Tuesday, July 24, 2007

today : The rain blame game

I am wondering if some of the people who have been flooded out recently (and, lets face it, the media covering the story) could be any more naive. Obviously I feel very sorry for anyone whose house is waist deep in muddy water, but, as always, there seems to be a rush to find someone to blame. If it isn't the government, then it's the weather forecasters or the insurance industry. Here's the news: blame the clouds.

What is it in the English character that makes us so shocked whenever nature upsets our cosy little world? A couple of years ago one inch of snow caused the South East to grind to a halt. Whenever there is a bank of fog you find people driving into it at 80 MPH, only to get really upset when they crash into a queue of stationary cars and die, and it has taken pretty much a century for The All England Tennis Club to come up with the idea of a roof on the Wimbledon Centre Court (although when they built another brand new show court a couple of years ago they never thought to put a roof on that one).

In some ways it is the media's way of finding an angle on what is a big but rather static story. There's not much you can do with a flood, apart from show pictures of it. And water is kind of boring. It just stands there being wet. So after you've wheeled out a series of hydrologists, weather experts and insurance spokespeople, there is little left to say. So this lunchtime I heard the unedifying sound of a news reporter trying to prompt flood victims to criticise the government's response and Gordon Brown's flood preparedness. For the most part the victims were fairly sanguine about the situation and didn't really blame the PM and the government. Yet some did take the bait, answering the loaded questions (i.e. "Do you blame the government?") in the affirmative.

Later this evening people were being asked if they thought David Cameron should be in Whitney, Oxon and not in Rwanda, Africa. Not one person replied : "Well, having read "Shake Hands with the Devil", I'm just glad our rivers aren't blocked with hundreds of thousands of the bloated, macheted corpses of children."

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