Thursday, September 08, 2005

The Katrina situation

I was discussing the hurricane and aftermath with some colleagues at work the other day. Someone brought up a NYTimes report about the administration considering invoking the Insurrection Act and taking over in Louisiana.

Another colleague pointed out that such discussions are moot and now isn't the time to place blame.

That's true. It seems some people, including Amy and MoveOn, have already assigned the blame to President Bush.

Anyway, there would be just as much backlash at Bush had the Feds taken over preemptively. When a tragedy like this happens, the first thing some people do is look for a reason why it happened and a person to blame. Personally, I feel like there are a lot of people who want to place all the blame on Bush for reasons of political opportunism.

I kind of agree with what Adam Curry was saying on the DSC earlier this week. That in general, Americans have been conditioned by the television culture to expect a problem resolution and closure within 28 minutes. We expect serious problems not to happen, and when they do, we expect somebody else to fix it before the next commercial break.

We seem to be trying to apply the episodic TV formula to this disaster. When bad things happen (hurricane Katrina), Americans want to see a victim (residents of N.O.), a hero (federal responders), and a villain (President Bush).

And the news organizations are happy to play along. Since we're all glued to the wall-to-wall coverage, each news org invokes special “Act of God” advertising rates that are an order of magnitude higher than the regular rates. Thus, it’s in their best financial interest when a tragedy happens and to keep the drama high.

Of course, real life isn’t an episode of Law & Order. And when the shite hits the fan as hard as it did in N.O., the “victims” don’t have the psychological wherewithal to handle it.

Look, despite what Kanye West thinks, there is no villain. Were there bad decisions? There always are in every disaster. Was there mismanagement? Absolutely, and on many levels from those who decided not to evacuate, to local and state officials who showed poor leadership, all the way up to the head of FEMA, DHC and the President.

But nobody caused the hurricane and no act of Congress, Bush or Bruce Willis would have stopped it. Sometimes bad things happen.

1 comment:

  1. Hey thanks for the comment on my blog...I like the thoughtful words you expressed here but I do disagree. I don't assign blame to Bush because my television tells me too. In fact, I don't own a television and have seen no Katrina coverage on television. I think this was an entirely preventable disaster, it was a man-made disaster caused by years of not listening to scientists and others talk about the incredible risk we were ignoring in New Orleans. Either Bush ignored the problem or he hired someone for Homeland Security who ignored it for him and never told him about the problem.

    Moreover, an act of congress years ago that would have begun to deal with global warming, or a president who supported the Kyoto protocols would have helped to avoid these kinds of extremely vicious, high category hurricanes. Of course, according with Kyoto now or at any time during Bush's presidency would have done little or anything to stop the current hurricane. But the attitude that Bush has done everything he can to propogate did. And with us not going with Kyoto or really much more aggressive tactics than Kyoto Katrina, in the coming 10 or 20 years, will begin to look like a hard rain and we will certainly be able to blame Bush for that even many administrations from now.

    Many scientists say it is already too late, but I for one think it would be worth giving it a try...after all I kinda like this planet...a lot more than I like my car.


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