NewsWeek

October 06, 2016

Hurricane Matthew truthers claim the U.S. government is hiding data

Paul Raeburn

http://www.newsweek.com/hurricane-matthew-truthers-507190

 

Residents of Florida nervously awaiting the arrival of Hurricane Matthew might be surprised to learn that for conservative commentator Matt Drudge, the forecasts are yet another example of an Obama administration conspiracy.

Drudge, in his debut as a hurricane truther, tweeted that “The deplorables are starting to wonder if govt has been lying to them about Hurricane Matthew intensity to make exaggerated point on climate,” and “Hurricane Center has monopoly on data. No way of verifying claims.”

Another conservative, Republican Florida Gov. Rick Scott, no friend of the federal government, took the government’s weather forecasts seriously. “There are no excuses,” Mr. Scott said at a news conference in Tallahassee. “You need to leave. Evacuate, evacuate, evacuate. Are you willing to take a chance to risk your life? Are you willing to take a gamble? That’s what you’re doing.”

Hurricanes have often been as devastating to political campaigns as they are to homes, families and communities. George W. Bush’s awkward and inadequate response to Hurricane Katrina, which caused the loss of close to 2,000 lives, contributed to the collapse of his presidency. His father also suffered politically from a slow response to Hurricane Andrew in Florida in 1992.

But the idea that data on hurricanes would be manipulated for political advantage is a new one. It has brought out the inner meteorologist not only in Drudge, but also in Rush Limbaugh. “So with hurricane tracking and hurricane forecasting, I’ve been able to spot where I think they might be playing games because it’s in the interests of the left to have destructive hurricanes because then they can blame it on climate change, which they can continue desperately continue trying to sell,” he said, according to Wonkette.

The flaw in the hurricane truthers’ argument is that while the government collects vast amounts of data on hurricanes, it does not have a monopoly on the information. Other meteorologists and scientists collect and analyze data too, and they would likely spot any inconsistency that reflected government manipulation of data.

Hurricane Matthew is a deadly storm. People living in its path need to have confidence in government forecasts and advisories. Conspiracy theories, in this instance, could cost lives.