Last night, like many people around Australia, I sat watching the television and looking at news on the internet following Cyclone Yasi’s movements across North Queensland.
In this amazing age of the internet there were a number of webcams set up by people in various places, that provided horrific pictures and audio before they finally cut out due to loss of power. One webcam in Ingham was showing only blackness, but the sound of the cyclone passing was nothing less than a shriek of nature at its most terrible.
I went to sleep, and slept lightly, hoping and praying for good news in the morning, but my head knew not to expect much.
The morning brought news that the worst had not occurred, but that for all talk of “dodged bullets”, Yasi had not been overestimated. Yes the city of Cairns was fortunate not to get the full force of the storm, but in the towns of Mission Beach, Tully, Innisfail, Ingham, and Cardwell no one is talking about missing bullets, except in terms that no one died.
Take this view of Cardwell:
Yes roofs are mostly still intact, but you don’t need to be familiar with the town to know that something very awful has happened. Something monstrous. Something that could have killed.
A look at the main street of Tully tells a similar tale:
Everyone, I think would agree that the destruction caused by Yasi was phenomenal; that it was frightening; that it was something no one would wish upon their worst enemy; and that it was only through luck and excellent management that no one died.
Well everyone except The Australian's Caroline Overington.
This afternoon I foolishly decided to have a read of her “Media Diary blog”, whereupon I saw this headline:
Was this “Much ado” (as in, much ado about nothing) the headline for her piece of News.corp onanism dealing with the launch of the new ipad e-newspaper? (Because hell, a newspaper on the internet, wow, that’s revolutionary.) Err no. The headline and the piece of utter contemptuous tripe that Overington wrote was to do with Cyclone Yasi:
A resident of north Queensland has just called into Sydney radio to say the roof of their cubby house was blown off during Cyclone Yasi.
Also, reports of garage doors being battered. Some poles are down. Palm trees have of course lost fronds.
Well hell, sorry Caroline, next time we will be sure to let people up in North Queensland know that you prefer your cyclones to be tragic.
“Palm trees have lost fronds”? Oh you mean this?
Or perhaps Overington doesn’t grasp that people’s livelihoods have been destroyed? If not, how about we cheer her up and show her what happens to banana plantations when they meets a Category 5 cyclone:
Maybe Overington thinks losing your income for a year is a piffle? You know – harden up you lot, it’s not like anything bad happened.
Some poles down, garage doors battered?
Her post is even more stupid when you realise it was done at 9:17am this morning – a time when no one was completely sure that no lives had been lost.
But don’t worry Overington really does care – after all here she was on Twitter last night:
What a wonderful country when we down south can't sleep for the love of our brothers and sisters in Queensland#tcyasi
Except we now know that is bullshit. She thought it was all exaggerated. Last night on ABC24 there was lots of footage of webcams. One of them in Townsville was on in the background when the operator of the cam decided to have some fun:
When it happened, everyone on Twitter who saw it laughed and pretty well thought it showed how Aussies keep their sense of humour even in the worst of times. But Overington? No she didn’t think that, rather she thought it showed:
It’s a perfectly Australian response to officialdom, and hyperbole.
Officialdom? Err what officialdom exactly would that be, because the webcam was in the guy’s home, so it’s not like he was being pushed around by pedantic officials. Perhaps she means the officialdom that ensured people were evacuated and given adequate warning and told to prepare for the worst? You know, the officialdom which deserves almost all the credit for ensuring no one died.
Was it officialdom of the kind of Noelene Byrne, the Red Cross worker, who decided to close the citizens senior hall in Tully and sent the ten senior citizens to Tully evacuation centre? If so I don’t think anyone is mocking that officialdom because is saved those people’s lives:
NOELENE BYRNE: So I just made a quick decision and ... so I closed it down, transferred people up to the Tully Red Cross centre, and I'm now in front of the senior citizens and it's just one mangled heap.
Had I let the people there there would've been loss of lives.
The destruction is just heartbreaking. It's just one big mangled heap. Everything's just collapsed, there's only the front door of the hall that is standing. The rest is just one big scrap heap.
And what “hyperbole”? Obviously the hyperbole of the cyclone (remember – pfft, no big deal, “Palm trees have lost fronds”)
Maybe she should tell her own newspaper to reduce the hyperbole because here’s what it said:
“Cyclone Yasi whirled out of the heat and humidity of a tropical afternoon with the intensity and shocking violence of a nuclear explosion. In my part of this shrieking world of wind and driving rain, the windows are shaking, the doors are rattling and trees are bent over…. will the roof hold?” McKenna reports.
Overington’s response is utterly disgraceful. I was as angry when I read it as I would have been had someone written in response to the terrible news of Corporal Atkinson’s death in Afghanistan that it wasn’t that big a deal because only one person died.
Should Overington ever get the opportunity to once again speak at a “Future of the media” conference (yeah, I know), maybe she can talk about how she covered Cyclone Yasi. She could tell the audience how she decided it was all a bit of a joke. She could say how she saw the destruction and the loss of people’s homes and she thought the best response was to laugh at them, to mock them.
At that point she may also like to talk about why the public holds the journalism profession in such contempt.
Oh but really, we should spare a thought for her – after all, she’s in Sydney doing it tough don’t ya know – from Twitter this afternoon she tells us:
Alright. Enough with the 37 degrees already.
Poor petal; someone should organise a telethon for her.
UPDATE: In my anger, while writing this post I in effect suggested Overington would have preferred a death or two to accompany the cyclone. That was wrong of me, and a very stupid thing to write. I do not think she would want that, and am sorry I wrote it. I apologise to her for causing any offence. (I should note, I do this not because I have been asked, but because it is the right thing to do). I generally do not write the blog posts in anger, but given the time I had spent living in Cairns, and the people I knew who live there and who were, to be pretty frank, bloody scared last night, I was incensed at Overginton’s attempt at a joke. I stand by everything else I wrote. If what she wrote is a joke, I think it badly misfired, and was offensive. But that’s no excuse for me being offensive as well.
UPDATE 2: I’ve placed all comments in moderation for now. A couple got through that were just abuse, and I don’t want that here. I don’t know how to turn off comments on this post only, so I’ll keep it all on moderation for now. The tone of these responses makes me wish I hadn’t written this piece at all.