Hurricane Matthew is currently working its way up the southeastern coast of the United States after ripping a destructive path through the Caribbean. So far, hundreds of people in Haiti have lost their lives to the hurricane, and less than 24 hours after the storm, it's already claimed at least one American life. And yet, some people seem less focused on the facts of the situation than, well, some decidedly right-wing derangement. A prime example: Conservative media maven Matt Drudge has a bizarre Hurricane Matthew conspiracy theory, and it's every bit as bad as you'd expect.
Basically, here's the simple version: As he laid out on Twitter as the storm was approaching Florida's coast, Drudge — the founder and operator of Drudge Report, one of the most powerful and influential conservative news aggregators on the internet — believes that the government is over-hyping Matthew in order to "make [an] exaggerated point" about the climate. In other words? That's right — Hurricane Matthew is a left-wing government conspiracy.
Or, at the very least, Drudge thinks it's a possibility. Here's how he put it, self-applying the "deplorable" label like so many other pro-Trump people on social media since Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton's controversial remarks last month.
In a tweet that was later deleted, Drudge also asked:
Hurricane Center has monopoly on data. No way of verifying claims. Nassau ground observations DID NOT match statements! 165mph gusts? WHERE?
It's not exactly news that many conservatives, even high-profile ones, are hostile to the very notion of climate change — both as a factual matter, and when it comes to crafting policy. According to a Pew poll from earlier this year, a mere 15 percent of conservative Republicans believe climate scientists can be trusted to give "full and accurate info" on climate change, and that figure's only 32 percent for moderate Republicans.
Some don't believe it exists, some believe it isn't affected by human activity, and some believe there's a massive, global conspiracy to make it seem more important than it is. That last belief seems to be what Drudge is voicing — the idea that the U.S. government (by way of the National Hurricane Center, which is a division of the United States National Weather Service) is deliberately overstating the impact of Hurricane Matthew, in order to gin up concerns about the changing climate.
This is a very frustrating sort of argument for anyone who actually does worry about the condition of Earth's climate, and how human activity is accelerating the planet towards environmental catastrophe. Obviously, it would be fantastic if everyone who didn't want to be hammered by increasingly chaotic weather events would spend some time learning about how the warming of the planet is making things worse — a position, it must be said, that's supported by a broad scientific consensus.
While it's entirely right and fair to acknowledge that no single weather incident can be conclusively blamed on climate change — that's somewhat akin to how some conservatives point to snowfall in the winter, as if that means it's all a hoax — the fact that the warming of the oceans help fuel disasters like these is a very well-researched subject. Sadly, though, the forces of political polarization seem to have left people divided into two camps, and only one side seems able to take this incredible serious situation, well, seriously.
In any case, hopefully nobody living in the affected areas listened to Drudge's nonsense and was convinced to defy evacuation orders. In times like these, it's of the utmost importance that people prioritize their physical safety above all else.