Amazon Honor System

Media * Support
* Write for
* Editorial policy

Eyewitenss screws

Media exaggerations

By Farrokh A. Ashtiani
October 10, 2002
The Iranian

There are certain mysteries in our daily interactions with the news media that makes one wonder if reports are created before events actually happen. Take for example the recent death of Queen Elizabeth's mother. When she died, within minutes every single TV channel had complete profile on her from womb to tomb. Perhaps news media keep a profile on every celebrity. They just wait for them to die to then broadcast their life story! What a morbid thought.

To name another unresolved mystery of life is the way the weather is reported by some Midwest TV stations. There is something about reporting the thunderstorms and size of the hailstones in the southern states that have been puzzling me for years. I recall in early 70's whenever there was hail during the thunderstorms, you would hear in the news later that thunderstorm created heavy damages caused by "walnut-size hailstones" hitting cars, homes and people. Then they used to show a few broken windows and some dented cars.

This went on until around early 80's when I became more mature and read a few more books on conspiracy theories that it suddenly dawned on me as how substantially weather reporting and metrology has evolved since mid 70's not only in technology but also by degree of exaggeration by the weatherman!

To clear the matter further, I realized that in the few occasions that I happened to listen to report of a thunderstorm, the weathermen also indicated that substantial damages were inflicted on properties around the area due to "hailstones as large as tennis balls!" But for Pete's sake in none of those weather reports did they ever show a video footage of such voluptuous-sized hails! Once in a while they would find an eyewitness, but it always happened to be an old farmer with thick glasses going something like this:

"Yeb, yes sirrr! Ah saw it wid ma own ahs! Sum-o-bitch! The hailstones were as big as cow dung! E-hit me on ma shoulder but I ran into the stable and ma ol' lady called the cops! I haven't seen anything that nasty since Nixon's farewell speech, yes, sirrrr!"

Now, how the hell should I know what the standard size of cow dung is? Do they have a mold that produces exact replicas each time? But the cow dung that I remember in my field trips was normally flat and as big as, say, a pizza box! How did it end up to be compared with a tennis ball anyway?

So, I started to become very suspicious! Is there really a secret cult of meteorologist that meet annually in an unknown cornfield somewhere in Texas panhandle area to set the size of the hails that they are planning to report for the upcoming hail season?

You think I am paranoid, well, may be you just had a lucky guess, but where were you when world's most trusted news broadcaster, the BBC, announced on November 16th, 1979, that according to reports from Iran, the image of Ayatollah Khomeini has been seen on the surface of the moon, and this has been confirmed by several eyewitnesses in many cities of Iran!

Now, how would you fight the temptation of going out to see if indeed Agha's image was up there? But sadly a nation went out and trusted the BBC! Yes we owe so much to the BBC to orchestrate the entire show that eventually sealed our national destiny for at least a quarter of century if not more.

I heard on CNN the other day that "there is one thing that unites people all over Afghanistan and that is the BBC!" Well, in the last two centuries they were the Dervishes coming from India propagating the wills of the British all over Iran, but in the past 35 years BBC has been doing it cheaper, cleaner and far more efficient. Jolly good chaps!

Anyway, don't let me get side tracked please. We were talking about Midwest, and weather and hail storms. Oh, speaking of the South, let's be honest, didn't they shot Kennedy after they lured him into driving down for a game of horseshoe in Johnson's Ranch? I continue to wonder why in the world did JFK agree to be driven around a boring place like downtown Dallas anyway? Looking at the hindsight he could have been suicidal. Nobody in his right mind should drive in a convertible in downtown Dallas waving his hands! Perhaps with the exception of Billy Graham the Evangelist.

Time passed and I forgot the episode of cow dung exaggeration by that suspicious farmer, and life went on without many other incidents, until 1995 when I happened to be visiting Dallas Fort Worth area for a business and sure enough it was summer and guess what? Hail season!

It was the Memorial weekend and I recall we were at the Trinity Park near Fort Worth Botanic Garden. Everything was fine and dandy and as they say in Texas "cotton-picking-good" and there was a huge crowd partying in that park with food, blue-grass music and entertainment. Around 7 p.m. suddenly dark clouds started to appear and in matter of few minutes the sunny late summer afternoon turned into a gray atmosphere with wind blowing everything off picnic tables and paper plates and cups flying in the air.

Within minutes a very heavy rain started and fifteen minutes later rain changed into hails. The winds blew, lightning flashed and thunder boomed. Trees bowed as the mighty winds rushed over them like a wild river. Leaves twist and turned wildly, finally snapping and shooting off with the driving winds. Winds so strong, no man could stand upright and no loose thing could stay still.

I recall how all the glass windows on top of the Botanic Garden's Conservatory dome broke into pieces, how windshields on the cars made that popping sound when hailstones hit surface of the glass. And I saw numerous holes on hoods of automobiles as if someone shot bullets at those cars. People were running under anything they could find as a shelter.

There were a few injuries too. I saw hailstones with my own eyes. I saw hailstones during Texas's worst hailstorm in that past quarter of century and I saw the shape of the hailstones. They looked like flat rocks or pieces of glass, odd shapes and sizes, and there were quite a few round pieces too. I know you are curious to know how big were they? Well, they were as big as perhaps a cherry but certainly no larger than say an apricot.

In few minutes hailstorm stopped and changed back to rain, we got out of our shelter and ran towards our cars, and in a confusing hectic traffic we said goodbye to the Memorial weekend party and drove home.

It was great to get home after an exhausting day like the one we went through. I took a shower and got a cold beer and sat on the couch and turned on the TV. News Flash was on every local channel showing the extent of damages that took place just a couple of hours ago. I was itching for the weatherman to show up and sure enough it was his turn to report and this is how it went:

"Memorial Day weekend party at Trinity Park and Fort Worth Botanic Garden turned into a war zone, when heavy rain and thunderstorm turned into a hailstorm." He continued: "According to Eyewitness News, hailstones as large as cantaloupes hit cars, people and city properties, injuring many and damaging many automobiles."

I jumped out of my seat: "What the hell is he talking about?"

And the Weatherman continued: "Our reporter Cindy Cunningham was at the scene. Cindy what did you see?"

"Well, Chuck, I tell you this is the worst hailstorm I have ever seen, it was nasty. I have with me Billy Connelly of Fort Worth telling us what he saw. Billy could you tell us what you went through?"

Billy in his tight blue jeans and cowboy boots, with a toothpick in his mouth, his black cowboy hat covering one of his ears and eyebrows and exposing the other ear, holding his silver belt buckle with both hands responded:

"Well, mam! Ah-be-darned, this was da-worst hailstone ah have ever seen in ma-life."

"How big were they Billy?" Asked Cindy

"Hell! The hailstones were as big as cantaloupes, I mean they were BIG!" Billy cupped his hands to show how big they were! The camera zoomed into his hands. There was not a single video footage showing even one piece of hailstone, just words of mouth by a young excited and unknown cowboy.

I was flabbergasted and shocked in disbelief of the exaggerations and lies, and how the public took it. I looked back at the past twenty some years of my listening to the weather reporters on local TV channels and how they twisted the truth. I was also amazed by the public gullibility. In 1970's people accepted if they were told that there were hailstones in their neck of the wood as big as a walnut, but now, 25 years later, the same people were grown to believe that hailstones could be as big as cantaloupes.

I just hope to live and see the day in the year 2020 when Dallas TV stations report hailstones as big as watermelons coming down! But even then, I assure you there will be no pictures and no video footage, just a good old farmer or a cowboy as the sole eyewitnesses!

Until then, stay safe and don't believe everything you read or hear.

Email your comments for The Iranian letters section
Send an email to Farrokh A. Ashtiani

By: Farrokh A. Ashtiani


Persian Paradise


Media village
Multicultural analysis of the impact of increasingly globalized Western media
By Yahya Kamalipour

Diverse ownership, diverse media
You own it, you control it
By Majid Tehranian

Injaa landan ast
BBC Persian Service 60 years on
By Hossein Shahidi


* Recent

* Covers

* Writers

* Music

* All sections

Book of the day

Loghatnaameh Dehkhoda
Tehran University Press

Copyright © All Rights Reserved. Legal Terms for more information contact:
Web design by Bcubed
Internet server Global Publishing Group