Industrialized Storm Chasing, Part 3: A Modest Proposal

While in principle I strongly admire and support some tour operators’ quest to rid the storm-observing scene of devious, bloodsucking scumballs, and some media members’ efforts to police their ranks and mitigate the tabloid lunacy, I read their efforts in the context of the big picture, asking, “Has it REALLY come to this?” And with a shake of the head and a sigh, I forlornly admit, “Yes.”

Now I will shamelessly plagiarize my own writing from an update to that Thompson/Edwards essay (intellectual-property theft from oneself is legal), for those who haven’t had the benefit or displeasure of reading this radical idea yet…

Commercially unique and highly prized storm video is so rare nowadays that one might as well buy a stack of lottery tickets instead, or else sell out to a death wish. In order to produce consistently marketable footage now, it must be so wild, so over-the-top, as to be patently dangerous. Shaky, screaming, home video by amateurs — who often are willing to give (or sell at far under market rates) their footage to TV stations for 15 seconds of fame — are at least as common as chaser video in the newsreels.

Unfortunately, there still are a few who would call themselves legitimate storm chasers, yet drive straight into a tornado to risk upping the ante in the high stakes, life and death game of extreme-tabloid footage. This insanity has begun to catch the attention of more conscientious members of the mass media also, one of whom (in an Atlantic Monthly article available to subscribers) referred to such video as “torn porn.” Yes, Wayne Curtis has hit the bulls-eye in that fine little article. That’s exactly what it is — torn porn.

Here is a “modest proposal” (with apologies to Jonathan Swift for the titling of his gruesome 1729 satire). If you insist on providing storm footage to TV stations, regardless of anything we suggest to the contrary and whether or not you are a storm chaser, just give it away. You won’t get much for it anyway. The benefit is as follows: Enough people doing this, and almost all incentive to commercialize chase video will vanish. Video will again be shot for education, documentation, personal enjoyment and trading with other chasers; and as a result the hobby will lose much of its greed element. Anything left from chasing that is marketable would be aimed at either a harmless art market (still photography) or solely at other weather enthusiasts (i.e., tornado t-shirts and mugs), but not the carnage circuses of the tabloid media. This would be such a beautiful transformation to behold!

I must note with some admitted modicum of satisfaction that RJ Evans, with my support, did exactly this with his Hurricane Dennis footage and Fox News. Nothing he provided was over-the-top with danger or thrills, but still gave a nice “insider’s” glimpse of what it’s like to be in a marginal hurricane. After RJ gave away specific usage rights, Fox wasn’t about to turn around and buy anyone else’s video unless it showed something absolutely outrageous. We could imagine the frustrated grumblings of the “tornporn” peddlers at such a thing (as if RJ — a born outlaw if there ever was one — cares about such whining anyway!).

Let the flamethrowing begin, either over this or my prior idea for a chase tours guild. My Teflon is in great condition.

The ultimate solution for the industrialization of storm chasing will be presented soon. But first and next there is a far, far more important matter to address down in Louisiana…


3 Responses to “Industrialized Storm Chasing, Part 3: A Modest Proposal”

  1. RJ Evans on August 28th, 2005 9:53 am


    You have truly nailed the problem to the putrid bathroom wall of the storm chase stall! The stench of storm chase defication is wafting through the noses of “torn porn” peddlers around the country and around the world. As you and I have discussed, and agreed upon, there IS a solution, and I’m sure everyone who reads your pontification will certainly be called to task in order to facilitate it’s implementation!

    Beware, oh greedy chase masses! Your world is about to crumble around your deaf ears!

    RJ (Outlaw at Large)

  2. mike scantlin on February 6th, 2006 2:29 pm

    EDITOR’S NOTE: The following comment was written like crap, with incomplete sentences, missing apostrophes, lousy usage and no capitalization. It makes me wonder what the students are being taught at that “college,” because it certainly isn’t the kinds of basic writing skills that truly should have been mastered in elementary school. Normally I would flush something this sloppy into “dev/null.” In the interest of free discourse, however, I’ll permit it to appear on my BLOG anyway. I’m feeling benevolent and merciful today. >:-)


    listen man, i agree with you somewhat about people in our community being greedy and whatnot, but not everyone has money to throw around. chasing costs alot of money. gas, food, data, motels, and every other little thing that could go wrong. i dont know about you, but im a full time college student with 0 time for a job. the only way i can even get close to breaking even with chasing, is selling some photos or footage. its not greed, its real life. it really sucks, but money makes the world go ’round.

  3. tornado on February 12th, 2006 3:09 am

    Hmm…let’s see. I was a full time college student in a very difficult and time consuming major (meteorology), accumulating student loan debt by the truckload because my parents were too poor to pay a dime of it. Yet, not only didn’t I sell a nanosecond of chase video in college, but also, I got a job, went on over 50 storm chases *and* maintained a good GPA. Sorry, Mike. Those lame excuses don’t fly. Try some others.

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