Consuming Catastrophe; Mass Culture in America’s Decade of Disaster, by Timothy Recuber. Temple University Press. Paperback price: $28.95
Reviewer: Jono Anzalone, Vice President of International Services with the American Red Cross. Prior to assuming that position he has been a volunteer and paid staff member of the Red Cross since 1995.
Consuming Catastrophe is a must read for emergency managers and those interested in the disaster space. Recuber provides insight into the connectivity between media and disaster which is a topic that anyone working in the emergency management space should better understand, especially in today’s environment where phenomena such as “fake news” are drivers in how disaster responses are being covered. As an emergency management practitioner I strongly recommend Recuber’s chapter on “The Limits of Empathy” which highlights the disturbing trends in “disaster tourism” and changing perceptions and reactions of the public to disasters.
Recuber look at disaster not through an emergency mangers lens, but rather sociological provides new insight into how media is playing a key role in influence public opinion and behavior, of which all are not positive. Influencing the empathetic compass of the public, the media’s role in covering disasters also is emoting fear and impacting levels of trust which is closely examined by Recuber.
With the growth of online media, Recuber also reveals the changing dynamics in how the public are reacting to disasters, highlighting the risks associated with the public now witnessing the effects of disaster though Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other medium, but not necessarily mobilization the support that once was traditional (volunteering time or donating funds). An eye opening read on the continued desire for media sensationalism, which may come at the expense of those impacted by disaster.