A cry for help

katrinaThe aftermath of Hurricane Katrina is turning into one of the worst domestic episodes in American history. We started with a hurricane that could possibly destroy a major city, but did anyone really believe that could happen? Well, it’s in the process of happening and while it will not be as fast as the collapse of the Twin Towers, we are just beginning to understand the ramifications of the event, from the structural issues in the city to the sociological issues in dealing with people who have essentially become refuges.

Peggy Noonan has a good summary of events through yesterday and Instapundit has become the clearing house for all things Katrina.

Local government officials are reporting a bleak depiction of the state of affairs while federal officials attempt to calm people and assure them that everything that can be done is in fact being done. The sociological factors of the disaster — looters, lack of law and order — are also playing out slowly as a handful of bad people are making a mess of the recovery efforts.

A few observations on the media’s coverage of the tragedy that is Hurricane Katrina:

  • Why no mention of the obvious race and class issues surrounding the recovery efforts and the images we see on our televisions? I saw CNN dance around the issue by reading a letter from a viewer, but so far the issue has largely been ignored.
  • When the federal government stops putting out official announcements on its actions, speculation runs amok among the talking heads as to the feds’ efforts to help the people affected by the disaster.
  • President Bush is likely to be pummeled for not responding faster and more often on television. He will also be criticized for failing to visit the region (I hear that he is likely to drop in Friday). But there is little he himself can do by visiting the region, and saying stuff on TV doesn’t help the situation, other than boosting morale.

Overall this is a huge challenge for President Bush that rivals the situation on Sept. 11, 2001. May God be with him and all those affected by this disaster.

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  • SQ

    How do you know it is just a “handful of bad people?” What is a “bad person?” That’s the same sort of reductionism and evasion you’re complaining about. What you mean to imply is that of a predominantly poor and black group, only a few are engaging in wanton violence and criminality–so as not to imply that “poor” and “black” are not characterstics that correlate strongly with crime in urban areas. But they do, and they really seem to do so in New Orleans–even before now–and yes, few media sources are engaging that. But everybody knows this elephant in the room. Most major cities in the US have had powder-keg ghettoes for decades, and they have only gotten worse. We have no idea what to do about it. If or when political and economic instability strikes on a larger scale, the question will prove academic.

  • dpt

    SQ’s point about “most major cities in the U.S. have had powder-keg ghettos for decades” and the disaster in New Orleans has brought this, as well as the disparity between rich & poor, to center stage for the whole nation and the world world to view.

    The plight Our nation’s underclass, no matter how small or large it maybe or its root causes, is now center stage for the world to see. Our response will be open to judgement as well.


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  • Stephen A.

    More than one of the cable news channels have mentioned that a group of wealthy hotel guests were ferried out by bus, while the folks at the Superdome waited in vain for days for busses.

    Later, they reported that one of those chartered busses had been commandiered by people desperate to get out. They also reported that some of the bus drivers that were to go into the city to rescue people at the Superdome were refusing to go, since it was “unsafe.”

    I actually think raising issues of race and economic status is a valid thing for reporters to do, but I personally think this is more a failure to organize logistically, not intentional bias. And even then, I’m inclined to give a pass to local officials who have been clearly overwhelmed by the situation.

  • Ray from Minn

    President Bush may find on January 20th that he no longer will have a majority in the
    Senate if he doesn’t act fast and decisively.

    He might not even get Roberts on the Supreme Court.

    People will be looking for someone to blame, and he is a likely target. He’s the one who signed off on 300 billion in pork barrel projects while cutting planning and improvements for New Orleans’ levees.

  • Harris

    Well, they must be paying attention on the race/class issues. Quick stop at Google News shows articles from London Times, USA Today, MSNBC, St Petersburg, Dallas and others (90+ hits). Shafer’s mentioning the issue on Slate seems to have released the commentary and coverage. One of the most eloquent, heart-breaking comments have come from the sometimes poster (here) Ron Dreher, earlier this week on The Corner.

    I’m not sure it is any fairer to jump on the media for not immediatley picking up on the race/class issues than it is to jump on the administration for its to-date, sub-par performance, the President mentioning his dissatisfaction this a.m.
    In this regard, what was painfully apparent on this morning’s news was the ability of news organizations to reach people, but the seeming inability of authorities to do the same.

  • Stephen A.

    While not getting too political here, I do agree that some politicians are going to get the blame. High on the list are the mayor of N.O. (who failed to organizes effectively after the disaster a la Guiliani) the Gov. of LA (who appeared clueless) the FEMA Director (who incredibly said he didn’t know until Thursday night that people in the convention center were in trouble) and yes, Bush (who seemed slow to react and seems even now a bit dazed at times.)

    I do see that Rev. Jesse Jackson went to N.O. to grandstand and make broad, political accusations against Bush for not personally ending global warming. If Robertson can be criticized, so should Jackson, for entering the political fray.

    Shame on him for mixing humanitarian relief (a good thing) with trying to score political points.

    Ministers on the political left need to learn to do one without the other.

  • Darel

    This disaster proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that in some places, America is a third world country.

    Several writers and columnists have pointed out over the last few days that government officials and scientists have foreseen something *exactly* like what we are seeing unfold this week. As Mark Fischetti says in today’s New York Times, “Thus, in true American fashion, we ignored an inevitable problem until disaster focused our attention.” Once the survivors are rescued and the dead buried, we need not only to understand why nothing was done to avert this, but also to hold people accountable. Do we hold anyone accountable for anything anymore in America?

    See esp.: [1] “Keeping its head above water: New Orleans faces doomsday scenario,” Houston Chronicle, 1 December 2001; and [2] “Drowning New Orleans,” Scientific American, October 2001.

  • http://molly.douthett.net Molly

    “President Bush is likely to be pummeled for not responding faster and more often on television. He will also be criticized for failing to visit the region (I hear that he is likely to drop in Friday). But there is little he himself can do by visiting the region, and saying stuff on TV doesn’t help the situation, other than boosting morale.”

    Don’t let him off the hook by diminishing the importance of morale. American rallied behind him when he jumped on a pile of rubble with a bullhorn in NYC. The day after.

  • SQ

    Criticism will only help Bush with his base and remind them how right they are to despise liberal social policy. They’ll see an anarchy of indigents and criminals blaming the government for their situation–people who are both helpless and prone to help themselves to others’ property–because the government has taught them to behave this way. And they will be right–more right than the “other side” which will not go beyond the usual vague pronouncements of compassion and blame in the face of “inequality”–pronouncements issued of course by the guilty affluent.

    This much is predictable. What will be a shock is if any mainstream attention is paid to the “doomsayers” like James Howard Kuntsler, realizing that both parties bow down before the federal imperium, putting all their faith in its economic, technological, bureaucratic and military power to prop up unsustainable and tottering social structures–foreign and domestic.

  • AlyD

    “Shame on him for mixing humanitarian relief (a good thing) with trying to score political points.

    Ministers on the political left need to learn to do one without the other.”

    A simmilar statement could be made about ministers on the political right — I resent even having to identify the political leanings of a member of the clergy. In situations such as this, it should not matter. Our brother and sisters our hurting; the Christian mandate to feed the hungry and clothe the naked should supercede any political ambitions.

  • SQ

    …I mean, just read the foregoing comments. The assumption is that the main issue here is a failure of government leadership and policy to handle a simple matter like a hurricane-ravaged sub-sea-level city with no real economy, an exceptionally high crime rate, and a concentration of poor black residents.

    Stephen A.–the refusals to give aid are intentional, justified, and probably more widespread than has been reported. Rescue crews and helicopters trying to save lives in such a high-stress and dagerous environment, once fired on, are going to be understandably unwilling to extend their necks further.

  • http://BOOK Stephen A.

    Molly, you’re right – the president should be showering this nation with eloquence and uplifting it with words of hope, but we all know that’s where he’s sorely lacking, and believe me, among my conservative friends, we surely know this. I’m almost certain that’s why Clinton didn’t get to speak when he was in the Oval office yesterday.

    SQ – Your comments seem kind of bizarre and unhinged here. Step back and re-read your two recent postings and see how they must look to others. No one in the government is filled with as much hate for the poor as you imply.

    AlyD, you’re right about those folks on the Right who are spewing nonsense, and I’ve condemned them along with the nuts on the Left. But if you resent even having to identify the political leanings of a member of the clergy, they should simply stay out of politics. I’ve had pastors in the past for whom I couldn’t possibly tell which party they voted, and that’s the way it should be.

  • SQ

    Stephen, I don’t know how you’re reading what I wrote. I didn’t say anything about hate in the government. My points were these: conservatives will lay blame on the welfare state and its victims; most people regardless of politics are still assuming that the main fault is government–that “something could have been done to prevent this”; and many rescue workers in fear of being shot will hold back from their work with good reason.

  • Stephen A.

    SQ – I’m sorry. I totally misread that, and I think confused it with another post I was reading at the same time.

    My mistake.

  • MJBubba

    Friday night, NBC aired a benefit concert for Katrina victims. It must have been a live event. One of the performers (a Neville?) said that the people needed to step up and give aid, because “Bush hates blacks.” This shows how sour the political environment is. It has been commented on that the stranded folk in the city are almost all black. Well, New Orleans is 70% black to start with, and a large portion of the less-well-off blacks would not respond to instructions from their government no matter what was said, including evacuation.
    Of course, all those white tourists with their belongings already in suitcases were the first and easiest to evacuate. Now, I have not seen any media coverage of the tremendous success story regarding the evacuation; by any reasonable measure it was a great evacuation. I have seen a lot of media coverage about how relief started to show up “after four long days.” I do not think that this is fair at all. The hurricane hit on Monday morning, and by Monday afternoon it was reported that New Orleans was OK but Gulfport and Biloxi were clobbered, where nearly everyone had evacuated and deaths might mount up to 100. It was not until Tues. evening that it became known that New Orleans was flooding with floodwaters that would not recede. (Posted Sat. morning.)

  • SQ

    Hey GR guys–you know what’s part of your beat? The marginal (and often religious) voice the the black media. Every city has at least one or two “black newspapers.” Often a very different voice than what the MSM/WM puts out, especially when they are talking about “the black community.” Watch how commentary on NO plays out in both arenas. So far I haven’t seen any MSM treatment of post-Katrina NO as having any connection with the ongoing saga of inner city dirorder and the struggle against it all over the US.