Killer Storms
On the State of Televised Weather Reports


For some reason, the boy cried wolf when there was no wolf.  It’s hard to say what his motivation was.  Aesop said the boy was bored, but chances are the boy just wanted attention.  But why?  Was it a case of insecurity or self promotion?  At any rate, the boy — a shepard — tricked his neighbors into believing that a wolf was prowling nearby.  They warned him not to “cry wolf” again, but he did.  And the neighbors came running to help.  Again.  Same results.

Then one day a wolf actually stalked the boy’s flock.  The boy cried for help  agai. This time for real. B ut the neighbors, who were by now questioning the legitmacy of his complaints — figured that the boy’s cries were bogus.  He had lost his credibility.  No one came to help him.  As a result, the wolf ate his sheep and the boy became a cautionary tale.

The takeaway:  When liars speak the truth, they are not believed.  But people are strange.  The Wall Street Journal recently reported that reading “The Boy Who Cried Wolf” to a child increases that child’s likelihood of lying.  But this begs the question: who exactly believes the Wall Street Journal these days, anyway? 

Yet, if those lying children are inspired by the boy who cried wolf, maybe they don’t want to be believed.  This would help explain the current state of TV weather reporting where broadcast meterologists have become liars — stretching truth to the point of breaking; exaggerating to deception.  It makes me think they don’t want to have credibility.  They just want advertising revenue.  Which is why I get my weather online from a non-profit. They don’t get hysterical with storm watches for light showers, sprinkles or a spritz.

On the other hand, on television the voluptuous blond weather woman punctuates her sprintz report by saying provocatively, “If you live in a basin, it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that one day it’s going to fill.”  Oh my.  She giggles as she says it, but she’s playing with our heads.  She’s playing with our fears. Apparently, she’s read the boy who cried wolf and doesn’t want to be believed.

When Southern California’s TV weather reporters speak of rain, they warn of a wicked wet creature stalking the coast bringing with it the unfathomable horrors of a “build an ark” proportion beat down.   In their warnings, they are joined by broadcast news anchors — the ones who just told you about the terrorist bombing in Europe — who also speak of threatening dark clouds, intimidating thunder, menacing winds, storms ripping through neighborhoods like hydroponic al Qaedas.  Lock your doors.  Wet terror is coming.  Some of us, as members of the cult of catastophe, cower dutifully before the telecast — make believe victims waiting for impending disater fixed to the flat-screen’s hard-sell deception brought to you by RJ Reynolds and friends: Chips Ahoy! and caffeinated drinks, colognes and jeans, ipods and Black Ops.  It’s an audience held captive indoors by consumption and the promise of fear.  Oh my.  They will be told to stay off the freeways and roads.  In Southern California this can mean only one thing.  Stay home. Don’t change the channel.

I like to be warned when real danger is coming.  But don’t tell me it is when it isn’t.  In matters of reporting meterological conditions, I don’t like overkill — even if it adds to your drama.  This kind of fiction will come to no good.  For, in the end, when the voice on TV speaks the truth, it will not be believed.

— Nathan Callahan

First Broadcast October 28, 2011

© / Nathan Callahan / all rights reserved


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