Val MacQueen and Dr. K, and The Shaming of The Economist and the Beeb
The Economist editorial board’s been watching too much BBCA news, and now they’re on a roll: their latest cover shows an exploitive photo of a very distressed black woman crying — she wears a t-shirt with the words “NEW ORLEANS” across her chest. The title of the cover reads “The shaming of America”, as you can see.
The op-ed article’s lead line says “Hurricane Katrina has exposed both personal and structural weaknesses in America’s government”. This statement alone demonstrates the change in the Editorial perspective at the Economist — I remember the days of old when they had a libertarian slant. Since when, I ask, does government have personal traits?
Then the article starts,
Since Hurricane Katrina, the world’s view of America has changed. The disaster has exposed some shocking truths about the place: the bitterness of its sharp racial divide, the abandonment of the dispossessed,
As for the abandoment charges, I respectfully refer the Economist to my post of two days ago, where I linked to an article that stated that, by last Tuesday evening donations had already dwarfed the first week’s efforts to help victims of last year’s Asian tsunami and the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, but let’s continue with The Economist,
the weakness of critical infrastructure. But the most astonishing and most shaming revelation has been of its government’s failure to bring succour to its people at their time of greatest need.
Of course, it’s up the The Economist to teach us while (like the Beeb, which can’t leave no cliché unturned), taking a swipe at Condoleezza Rice for seeing Spamalot on Broadway “while New Orleans’s poor looked out at the floodwaters”:
Local government must shoulder some of the blame. The authorities in Louisiana have a reputation for confusion, inefficiency and worse. Different authorities are responsible for different levees, for example, and several close associates of the former mayor were recently indicted for corruption. Local incompetence exacerbated the disaster: in Orleans Parish, for instance, where 60,000 households do not own a car, hundreds of city buses which might have shipped out stranded people were left to be swamped by the rising waters.
Still, Washington is mostly at fault. The responsibility for mobilising the response to a disaster lies squarely with the federal government. And the responsibility for galvanising the federal government lies squarely with the president.
Dr. Krauthammer has something to say about the #1 and #2 spots:
Let’s be clear. The author of this calamity was, first and foremost, Nature (or if you prefer, Nature’s God). The suffering was augmented, aided and abetted in descending order of culpability by the following:
1. The mayor of New Orleans. He knows the city. He knows the danger. He knows that during Hurricane Georges in 1998, the use of the Superdome was a disaster and fully two-thirds of residents never got out of the city. Nothing was done. He declared a mandatory evacuation only 24 hours before Hurricane Katrina hit. He did not even declare a voluntary evacuation until the day before that, at 5 p.m. At that time, he explained that he needed to study his legal authority to call a mandatory evacuation and was hesitating to do so lest the city be sued by hotels and other businesses.
2. The governor. It’s her job to call up the National Guard and get it to where it has to go. Where the Guard was in the first few days is a mystery. Indeed, she issued an authorization for the National Guard to commandeer school buses to evacuate people on Wednesday afternoon — more than two days after the hurricane hit and after much of the fleet had already drowned in its parking lots.
Val McQueen at Tech Central Station points out the BBC reporters’ certain lack of knowledge, knowledge The Economist also appears to lack
However much BBC correspondents continue to misunderestimate him, Bush had been trying for three days to get Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco to declare a state of emergency so he could release federal funds and aid and have them on the spot when Katrina hit. Blanco and her sidekick, NO’s hopeless mayor (dubbed “genuinely heroic” by BBC correspondent Matt Wells), who had 500 school and local buses lined up per New Orleans’ contingency plan and watched passively as the water rose and rendered them inoperable as tens of thousands of people in the Superdome endured a nightmare, Mad Max world.
. . .
The willful ignorance is breathtaking. Speaking in torturously contrived, insulting clichés is part of the drill. “The winds of Katrina will howl down the corridors of power for many years to come,” keened Frei, clearly thinking Bush is Blanco’s boss and he could simply take over the reins if he chose
Back to the Economist, it’s Spamalot time:
The administration’s initial response recalled Donald Rumsfeld’s reaction to the anarchy in Iraq: stuff happens. George Bush was listless and confused. Dick Cheney, the vice-president, remained on holiday in Wyoming. Condoleezza Rice, the highest ranking black in the country, saw a Broadway show, “Spamalot”, while New Orleans’s poor looked out at the floodwaters.
I guess this means that if Dr. Rice (or any Secretary of State, if you think about it) had missed Spamalot the levees wouldn’t break and flood waters would never rise. The Economist editor must have been watching the BBC when the Beeb reporter said,
‘In the workout room of the condo where I am currently staying in the affluent LA neighbourhood of Santa Monica, an executive and his personal trainer ignored the anguished television reports blaring above their heads on Friday evening’
since Spamalot and personal trainers have about as much to do with the subject. Or perhaps both the Beeb and The Economist believe the Secreatry of State is played by Charlton Heston in The Ten Commandments and can, with a touch of his staff (pun intended), separate the waters. I wonder where the Foreign Ministers of France, Romania, Croatia, Switzerland, Austria and Germany were when the Floods_hit_much_of_Europe_42_die as Europe counts cost of flood chaos.
The Economist continues,
Mr Bush then added disingenuity to leaden-footedness, declaring that nobody had anticipated the breaching of the levees—even though people have been worrying about the possibility for years and an official report published in 2001 warned of impending disaster.
I don’t know about “nobody” but the locals certainly didn’t: take a look at this slide show (via The Anchoress) and tell me if the locals had any sense of urgency. Never mind the fact that the levees that failed were already completed projects.
The Economist editor’s now warmed into a froth:
Mr Bush’s personal weakness is shaming
What’s even more shaming is how these two Brit media enclaves (The Economist is a British mag, even when they call themselves a “newspaper”) can’t seem to find the time to stop echoing each other and learn about the facts. MacQueen explains in his article,
With an inexcusable lack of acquaintance with the political structure of the US, particularly the separation of powers between the states and the federal government, and Louisiana’s 200 years of institutional corruption, the British Broadcasting Corporation barreled into New Orleans with pre-fabricated opinions which it broadcast back to Britain standing against local backgrounds.
You could safely exchange “British Broadcasting Corporation” for “Economist” and reach the same conclusion. At least the BBC had a correspondent in New Orleans.
Update Alice Miles on the racial divide.
PostScript, September 12: Here’s my letter to the Editor of The Economist,
By bringing attention to Dr. Rice’s race (“Condoleezza Rice, the highest ranking black in the country, saw a Broadway show, “Spamalot”, while New Orleans’s poor looked out at the floodwaters.”) you demonstrate both your ignorance of the political structure of the American government, and your exploitation of another black woman’s grief on your cover while pretending to illustrate “The shaming of America”.
As Secretary of State, Dr. Rice has absolutely no authority to do anything about internal USA matters. Her post is similar to that of a Foreign Minister in other countries. I guess you expect that if Dr. Rice (or any Secretary of State, if you think about it) had missed Spamalot the levees wouldn’t break and flood waters would never rise. Going by your premise, one has to wonder where the Foreign Ministers of France, Romania, Croatia, Switzerland, Austria and Germany were when last week’s floods hit much of Europe, leaving 42 dead (the headlines read http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/4182758.stm Europe counts cost of flood chaos), and ask why doesn’t your periodical bring attention to their whereabouts.
Your ignorance is inexcusable. Your mendacity, limitless.