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Tuesday, September 13, 2005
AN OFFERING TO THE MAINSTREAM MEDIA GODS
I'm sorry, but count me out of the bash Brown festival currently underway on both right and left wing blogs. I've posted before that Brown did not handle himself well with the media and that his statements struck the wrong note because they projected an image that he was worried about CYA rather than problem solving. The problem, of course, is that image has been projected by nearly everyone in this matter -- from FEMA to the Governor to the Mayor to Senator Landrieu.
From early on, the media framed this issue as a failure to help poor black people. That fit the "World ends, women and minorities hurt most," tradition of the 3 networks, the NYT and other MSM organizations. At the end of the day, this fits with the media's agenda, and the agenda of the left. But stoking the fires of racial resentment comes at a steep price -- the social, political and cultural alienation of millions of african americans from the rest of the country.
The idea that the federal, state or local government (in this case NO) acted slowly because these were black people -- or put another way, would have acted more quickly were they white people -- is baseless. Before leveling a charge like this, don't you think some shred of evidence should be provided to support the charge?
Nope. No evidence is required because to the media and the blame America first crowd, America is guilty until proven innocent. Too bad for America, though -- cause you can't prove a negative. No amount of sacrifice on the part of rescue workers, no amount of selflessness on the part of volunteers and donors, no amount of aid from the federal coffers, will ever be enough to satisfy those who deeply and truly believe that America is a tragic, bloody mistake of a nation that has done, and continues to do, more harm than good.
The accusation of racism in the Katrina aftermath is an ignoble lie -- a pernicious, soul-stealing falsehood, that weakens our country and denies hope to millions of African Americans. Why bother to do well in school if the deck is stacked against you? Why bother to live by the rules of a society that turns its back on you?
And so it continues... the false accusations of racism feeding the hopelessness, dispair and resentments that keep the inner-city poor right where they are. Meanwhile, other groups of non-whites, many of whom speak little English when they arrive here, are succeeding despite their color and the "climate" of hatred that so obviously exists here. As their children graduate from our universities with engineering degrees, you should ask yourself why, despite government program after government program and hundreds of millions in taxpayer dollars, so few inner city youth are standing on stage with them.
Then, as you spout rhetoric about how racist and unfair America is, go look in the mirror. When you repeat a lie often enough, don't be surprised that someone believes you.
I have no doubt that every level of government failed to some degree. That's why I am a conservative -- I have very little faith in government. It is a necessary evil. Sometimes, as in the case of FEMA - it is the former. Sometimes, as with the corruption and thievery that characterizes local politics in New Orleans, it is somewhat closer to the latter.
Unfortunately, in the rush to blame somebody for the most devastating natural disaster in American history (at least in terms of property damage and size of the affected area), the media missed the big picture.
Yes, we all wonder why it took so long to get people out of the convention center. Yes, we wonder why the looting was not controlled sooner. But, regardless. This was a story of survival. A story of heroism. A story of hope amid tragedy.
In all the pictures of people making their way through the water, or standing fast against the water, the vast majority of those pictures showed people helping one another.
This was an opportunity to bring people together. To cast black Americans as heroes rather than victims. But the media can't look at black people as heroes. Because heroes don't wait for government agencies. And most importantly, for them, they don't need government handouts and they don't need people like Jesse Jackson shaking down companies in their name.
It used to be said of Palestinians that they never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity. The same, unfortunately, can be said with the MSM and black America. Here was an opportunity to show African Americans as AMERICANS -- working to help the helpless and fighting together for their lives and their city.
Of course, you will be able to find lots of examples of individual heroism by black Americans lauded by the press, so don't bother to point to them. They miss the point. Just as the media has fixed the slow response frame on Michael Brown, they have fixed the "Victim" frame on African Americans.
The MSM have succeeded. They have received their sacrifice -- Michael Brown's resignation. It provides them with a sense of power -- see, they do matter after all.
Unfortunately, the continuation -- and reinforcement -- of black Americans as either immoral looters or poor, ignorant victims, is the price the media paid for Michael Brown's head.
Sleep well at night. Black people will continue to vote Democratic. And the problems of drugs, crime, poverty, ignorance and social breakdown will continue for a long, long time.
ON ANOTHER NOTE
Jack Kelly has an excellent column today. He quotes from a national guardsman, who has been through a number of disasters and concludes that FEMA's overall response to this disaster is actually BETTER than usual. Here are the key graphs:
"The federal government pretty much met its standard time lines, but the volume of support provided during the 72-96 hour was unprecedented. The federal response here was faster than Hugo, faster than Andrew, faster than Iniki, faster than Francine and Jeanne."
For instance, it took five days for National Guard troops to arrive in strength on the scene in Homestead, Fla. after Hurricane Andrew hit in 1992. But after Katrina, there was a significant National Guard presence in the afflicted region in three.
Journalists who are long on opinions and short on knowledge have no idea what is involved in moving hundreds of tons of relief supplies into an area the size of England in which power lines are down, telecommunications are out, no gasoline is available, bridges are damaged, roads and airports are covered with debris, and apparently have little interest in finding out.
So they libel as a "national disgrace" the most monumental and successful disaster relief operation in world history.
It can be said that FEMA was slow during all those hurricanes. That may be true. But I don't remember anyone complaining about FEMA's response time. It sure didn't come up as a major issue in the last campaign.
Also, keep in mind, in the wake of September 11th, FEMA took four days to take control in New York City -- and that was in a city that wasn't underwater.
The reality is, in the early parts of a major disaster, individuals are largely on their own. The locals pick up some of the slack almost immediately, the state police and other agencies like national guard are there in first couple days. Federal resources don't show up for several days. They don't mobilize those resources until they know they need them -- and the system is in place to get things on the ground within 72 hours.
You may not like it, but the system appears to work as designed. Were there problems -- yep. It is a huge operation.
The D-Day landings, the largest and most meticulously planned military event in human history, is a good example that huge operations are likely to include many, many failures. The bombers hesitated a split second too long to avoid hitting their own craft and, as a result, the bombs fell behind enemy lines rather than on the enemy. The planes with airborne came in far too fast and too low for precision landings -- and airborne troops were sent scattered across the countryside in groups of twos and threes, rather than coherent units. The airborne troops had bags of equipment tied to their legs. Most men overloaded their bags, and the bags broke during the jump and fell to earth, never to be seen again. Troops at the beach were also overloaded, and, because the bombing runs missed their targets, the landing craft did not go as close to the beach as they had previously planned. As a result, many American troops entered water over their heads and drowned under the weight of their packs (there is a reason that the terms FUBAR and SNAFU are common military terms).
But, the D-Day operation was not deemed a failure, but a huge success. Why? Because, despite the problems, despite the costly failures, the soldiers never lost site of the objective -- to get a foothold established on the beach, and capture the causeways and bridges that were needed to get forces and equipment into open country to strike at the heart of the enemy.
I put the Katrina response in the same category. It was an unbelievably huge undertaking punctuated by the usual SNAFUS and screw ups that occur in any large organization working on tight deadlines with insufficient communication and constantly changing conditions/obstacles. At the end of the day, the main objective -- to get 180,000 or so people out of a flooded and dangerous American city, appears to have been successful.
Was it pretty? No. Was it flawless? No. Did people die who could have otherwise been saved if the system worked perfectly? Unquestionably. But, given the challenges involved, it seems hard to imagine any other country doing as good a job, as quickly, with the relatively small number of casualties that we are seeing thus far.
I'm proud of the work done by the rescuers. It was a tough job and they have sacrificed a great deal. I'm also proud of the residents of Louisiana and Mississippi -- there are countless examples of bravery, strength and compassion. They deserve a parade, not another lame press conference.
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