Friday, September 30

Now Batting...Hugh "Blog Man" Hewitt

It is, no doubt, a mere accident of timing that my personal tour of pieces blaming the MSM for Katrina has progressed from Michelle "Screech. Link. Repeat." Malkin through the incessant chirping of one of the Corner's nestlings, right up to the big leagues of neocon phantasmagoria that is the Weekly Standard. For one thing, I'm not systematic about this stuff; I'm not even sure how I found Hewitt's piece on the great suffering this country has endured this month as we floated hopelessly past reporters who got stories wrong, wondering, O Lord, would real help never come?

Hugh was working on a deadline, so it is possible that this stuff did filter down from the sort of people who know just when to use a reference to Burke or Hobbes, through the people who know how to congratulate themselves for reading someone who does, to land, finally, on the people who screech and link. Or it could all be what the anthropologists call "independent invention". After all, how hard is it for a seasoned right-wing charlatan to blame the MSM for bad news?

Hewitt's launching pad, like Malkin's and Podhoretz', is the LA Times and New Orleans Times-Picayune stories:
...both carry stories on the collapse of mainstream media objectivity and standards that followed the breach in the New Orleans levees.

But both of those stories focus on the exaggerated reports of violence at the Superdome and Convention Center, and the reports of violence, rape, carjackings and looting in the street. Sorry, Hugh, but nobody's yet turned the Bush administration into heroes on this one. And before we announce that media standards of objectivity "collapsed" in that event we might want to ask what those standards are and where the information was coming from.

Hewitt provides some examples. Unsurprisingly, none of them comes from FAUX, where John Gibson may have been the first to cross from reports of looting to suggestions of Boogies Gone Wild hysteria. Hewitt cites a Times-Picayune story from Brian Thevenot on the aftermath at the Convention Center. But Thevenot is quoting (by name) two Arkansas National Guardsmen and several unnamed others. Since when are the personal reports of National Guardsmen not up to the standards of objective journalism? All we can ask of any journalist is that he accurately report what he's told and identify his sources. Thevenot did that, but Hewitt treats him like he's Armstrong Williams. Or, in Hugh's case, worse.

Similarly, he fingers the Santa Fe New Mexican (which was quoting an EMT on the scene), and a Detroit News headline to a bylined AP story. The single anecdote he highlights that might come close to evidence is the interview with Tony Zumbado, the photojournalist who brought the plight of thousands at the Convention Center to light. From the MSNBC transcript:
ZUMBADO: The sanitation was unbelievable. The stench in there . . . was unbelievable. Dead people around the walls of the convention center, laying in the middle of the street in their dying chairs. . . . They were just covered up . . . Babies, two babies dehydrated and died. I'm telling you, I couldn't take it.

I saw that report, so let me just speak for the defense in the interests of open debate. Zumbado was speaking extemporaneously in extraordinary circumstances. The interview was emotional and somewhat confused--lots of live interviews are, even under fluffy white clouds on a beach somewhere. He had begun his report speaking about what he had been told: there'd been no food or water delivered, police protection had been withdrawn on Tuesday, there were dead bodies being dragged off to the side of the building. Zumbado suggested there were violent attacks going on. He is not the source of the baby-raping, throat-slitting stories.

Whether he was saying there that he had witnessed two babies dying of dehydration, or merely been told of the deaths, I'm not sure. That's sort of lost in the confusion of the moment. I suppose if we're really curious, and as dedicated to journalistic standards as Hugh Hewitt, we might actually, I dunno, ask him. But let us at least apply the standards we demand of people reporting bad news from the actual scene to the people who report about the reporters from the comfort of their computer desks. The official count, now, is that they found four bodies in the cooler at the Convention Center. One had been killed by gunshot. Does that mean that two babies did not die of dehydration at the Convention Center? Because we know for certain if they had, someone would have dumped them in that cooler?

For Hewitt, of course, this is all part of the VMSM conspiracy of Bush hatred. And it's this conspiracy which has been keeping us from learning how the country really feels, as predicted by Hugh on September 1:
I am sure they are having their [Wellstone] memorial service moment, and that the country is indeed watching everything very, very closely, and drawing very different lessons about who they would want managing the relief effort if disaster comes to their city or region.

Time will of course tell.


Jim McCulloch said...

The NO Times Picayune two or three days ago had an article about deaths in the Convention Center and the Superdome. There were, as you said, four in the Convention Center, one possibly a murder, and there were six in the Superdome, none of them murders. Four more bodies were found outside the Superdome, and if any were homicides the NOTP did not mention it.

Anonymous said...

Sock it to Hugh! The PBS interview was my first - ahem - taste of the Hughster. Phew! Yuck!

Anyway, I updated my post and gave you a shout-out.