

As if the phony death count wasn’t enough to tip off readers, the letter closes with the requisite “WAKE UP, AMERICA!” warning, this one claiming that the government controls the media and soon the government will control our country.

Author, journalist and radio host Brooke Gladstone says “the media” exists only in our heads. It’s a concept she calls “the influencing machine,” taken from a delusion common to schizophrenics who think some outside influence is controlling them. The media, the government, Obama...something is taking over their minds. Interesting.

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