July 2nd, 2010 12:30 EST
If we are paranoid about terrorists, why not the weather, too?
Society is newly aware of the significance of little things "minute facial expressions, body language, slips of the tongue. For example, we know that people who like us tend to face us navel to navel, while crossed arms and legs and a body turned slightly away may indicate dislike or defensiveness.
This being so, isn`t it possible that the way weather reports are presented suggests a siege mentality? Last night I heard a local weatherman say, Rain and storms are threatening the region. This has become ho-hum language to us, but on closer inspection the word threatening " seems bizarre.
The Hudson Valley, where I live, is parched. It needs rain, lots of it. Not just a storm or two, but a steady downpour. Rain and storms are normal. They happen, like tides and moon phases. Why should they threaten us? Is drought normal? Why doesn`t the drought threaten us even more? A media establishment hell bent on giving us the jitters is a much bigger threat.
I think what this kind of reportage suggests "even when we set aside habitual media attempts to hype everything under the sun "is that American society may be suffering from post-traumatic stress. We see enemies and threats everywhere. We have the willies, and the media doesn`t help us overcome them. The press is, after all, supported by a pharmaceutical industry that knows what`s good for us, except its prescriptions may kill us. In fact, the press is supported by a health care industry that provides us with the most expensive and the worst care among industrialized nations. To keep us from savoring this statistical nightmare such an industry must scare us half to death.
This hyping of the weather helps to explain the phony media issue about President Obama being too cool and detached in response to the oil spill debacle. Since the press has lost its cool in pursuit of the almighty dollar it feels uncomfortable having a such a cool president. Cool doesn`t make good copy. Hot and stupid does. Remember Rudyard Kipling`s poem about keeping your head when all about you are losing theirs and blaming it on you? I think the media blames the President for its own operatic tendencies.
The oil-drilling rigs in the Gulf of Mexico didn`t threaten us until Deepwater Horizon blew out. But a few storms do, to hear the nightly weather report. Does this make sense? We could do something about oil rig safety, but there is not much we can do about weather except complain. We could even do something about such bad and bankrupting medicine if we weren`t scared silly of socialism.
Perhaps we have become a society that seizes upon hyped-up threats "taxes, big government, deficits, weather, liberals, Muslims, Mexicans. Perhaps we have grown to like exaggerated threats the way people like soap opera. The drama is addictive. It`s not unlike the tragic dilemma of the bipolar victim: drugs and therapy might help, but then there wouldn`t be those highs that make the victim feel like a superhero.
I don`t know if our media have created our siege mentality, but they sure are doing their share to sustain it. It`s good for their ratings. And you can make a threat out of almost anyone and anything, including your grandmother.
Think about this the next time your weather reporter informs you with mock concern that you`re in for more weather and it seems to be threatening motherhood, apple pie and the American way of life.
Djelloul (jeh-lool) Marbrook was born in 1934 in Algiers to a Bedouin father and an American painter. He grew up in Brooklyn, West Islip and Manhattan, New York, where he attended Dwight Preparatory School and Columbia. He then served in the U.S. Navy.
His book of poems, Far From Algiers, won the Stan and Tom Wick Poetry Prize from Kent State University in 2007 and was published in 2008. His story, Artists Hill, adapted from the second novel of an unpublished trilogy, won the Literal LattÃ© first prize in fiction in 2008. His poems have been published in The American Poetry Review, Barrow Street, poemeleon, The Same, and other journals. The pioneering e-book publisher, Online Originals (UK), published his novella, Alice MIller`s Room, in 1999. He worked as a reporter for The Providence Journal and as an editor for The Elmira (NY) Star-Gazette, The Baltimore Sun, The Winston-Salem Journal & Sentinel and The Washington Star. Later he worked as executive editor of four small dailies in northeast Ohio and two medium-size dailies in northern New Jersey.
Del`s book, Far From Algiers: http://upress.kent.edu/books/Marbrook_D.htm
New review of Far from Algiers: http://www.rattle.com/blog/2009/05/far-from-algiers-by-djelloul-marbrook/
Artists Hill, Literal LattÃ©`s fiction first prize: http://www.literal-latte.com/author/djelloulmarbrook/
His blog: http://www.djelloulmarbrook.com
His mother`s art: http://www.juanitaguccione.com
His aunt`s art: http://www.irenericepereira.com