Thursday, 1 November 2012

Why do we hear so much about Hurricane Sandy?

Somewhere in Cuba.

Large hurricane in the USA. Many dead.

Why do we hear quite so much about Hurricane Sandy and only about its effects in the USA? 54 people died in Haiti and 21 died in Cuba. The toll in the US was around twenty when I wrote this but is now climbing towards ninety.

Two subjects of the Queen were also killed in Canada, the colony that, in Anthony Burgess's words, stayed at home to look after mother. The British press scarcely mentioned Canada, however. 

In Romania each year, several floods kill people and sometimes make large numbers homeless: only Romanians care and not all of them. One Rubensesque, fashion-addicted 'socialite' (but do not think Nancy Cunard), who is the daughter of a leading politician and loves to pollinate the shops of Milan, gave two million lei ($60) to flood victims in a telethon she was appearing on. When I remarked that it wasn't very much, she said: 

'I wish I hadn't given them anything. I don't care about them. I just don't care about them. I just don't care. Anyway, they don't need my money. Other people give them money.'

There spoke the true Phanariot spirit.

The Goldman Sachs building still had its lights blazing in New York last night... car in front not doing as well.(Daily Telegraph) 
A week or so before September 11th three thousand Indians died in Nicaragua in an earthquake which received almost no attention, except in Nicaragua. Blink and it was gone from the news.

The truth is that we care about those close to us and America is culturally close to us English, though far away, and close culturally to everyone else in the world, unless you are an Amazonian peasant. 

I took a slightly cursory and detached interest in September 11 at first, as a sort of protest against this tendency to pay America disproportionate attention. I also never read crime stories and class terrorism as crime. This changed when I read the stories of the survivors, in a two day old International Herald Tribune, stolen from the Athenee Palace. Looking back, I realise I greatly underestimated the importance of September 11th and the American government equally greatly overreacted to it.

The English, in general, I was surprised to find, treated the whole thing almost as if it had happened in England. In fact, very many British people were killed on September 11, but that was not the main reason for the British reaction.  A similar thing happened with the OJ Simpson trial which was followed very intensely in England despite, bizarrely, the fact that until he was arrested no-one in England had heard of 'OJ'. This irritated me, but it was, on the whole, a good thing because it shows the importance of ethnic links and family feeling between the English and their colonies around the world.

Of course, had it been a repeat of Hurricane Katrina in which so many died because, in part, of the incompetence of politicians, it would have killed Obama's chance of re-election. One factor that might still influence the vote, which today, Thursday, still looks very close, would be were large scale looting to break out. It seems, though, that this has not happened.

There's something quite sad about this forlorn sprinkler dutifully watering the grass in Brigantine, New Jersey, as the streets around it flood. (Daily Telegraph)

Note on Saturday, five days after the flood: the cancellation of the New York marathon is first thing in the BBC World Service news. I switched over to enjoy Grieg on Radio 3.


  1. Is there a place on Earth more media-centric than Manhattan?

  2. America thinks its the center of the world, that's why! Davin Ellicson

  3. In large part it has to do with most global news sources being based on the American East Coast. Right now, with the election looming, and with the media's darling poised for defeat, such non-stories as inclement weather to distract from other, far more important issues.

    It's a reflection of the society of the spectacle, really.