The mainstream media coverage of natural disasters tends to filter local, lived experience through a narrow set of affective categories. This is largely because mass media rely on moral narratives: the evil of the cyclone/flood/fire, the goodness of the state in the aftermath, the evil of looters etc. These narratives makes for much more compelling viewing, but they’re often patronizing, self-serving and gloss over the multiplicity of connections between people, their belonging and the stuff of society: roads, electricity networks. Little wonder Bob Katter yesterday complained of media terrorizing residents with fear mongering.
In the midst of ABC News 24 coverage last night, a duck hand moved across the live Townsville webcam.
Duckhand subtly subverted narratives of fear and theodicy (‘Our Day of Reckoning’, intoned the front page of the Courier Mail). As Clem Bastow put it
But where Katter’s statements felt like a dressing down, the duckhand was a gentler reassurance; “Don’t worry everyone, we’re still alive up here and we’re laughing in the face of this impending disaster.”
To wake up this morning and hear that – as yet – nobody had died or been seriously injured in Cyclone Yasi’s warpath, and not only that but that three babies had been born in evacuation centres, gave it all an unexpected sheen of blessed relief.