As you'll probably remember from earlier this week, I posted a diary proclaiming a viral social media story about a massive, paralyzing, historic winter storm to be a hoax designed to drive page clicks and ad revenue to a certain website.
I've been going back and forth on whether or not I want to address this with another diary that could open me up to more harassment and threats, but I decided to address it rather than ignore it. You all have followed my weather posts for the last four years here at DailyKos, and during that time I've built up a certain amount of trust with most of you. I feel I owe you an explanation and ask for your understanding and future trust.
1. Oops. My bad.
I was wrong to outright, categorically deny the chance for a major winter storm. I should know better than to fall victim to the dangers of absolutes, especially with such a large audience reading and watching. Though I did mention that there would be snow, ice, and thunderstorms this weekend, I downplayed it so much that it came across as a flat-out denial of any sort of storm. I am sorry. My bad.
2. About that hoax...
That being said, the "hoax" forecast in question really was a hoax at the time.
Last weekend when the hoax in question went online and started spreading through social media like wildfire, there really was no credible indication that a major storm was going to hit. It was just too far out.
The hoax forecast in question was similar to this graphic I drew up:
That's not a forecast. That's throwing spaghetti at the wall and hoping something sticks. That's how these amateur pot-stirrers operate. They highlight an absurdly large area as "at risk" for bad weather, and if it happens, they're lauded as experts, but if it fails, they delete all evidence of their claims.
I'm not the only person to recognize this. In a Mediaite article titled "Share This Viral Hoax About the Weather or You’re Going to Die," the author absolutely nails the kind of game these folks play:
These sites have big followings, a professional meteorologist, who asked to speak anonymously, told me. “Whenever they get it wrong they just delete the older posts. Whenever they get it right they discredit the local meteorologists for hiding the truth, or telling people too late.”WTOP out of Washington DC also reported on the trend:
In other words, we’re dealing with sort of weather equivalent of InfoWars here.
“These sites like talking about storms weeks ahead of time, to the point where, as a TV meteorologist, we would not put that on the air. It’s so far away, and the accuracy level is low.”
Sites like these don’t have to worry about accuracy, he said. “If they get it wrong, they say ‘Well, we were just trying to warn you, weather changes.’”
This sort of storm-hysteria peddling can have actual negative consequences. Most often these types of sites are putting out worst case scenario predictions. And, as we know from everything else on the internet, hyperbole is what takes hold. “Sometimes warning people can create more trouble if you warn unnecessarily than when you actually have a better idea,” the meteorologist told me.
"The downside of social media is that everybody can play meteorologist," Ricketts says. "It makes our job that much more difficult."
She adds that there are more and more wanna-be weather people and faux weather sites posting erroneous forecasts. The goal is usually self-promotion.
"It's very irresponsible ... they'll put information out there just to get page likes," Ricketts says. "There's so much misinformation with social media and we fight that not only in the weather department, but in the news department as well."
The faux forecasters diminish the credibility of genuine weather forecasters by neglecting the inherent uncertainties in official forecasts and dramatizing worst-case scenarios to get attention, Ricketts explains.
There is often a lack of accountability.
"They push out one depiction of one model run. Everybody starts sharing that. If it doesn't happen, then those amateur meteorologists can just blame it on the model, or if it does happen, they're the smartest forecaster in the world," Ricketts says.
3. So...what's gonna happen?
It's still a fluid storm with lots of uncertainties, but it looks like there will be a widespread area of 5-9 inches of snow from the Mississippi River to the Atlantic Ocean. It's going to be a pain in the ass and everything will probably close down for a day or two, but for most people that's hardly paralyzing. That's not even the most snow in one storm any of you have seen this year. I stand by my claim that it won't be some historic, paralyzing monster it was played up to be 7 days ago.
The latest models are trending towards northern Virginia, DC, Baltimore, and Philly for the highest snow totals right now, but the models are waffling around a lot. It's going to be one of those storms where we have much agreement on what will happen until it happens.
Here's the latest snowfall forecast from the National Weather Service that extends through Monday evening.
Here's the latest ice accumulation forecast from the NWS for the same time period. The ice in this storm is actually going to be the big issue. The worst of the ice storm looks like it'll occur from Arkansas up through West Virginia. It doesn't matter who you are or where you live -- ice (from freezing rain or sleet) is impossible to walk or drive on.
4. Wait. Did you catch that?
Look back at the Mediaite quote. This part, specifically:
These sites have big followings, a professional meteorologist, who asked to speak anonymously, told me.A meteorologist had to speak anonymously. That's sort of strange, right? Not really. Not in this situation.
As I mentioned at the top of the diary (and the other day), my diary got me a shitload of harassment and threats for daring to take certain folks to task. I've been threatened to take down and retract the diary or else I've been threatened with "libel."
I absolutely, categorically refuse to apologize for what I said about that man and his website(s) in my diary. I stand by every word of it and I will not take down my previous article. Unlike others, I don't erase my past I'm wrong.
I've struggled with whether or not to post the threats I got, but since they're causing a bit of consternation with people (and accusations that I'm lying), I thought I would go ahead and show you what I've been dealing with. I'd like to make it clear that these aren't, as far as I know, from Kevin himself but rather they're from someone close to him.
If you don't want to get FUCKED UP I suggest you NEVER defame Kevin's character again. If you ever fucking release an article in attempts to hurt him I will fuck you up worse than you can imagine and your life will NEVER be the same you fucking clock sucker.
I swear to God you will regret the fucking day you fucked with [redacted]. YOU FUCKING HEAR ME ASSHOLE!?
You don't know what the fuck Kevin does and I suggest you NEVER try and defame him again because i'll make sure you'll never feed your family ever againI'm posting these to make a point.
Try and test me you fucking asshole
For the most part, I was wrong about the weather and I was wrong for downplaying the potential severity of this storm when it wasn't yet clear. I apologize for that and I own it. I ask for your trust and forgiveness when it comes to my future weather posts here at DailyKos and elsewhere.
The storm itself is not the first time I am wrong, and I'm sure it will not be the last time.
But there is no amount Facebook likes or page hits or followers that can substitute one's integrity and character.
You either have it or you don't.
I hope I've done what I can to show you that I do.