Playing With Politics

A Blog on Law, Politics, Planning, Development, and Other Vices

East Coast being insufferable about the West Coast

Posted by Roobs on August 24, 2011

Now famous picture of DC earthquake devastation

Following the 5.8 magnitude earthquake centered in Virginia, east coasters and media essentially panicked.  Buildings were evacuated and thousands, if not millions of people went to the streets during the rare seismic event.  But when all was said and done, the earthquake caused minimal damage across the East Coast with no major injuries or fatalities reported.  Those of us on the West Coast essentially had a field day with this news.  Californians deal with earthquakes everyday with larger earthquakes happening more frequently.  In fact, in the last 10 hours, there have been two earthquakes in California.  A 4.2 magnitude earthquake in Central California and a 3.6 magnitude earthquake in the San Francisco Bay Area.  So it comes as little surprise that when Californians saw their East Coast brothers and sisters overreacting to an event that caused little damage, we decided to poke fun.

Twitter and facebook blew up with Californians poking fun.  A lot of them focused on welcoming the East Coast to the earthquake club.  Some in California also went further to point out that, yes, the East Coast may have been overreacting.  But it looks like not all East Coasters can take their punches with that famous New York attitude.  I’m not entirely sure it was a joke post or a serious attempt at a rant, but the people at Gawker.com – an internet gossip site – apparently are crying (literally?) foul over the West Coast’s attitude with a post entitled: “Californians are being insufferable about this earthquake.”  I’m assuming it was a serious attempt at a rant considering they wrote a post later on in the day on how Californians are overreacting to an oil tanker on a train that burst into flames causing the evacuation of 4,800 people.  In any event, Gawker (and the East Coast), all I have to say is… get over yourself.

Are Californians being insufferable about the earthquake?  Probably.  However, is it justified?  Of course it is.  Here’s why:

The east coast’s famous past time has always been to make fun of their West Coast brethren.  Whether it be Carmageddon (which, face it, we kind of deserved even though, just like the East Coast earthquake, nothing happened) or culture, the East Coast has never been shy of making fun of California, including our wildfires and mudslides whenever someone wants to move to California from the East Coast.  Further, visiting tourists or new residents of California are often caught maligning the state that they are in, saying that there is little culture, transit is terrible, the people are shallow or whatever.  You know, because when you visit Hollywood you obviously visited all 37.3 million of California’s residents.  Even Gawker, the website that posted the “insufferable” post, only a few days earlier ranked (by their own personal measures) California as the 46th worst state in the union with quotes like:

Plus there’s the aforementioned city of Los Angeles, a wasted hellscape of strip malls and strippers and people desperate to be in “the industry.” Oh, and, well, the entire state is broke and their public school system is “broken” and nobody has a house there anymore.

Not to say that our public schools aren’t suffering but wow, you guys like to dish it but you can’t really take it, can you?  At least Hollywood never caused a nationwide economic recession (Wall Street is in New York, right?)

Gawker went on in their post and had some smart-ass remarks that even science will side with California on. Case and point, Gawker wrote:

In a misguided attempt to be sympathetic, LA Weekly wrote, “Even by L.A. terms 5.9 is a rocker.” Even by L.A. terms—because, you know, Southern California invented earthquakes.

Being from the East Coast it may make sense that Gawker doesn’t understand the science of earthquakes all that well.  Let me explain.  First, neither LA Weekly nor Californians ever claimed we invented earthquakes.  But we live with earthquakes every day, from small micro earthquakes to larger ones.  The reason is because of tectonics (geology).  The West Coast sits on the edge of the North American Plate and the crust is much softer because this area is seismically active (earthquakes, volcanoes).  So when we have an earthquake, we need to have a moderate to big one to feel it.  You, my dear East Coast publication, need only a relatively small or moderate one, like today, to feel it and the effects are felt much farther because you are not on the edge of the plate.  You sit in the middle of the plate where the earth is older and cooler, vibrating like a bell when the earth shakes.  So LA Weekly’s comment is quite accurate.  By LA and California terms in general, a 5.9 quake is a good sized quake and we can say that because how we measure the impact of an earthquake here is different from how you do out there.  Again, get over yourself.

Also, gawker makes fun of the fact that Californians seem to have an emergency kit at the ready with a power bar being stored in our LA Laker fanny packs.  Ignoring that I’m not really a basketball fan and probably have a SF Giants backpack somewhere in my garage, this isn’t something to make too much light of.  It’s good to have an emergency kit.  I will point out that Gawker’s home state of New York and the City of New York recommend the same emergency preparedness kit for its residents as well.  Maybe you should get that power bar after all since you apparently didn’t have one ready for this emergency.

Finally, gawker goes for the zinger in any argument you have with an east coaster, specifically a New Yorker:

We deserve our fear, California. Because of 9/11! This earthquake could have been another 9/11, for all we knew. Yeah, didn’t think you had anything to say to that.

OK, could this have been another 9/11?  Yes it could have.   Because East Coasters don’t have to live with earthquakes, the rumbling of the earth and buildings may bring back memories of planes flying into the World Trade Center towers.  That is legitimate PTSD.  But the fact of the matter it wasn’t.  And we can all thank the universe for that.  And it’s not like the East Coast doesn’t have some things to legitimately be afraid of during an earthquake.  Buildings don’t go through the same stringent building codes as California’s do.  California has some of the strictest building codes in the country and the world for the simple fact of earthquakes being common.  So I would be a little worried too if I was in an East Coast building that may fall in on itself after some good shaking.  But again, none of that really happened.  Instead, we got scenes of people running out of office buildings onto the street – something a Californian can tell you is a bad idea in an earthquake (falling glass can hurt like hell).

9/11 was a terrible national disaster that changed everyone’s lives in this nation.  But you are equally smug for using it as a shield whenever you feel your ego threatened by us fearsome Californians.  To use it with such callousness robs the date of its importance.  But if you insist on going there, when you east coasters comes back and say, this could have been another 9/11, here’s what I want them to remember:  When California experiences another quake, it could be another Northridge Quake, or Loma Prieta Quake, or 1906 San Francisco Quake, or Haiti Quake, or Japan Quake.  You know, seismic events that actually caused real damage and sadly took the lives of many innocent people.  So while we can all mourn the loss from 9/11 as a national tragedy, don’t pretend other tragedies are absent outside of New York.  Yeah, didn’t think you ahd anything to say to that.

A more calm exploration of what happened in this West Coast vs. East Coast barrage was an article I read on MSNBC this morning entitled: “Hey East Coast! The entire West Coast is mocking you!”  When all is said and done, what this article points out is that it wasn’t so much as the reaction of the people on the ground (though that was good part of it) so much as the media attention.  A 5.8 earthquake on the West Coast would have gotten a side note on the evening news in San Francisco or Los Angeles.  But a similar size earthquake that causes little to no damage, injuries or fatalities apparently threw the fall of Tripoli off primetime.  When California was having its devastating wild fires in 2007 that caused a hell of a lot more damage and displaced thousands of families in Southern California, the network news gave us segments in their broadcast lineups.  But when the East Coast rumbles, its all East Coast all the time.  Hey, we had two earthquakes over here in the past 10 hours but was CNN here for that?  It highlights the kind of East Coast-centric attitude that makes us Californians and West Coasters roll our eyes and yes, poke fun at you when the opportunity arise.

In closing, my dear friends on the East Coast and at Gawker.com, get over yourself.  Learn to take a humorous punch over your overreaction to something that, whether you like it or not, we on the West Coast simply have more experience with than you do.  Get over it.

Roobs is a masters student at UCLA in the Department of Urban & Regional Planning with concentrations in Transportation Planning & Policy and Urban Design & Development. He has a BA in Legal Studies and Sociology from UC Berkeley. Roobs is a former Waterfront Commissioner for the City of Berkeley and former paralegal for a law firm specializing in real estate development. 

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One Response to “East Coast being insufferable about the West Coast”

  1. So true. You can imagine how I felt as a Californian, knowing the wrath of Northridge and all that nonsense, and seeing the national media attention that a piddly 5.8-9 got. I was mostly disappointed that I didn’t feel it–mostly because of the twisted thrill that comes from a real shaker. It is a valuable reminder, though, that earthquakes can happen anywhere and Boston and New York and DC are far less prepared than LA or SF.

    But, I guess, a lot more of the US population lives in the dense BoWash region over here, so based on numbers news outlets are just catering to the crowds. But I mean really, people, evacuations? Really? It’s just a 5.8.

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