Hurricane Matthew was an incredibly destructive hurricane which claimed the lives of over 1,600 people. The way it was handled by the Government came under heavy criticism. Florida Governor Rick Scoot issued a rather blunt and not so subtle warning to the Florida inhabitants, stating that “this storm will kill you” and “Evacuate, evacuate, evacuate. Time is running out. We don’t have much time left.” In Washington, President Obama declared a State of Emergency, and the Department of Homeland Security along with the Federal Emergency Management Company were given authority to work together to counter the aftermath of the Hurricane.
How the Hurricane Matthew Conspiracy started
The Hurricane Matthew Conspiracy began with a tweet from Matt Drudge, author of Conservative Media outlet DrudgeReport.com, tweeting
“The deplorables are starting to wonder if govt has been lying to them about Hurricane Matthew intensity to make exaggerated point on climate” on October 6, 2016 (The deplorables is a reference to Hillary Clinton’s previous description of Trump supporters during the election).
A few minutes later he followed up by tweeting
“Hurricane Center has monopoly on data. No way of verifying claims. Nassau ground observations DID NOT match statements! 165mph gusts? WHERE?”.
Drudge was quickly slandered by Climatologists and U.S Politicians, with many on Twitter suggesting that perhaps Drudge should take a trip to Florida. There does seem to be a particular segment of the population, who are in fact Trump supporters, by and large, inclined to believe that climate change is a hoax. The takeaway from the tweet by Drudge was that it was an act of patriotism for “Deplorables” to ignore the warning and stand up for a version of personal justice against the government.
Right Wing Agendas
Right Wing Conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh also weighed in on the situation, albeit in a more balanced way, linking it to politics and votes. Hurricane forecasting depends on political and electoral factors because there are votes. As he states, there is politics in the weather, politics in the forecasting of the weather and politics in hurricanes, because there are votes. The underlying Hurricane Matthew Conspiracy is not whether the government made the whole thing up and there being no danger whatsoever. The Matthew Conspiracy is comprised of whether or not the government exaggerated the effects of the speed of the hurricane and the damage that it would cause. This is somewhat plausible, though improbable. Even Climate change denier Donald Trump urged Florida residents to take shelter from Hurricane Matthew. This was not a straight left v right issue, as many conservatives urged residents to take shelter, including Fox News anchor Shepard Smith.
Though the fallout from Hurricane Matthew was far less than the dire warning issued by the government, there is little to back up Drudge’s claim that the Hurricane was intentionally exaggerated (Aside from the fact that the incident itself was far less vicious than described). Practically all independent meteorologists warned about Hurricane Matthew. A useful technique might be to ignore all the political babble and left v right dialogue and get the information about people who actually specialize in the area. We are concerned about reports of people deciding to stay in zones of mandatory evacuation orders,” said meteorologist Brian Norcross. “This is a mistake, this is not hype, this is not hyperbole, and I am not kidding.” Norcross also warned against Hurricane Andrew in 1992.
Unfortunately, the problem with most conspiracy theories is that they are unprovable. As all official figures are manipulated, as are all official statements, we live in a world of lies and agendas where to truth has to be fought for. So proving or disproving a conspiracy theory can often be like trying to run through a lake: nothing is solid. Thus we will never be able to prove that the hurricane itself was exaggerated by the media to advance the profile of the elites. The Hurricane Matthew Conspiracy, like other conspiracies, cannot be validated.
There is little doubt that the Government had to issue warnings to the Florida residents to prevent a catastrophe. The storm claimed many lives and billions of dollars of damage in Haiti, whose infrastructure will not be the same for decades, an already impoverished country. A direct hit on Florida would have been catastrophic. From the point of view of government officials and indeed any person in a position of power who is responsible for the lives of others, safety is the top priority. It would have been far worse if the warning was mild and thousands of people lost their lives. It was a Category 5 Hurricane and led to 49 deaths in the US, causing over 10 billions of dollars of damage. To conclude a warning was clearly and obviously justified: Public statements like “you and everyone you know are dead — all of you — because you can’t survive this… and your kids die too.” by influential figures are inappropriate and serve only to cause mass hysteria and are little more than pointless fear mongering.