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Media Bites: Sandy Took Newsrooms By Storm

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I believe it was mark Mark Twain who first quipped that "everyone complains about the weather, but no one does the important public service of publishing those complaints in the form of long, preachy newspaper editorials."

You might think that Hurricane Sandy, with all its tremendously tragic -- but oddly photogenic -- terror and destruction would be a difficult story to formulate strong opinions about (beyond simply "I'm against") but this is why you're just some jerk with a real job and not a Canadian newspaper guy. Thankfully, our brave media opinionaters have so many hurricane opinions they can barely contain themselves! Let's take a look at a couple.

For starters, tone down the hysterics. That's the advice of Terence Corcoran in the National Post, who thinks Sandy is way overrated --  meteorologically speaking, at least. Yes yes, billions of dollars of destruction "yadda yadda," but let's just hold our horses before we start throwing around phrases like "worst ever" and belittling the accomplishments of other hurricanes. After all, an "accurate ranking of the relative strength of any hurricane requires adjusting for the damage that would have occurred if the same hurricane were to land today," and by this standard Sandy "might just make the top 20." Just! So stop your bellyaching, flooded infrastructure.

And don't get me started on the hurricane TV coverage, says Judith Timson in the Toronto Star. Wait, did I say hurricane coverage? More like "weather porn," amirite? Judy's been watching a lot of the stuff lately, and is getting a bit uppity with performances that are "so superlative heavy that grammar experts must be having hissy fits," which has always been my biggest problem with porno, too.

The Globe and Mail, meanwhile, is very annoyed to hear that some uppity hipsters in New York are not heeding their loveable mayor's call to flee, and instead insist on remaining holed up in their $3,000-a-month one bedrooms even as the waves lap on the exposed brick facade. You might think you're being cool, stoic New Yorkers, say the Globe-os, but you're not -- you're "dangerous and dumb" and such irresponsibility "is frankly off-putting."

One hopes the kids will get the message -- though it may have to come in the form of a cute little origami newspaper boat.

Then there's the real far-out stuff like Dan Gardner's rambly essay about whether Sandy was the result of climate change (summary: we don't know, but that doesn't mean we don't not know, and in any case, isn't it always best to err on the side of caution? Answer: maybe) and the Ottawa Citizen's swooning over Cory "beacon in the storm" Booker, the Jersey mayor who single-handedly taught America to love again and should probably be president or something.

So you see? A couple paragraphs ago I bet you thought weather tragedies were ideologically neutral phenomena that could never form the basis of a 800-word opinion piece without requiring all manner of embarrassingly strained argument over tertiary non-issues, culminating in a grotesque spectacle of poor taste and ill-timed self-righteousness.

And now? Well, you're still right.

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Oh! I almost forgot. You didn't think the press was going to let something as symbolically elegant as a hurricane pass through the news cycle without exploiting it to make a bunch of tortured metaphors about US politics, did you?

Over the last couple of days, the Canadian commentariat has filled considerable columnspace with theories positing precisely how Sandy's aftermath should be viewed as the definitive vindication of President Obama's political philosophy.

Just stay with me on this one.

If nothing else, the hurricane has hopefully reminded American voters "that 'Big Government' has a role to play in times of national crisis," crows the Toronto Star board triumphantly. You got that right, echos the Globe. With Obama's people FEMA-ing it up all over the east coast, pulling babies from the jaws of newly-liberated sewer gators and whatnot, the Democrats now have the perfect "Exhibit A in their case against Republican nominee Mitt Romney's plan to slash federal spending."

Sure, maybe "Romney has not specifically called for cuts to FEMA's budget" in favour of everyone making homemade escape rafts from Ayn Rand novels, but still -- we know what's really in that icy Mormon heart of his.

Uh no, you really don't retorts Matt Gurney in the Post.

Listen, says Matty, when we Conservatives bemoan the big government "nanny state" we're not griping about a government  able to fulfill its "basic, core responsibilities" of maintaining public security and safety, but rather busy-body politicians who try to regulate "how big a soda pop I can order with my quadruple-bacon-cheeseburger and gargantuan side of fries."

In other words, the fact that Republican politicians have been largely disinterested in criticizing federal emergency relief efforts (if not loudly supportive of them) is probably a pretty clear indication that they're actually cool with this kind of stuff.

And I mean, come on, it's not like this is a party known for concealing its monstrously unpopular opinions.

In closing, I'd just like to say that we here in Media Bites land wish our eastern buddies nothing but the best. At stressful times like these, I'm sure it's tempting to gaze longingly at those of us lucky enough to dwell on some of this continent's drier terrain, but rest assured, our national media is doing its best to ensure you don't suffer alone.