The news coming out of Japan over the past seven days has eclipsed everything else and rendered the techfest that is SXSW a noisy irrelevance.
If anything, the inanity of some of the Tweets, Facebook and Foursquare messages served only to highlight the self-absorbed, publicity-seeking vacuousness of the mass gathering of geeks.
While a tide of thoughtlessness flowed from Austin, Tx, the tsunami of unimaginable power did its horrible worst to coastal communities in north-east Japan.
For Sam Leith in the Evening Standard we were all watching catastrophe as if it was just theatre; “Earthquake porn” as his girlfriend dubbed it, with nothing to learn.
Leith’s assertion was wrong, though his sentiment that the least we can do is “pay for a ticket” and donate to the Red Cross appeal was unquestionably right.
There are learnings aplenty from the devastation – everything from pragmatic lessons on the siting and safety regimes around nuclear power plants, to a more Zen-like appreciation of the fragility of life.
It’s because we watch, examine and learn from catastrophes that we survive and thrive. A quake of that magnitude almost anywhere in the world other than one with Japan’s building codes would have killed many thousands more people. The tsunami – even with advanced warning systems – was another matter.
Throughout it all there has been some extraordinary footage, including this UGC clip: Six minutes of terror as tsunami destroys town