Stupid things to say about Tsunamis

I don’t know whether I am contributing to the problem by reproducing these things. My first reaction when large numbers of people die – as readers have probably figured out by now – is not to start political analysis. Lots of radicals never turn that button off and that’s fine. But it doesn’t take long, not very long at all, before I’m reminded that mass death isn’t enough to put things in perspective for the people who run our newspapers and make public statements. So here are the top three stupid things to say about Tsunamis for the day.


I don’t know whether I am contributing to the problem by reproducing these things. My first reaction when large numbers of people die – as readers have probably figured out by now – is not to start political analysis. Lots of radicals never turn that button off and that’s fine. But it doesn’t take long, not very long at all, before I’m reminded that mass death isn’t enough to put things in perspective for the people who run our newspapers and make public statements. So here are the top three stupid things to say about Tsunamis for the day.

1) Walking by newsstands today I saw the caricature newspaper National Post with a caricature headline (from memory): “Canadian Loss”. The website provides some data (I didn’t pick up the paper after that headline, sorry). 4 Canadians confirmed dead, 87 unaccounted for. Even in Canada, doesn’t it seem a little obscene, given the numbers, to run a headline called “Canadian Loss”? I have never understood the journalistic practice of emphasizing Canadian nationals in any international situation. There’s an assumption about the audience embedded there: that they can’t relate to 100,000 people dying unless news agencies tell them that there were some Canadians among them. It is undignified.

2) Next to the National Post was the Toronto Star with the headline: “Now its $40 million”. That’s the amount of money Canada is putting in for the emergency. Again, is there not an insult to the readership implied in a headline like that? Whether the editors thought Canadians should be groaning (so much?) or self-congratulating (we’re so generous?) or appalled (so little?) the point is that kind of headline about the money? Now?

3) This one is from the ex-American Ambassador to Thailand, Morton Abramowitz:”It’s a tragedy but it is also an opportunity to demonstrate that terrorism doesn’t drive out everything else… It’s a chance for him [presumably Bush] to show what kind of country we are.”

Morton, Toronto Star, and National Post – let’s hope that these statements are not indicative of “what kind of countr[ies] we are”.

Author: Justin Podur

Ecology. Environmental Science. Political Science. Anti-imperialism. Political fiction. Teach at York U's FES. Author. Writer at ZNet, TeleSUR, AlterNet, Ricochet, and the Independent Media Institute.

One thought on “Stupid things to say about Tsunamis”

  1. Hi Justin,
    It’s sick to see

    Hi Justin,
    It’s sick to see people like Abramowitz describe this as another chance to ‘win hearts and minds’. Despicable.
    The coverage you describe is pretty much the same as other big outlets i’ve seen. The BBC is talking about ‘British dead’, and much of the initial English language coverage I saw focused on the resorts in Thailand and how many of the bodies had swimsuits on etc. Like you say, it’s awful that these people died, but worse to think that if they hadn’t, the coverage would have been pretty different…
    To merge the two points perhaps, the BBC’s coverage has recently included the headline “US to lead rescue effort”…
    Hmmm.

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