Ever notice that if there is the chance of a hurricane, blizzard, or tornado, everyone keeps checking their smartphone? Just a few decades ago, it was Weather Channel on T.V. that was the best deal in advertising. If you could run a ticker tape advertisement during a weather event, thousands of extra viewers would be reading about your business. Fear of disaster increases viewership. So much so that news commentators tend to exaggerate the possibilities.
A winter storm watch quickly evolves into a bulletin of a potential for inches of snow, ice, and driving winds—although the likelihood is slim. In the midst of a storm, camera footage is frequently aired to emphasize dire weather. One year I watched a weatherman struggling to keep his balance in the wind reporting on blizzard conditions, while in the background a homeowner was taking out his trash. The homeowner wasn’t even wearing a jacket.
Today in Maryland we have big wet snowflakes falling. Yesterday the temperatures got up to fifty degrees Fahrenheit so the snow is unlikely to stick, but we are under a winter weather advisory. In normal circumstances the weather situation would impact peoples’ plans for tomorrow.
Children and parents want to know if school will be canceled in the morning. Workers want to know if they have an excuse for taking a day off work. Folks on a vacation want to know if they need to check out early before all the flights are cancelled. Now with the Pandemic, with so many people working from home, many of those all important issues are insignificant. But people still want to know about the weather.
The weather, regardless of political affiliation, is something that we can all agree on once it happens. If there is ice on the roads the tangible proof is that it will cause vehicles to slip and slide. If flooding traps people in the upper floors of their homes in our community, preventing them from accessing food and shelter; we can easily see their plight. When things happen from a distance, we have to believe the reports when we don’t see the weather firsthand.
I don’t know of any conspiracy theories that claim certain hurricanes never happened and are absolute fabrications. But there are conspiracy theorists that claim school shootings never took place. While there is no debate as to the two feet of snow on the ground in New York, there are still those who believe the reports of grave illness and death of the coronavirus is greatly exaggerated. Whatever people believe, it is reinforced by hearing the same thing over and over again.
Repeat a lie, for example during the 911 attack a plane never flew into the Pentagon —a conspiracy theory repeated over and over again by a certain first term U.S. Congresswoman—and people start to believe the lie. They hear these things repeated on the various media sources they subscribe to, that further compounds the problem. The realities of what is true and false grow further and further apart. We can exaggerate the weather before it happens, but the actual weather event is clearly defined.
What if we all turned everything off? Completely. And only subscribed to local news and the local weather? Try to talk to neighbors, family, and friends on subjects on which we could agree. Find some common ground to build a consensus.
Religion and politics were always known as two subjects to avoid at a party. Is it possible that the United States can become less divided? I think it’s worth a try. Drive carefully today. The roads in Maryland are slick. I hear up in New England there’s more snow on the way. Hey, how about that weather?