Superstorm Sandy destroys web’s collective bullshit detector

As Hurricane, or “Superstorm,” Sandy hit New York, the rumour-mongers, photoshoppers and trolls hit twitter. Despite following only two Americans – Barack Obama and the Guardian’s US correspondent Ed Pilkington – my timeline was, erm, flooded with material about #hurricanesandy.

Luckily, I seem to follow some fairly intelligent people on twitter. Around 6pm, @ladytubedriver retweeted an image of a huge storm cloud over the Statue of Liberty with the comment “Massively photoshopped. Sandy still 300 miles away” The image turned out to be a screenshot from the film “The Day After Tomorrow” (In which New York is hit by an apocalyptic superstorm).

Another pic which was fairly common, and fooled me for a time, was of a shark apparently swimming around someone’s front yard in Brigantine Beach, NJ. The water is only round three feet deep, and would be constantly disturbed by vehicles, machinery and human movement. The New Jersey SCUBA diving website says that “Sharks are seldom a danger to divers, they seem to be put off by the noise and bubbles” given that a diver could scare off a shark, it would be an extremely unlikely that one would not be intimidated by the noises in the water of a flooded New Jersey town. It is, quite frankly, complete and utter bullshit.

To be honest, what I found most scary were the true stories about the hurricane: a woman was electrocuted by a 700 volt power supply, after she went jogging and stepped in a puddle which contained a downed (and still live) power cable. A backup generator failed in a hospital in New York City (why bother having a backup, then?), meaning 200 patients – some critically ill and relying on battery powered life support machines – had to be evacuated during the storm.

Most worryingly of all, thousands of New Yorkers ventured out into the city after the storm. Upon them they carried not hot drinks for the eldery, not saws to cear up the fallen trees, not even a broom to sweep up the leaves all over the sidewalk. Upon them they carried the following three items: Their wallet. Their cell phone. Their Starbucks loyalty card. Some things are just beyond belief.



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