Monday, April 29, 2013


THE LONELY GURGLE: Anyone who has perused this space recently would think that the spate of 11 drowning on Kaua`i this year and the tourism industry's tepid response is an obsession of ours worthy of Melville novel.

Well, dial 1-800-Ishmael. It's apparently been left to us to point out the less-than-in-your-face visitor industry tactics that have not only failed to make tourists sit up and take notice of the fact that DEATH AWAITS YOU OFFSHORE- or even on the edge of it in a few cases- but have actually obscured the dangers that await visitors in the water, fearing that an effectively alarming effort would cause visitors to stay away in droves.

But this past week or so our in-box has been inundated by readers from Florida to Seattle with copies of an article actually calling out local efforts to play down the dangers of the ocean.

So what local publication was it that had the guts to publish a piece that challenges the number one private enterprise in the islands and was so shocking it got picked up across the nation?

The answer? There wasn't a one... a local one at least.

Rather, it was from the Associated Press (AP) wire service, a national- indeed international- enterprise. The article didn't even have a "dateline" indicating it could have been written anywhere.

Now that the cat is out of the bag on the mainland it has apparently become almost impossible for our "newspaper of record"- The Honolulu Star-Advertiser- to ignore that side of the story after running half a dozen "they're doing all they can" pieces.

Today they published- behind their "pay-wall" no less- not a local investigative no-holds-barred expose of the way the tourism industry is murdering tourists for money but the week-plus-old AP piece that everyone except Hawai`i denizens has been seeing for more than a week.

Of course not to be outdone, Civil Beat, the on-line competitor to the S-A, posted a link to a copy of the AP piece from "News12" in Brooklyn, NY... as part of a blog post in which a dozen other links to local news items appeared.

We previously written a series of posts, detailing, among other things, the slick and particularly un-scarry "oh by the way- don't drown" video produced by Mr. Tourism, former Councilmember and still TV star Dickie Chang and gushingly supported by both the Kaua`i Visitors' Bureau and the Kaua`i Ocean Safety Council as well as other tourism industry big-wigs.
Our basic contention has been that, as we said in early March,:

The message we're getting (from the tourism industry and kow-towing "ocean safety" crowd) is "we're doing all we can and we're going to do more to make sure we send a non-threatening, non-scarey message."

Somewhere there's a disconnect here because wherever we go all we hear is people saying that the tourism industry is responsible and needs to change the content of their warnings, not just put up more and bigger TV screens at the airport baggage claim showing beautiful ocean scenes and a whispered voice-over saying "please try to be careful."

The old "if in doubt, don’t go out" adage is obviously not working. Is it to the point where we need ads with pictures of the bloated corpses of drowning victims with something like "The ocean is a killer- this could be you" written across them?

Is it possible to go too far in the other direction? Probably. But the answer to sending out an ineffective message is not to simply make sure that message is repeated more often in more places.

As to the AP article itself it achieves many of its goal through understatement. But this quote from State Rep. Tom Brower (D, Waikiki-Ala Moana-Kakaako) is shocking for the fact that he actually gave voice to what we've been assuming all the other mucky-mucks are thinking. According to the article:

Some legislators think the proposed video might unnecessarily raise fears or hurt the state's idyllic reputation among tourists.

"You don't want to be on a plane and see people getting eaten by sharks..." He added that ocean safety education is important, but "you don't want to beat people over the head with it."

No- better they die than not come, eh Tom?

He's not alone. The AP goes into detail about how the legislature did do something- they passed a non-binding resolution politely asking the airlines to play that half-hearted "nothing to see here" Chang video.

While some airlines hemmed and hawed and basically said "you first" to each other, they couldn't even get a comment out of the rest as to why they won't play it on-board their flights and have left it for Kaua`i County to play it in the Lihu`e airport baggage-claim area- where tourists always want to linger and watch videos instead of grabbing their bags and getting the hell out of there and into the ocean... where they can drown-in-peace.

There has been a respite in the drownings of late- apparently even the tourism industry’s best efforts couldn't keep visitors from hearing about this year's ocean die-in.

But the all-powerful grip of the visitor industry on matters of life and death remains the county's dirty little "pay no attention to the man behind the screen" official state secret that will undoubtedly take more lives once the current hub-bub dies down.


Unknown said...

Visitors and travelers don't always know that they're actually kind of spaced out when they travel. Even though it's obvious that they come here to space out. They may get intoxicated or in an enchanted place in their mind or exhausted from working just to go on vacation. They don't need gory pictures, just the facts. People die on vacation, by falling off cliffs, jumping off cliffs into water and swimming. I don't think we are that special. People die on vacation all over the world. Some peoples souls may come to die in paradise they should know these things, along with the fact our island is sprayed
with pesticides and we have open air experimental GMO engineering.

KimoRosen said...

Andy,why aren'y you submitting this stuff to TGI? Even if you don't care for them at least your great column will be reads by many more than just your blog.

"Everyone always has someone to blame for their mishap, people need to take responsibility, it's not the state or county's fault when someone drowns. I am guessing almost every accidental death by a tourist results in some sort of lawsuit. Families of the diseased victims will say it's the States or Counties fault for not posting a sign, it's the visitor guide for telling people to go to dangerous spots... Who's fault is it when you run into a tree? It ain't the tree's fault. People need to accept responsibility and use common sense.

webmaster said...

On the north shore of Maui, I constantly see clueless visitors going out (shakily) on their unfamiliar windsurf boards or SUP in conditions that are dangerous.

I usually try to diplomatically say, "it's not really a good day to go out - kinda dangerous" but since I'm holding a paddle in my hand and going out myself, they rarely believe me :-)

But there's a big difference between an experienced paddler who is ma'a to the area and a beginning SUPer or windsurfer blithely taking off over the reef to danger.

We are all the time rescuing these guys who even when their lives are in danger, absolutely REFUSE to believe it!

So many times we've had people out beyond the reef in big surf, clinging to their windsurf equipment as darkness falls, refusing to leave it.

We have to be blunt with them. "Either you let us take you in and lose your equipment or we'll leave you here and you'll lose your equipment AND your life."

It puts us in danger when they dilly dally and hesitate. But they still absolutely refuse to believe they're in danger of losing their life.