Social media coverage of Hurricane Harvey brings Americans together

Driver receives assistance in Pearland, TX during Hurricane Harvey

This past weekend, Twitter and Facebook posts about the Mayweather-McGregor fight gave way to posts about Hurricane Harvey making landfall in Texas, and causing tremendous flooding devastation. Since then, as more traditional media such as broadcast and cable TV news are making admirable efforts on the scene with live reporting (and even some rescue work), social media users are sending around gobs of information, donation and volunteering tips, and rescue requests. Here are some of the highlights of social media activity in Houston, around the U.S. and in other countries as well:

–On Twitter, hashtags such as #HurricaneHarvey, #Harvey and #HoustonStrong were trending, and being used for everything from inspirational messages and photos about individuals helping with volunteer efforts, to passing along information about people in need, to tips on how to seek shelter and assistance.

–On Facebook, climate scientist Michael E. Mann took the bold step of trying to explain climate change’s role in the Hurricane Harvey devastation.

–Social media at the presidential level has been quite revealing too. Donald Trump seems to be stuck in a leadership vacuum thus far. First, Trump acted like a spectator, remarking how bad Hurricane Harvey was, even though we had already been warned extensively about what to expect, in both weather and news reports:

Then, in the midst of Harvey’s flooding devastation that is threatening lives and property on a massive scale, Trump crassly reverted back to his 2016 election results, a point of apparent insecurity, and plugged a book by another right-wing sheriff:

In contrast, former President Barack Obama sounded much more presidential, and even included instructions for direct action:

Likewise, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of Canada and the Foreign Ministry of Mexico offered their full support and assistance to the people affected by Hurricane Harvey:

Though the underlying disaster is devastating, social media’s role in bringing Americans together over Hurricane Harvey is a welcome relief from the divisiveness and bigotry coming from some quarters, including the White House, in recent weeks. We have seen and heard White House officials attacking the Statue of Liberty as somehow not a welcome beacon for refugees, followed by a defense of the deadly white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, VA, and then a pardon of convicted racist former Maricopa County, AZ Sheriff Joe Arpaio. Hopefully, despite such unfortunate behavior from a relatively small number of people, the vast majority of Americans will continue to find common ground with each other, and better yet, will do so without the need for a large natural disaster to bring them together.

Photo by Brant Kelly, used under Creative Commons license.


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