Wednesday, September 5

The Difference Is That Category Five Stupidity Is Making Landfall Constantly

Jonah Goldberg, "Storm of Malpractice: Katrina was a media disaster." Wherever Fine Newspapers Aren't Sold, September 5

Synopsis of the English Translation: There were, like, a million Katrina anniversary stories last week, according to LexisNexis. (You have now been appraised of all the research I intend to do.) Only none of the big media poopyheads ever admits that the media poopheads made any mistakes. They just blame the Bush administration, which is why they were so disappointed when 10,000 people didn't die like they all assured us they had.

Obligatory 'I Still Imagine Weaselly Equivocations Turn Horseshit Into Thought" Moment: "And while some might quibble with this or that characterization or selection of facts, ultimately the media were doing what they’re supposed to do: hold government accountable."
SWEET Lordy Gordy, I realize there's probably not a subject on earth that Goldberg hasn't embarrassed himself about, and, further, I know that refusal to admit the obvious swims in his political bloodstream, as well as being a prerequisite of employment and a consequence of Lazy Brain Syndrome, but Jesus. "Grow Some Gills" Goldberg is going to bring up Katrina, let alone criticize someone else's work? Or show his face again? for that matter.
Few of us can forget the reports from two years ago. CNN warned that there were “bands of rapists, going block to block.” Snipers were reportedly shooting at medical personnel. Bodies at the Superdome, we were told, were stacked like cordwood. The Washington Post proclaimed in a banner headline that New Orleans was “A City of Despair and Lawlessness” and insisted in an editorial that “looters and carjackers, some of them armed, have run rampant.” Fox News anchor John Gibson said there were “all kinds of reports of looting, fires and violence. Thugs shooting at rescue crews.” These reports actually hindered rescue efforts, as emergency crews wasted valuable time avoiding phantom snipers.

TV reporters raced to the bottom to see who could moralistically preen the most. Interviewers transformed into outright scolds of administration officials. Meanwhile, the distortions, exaggerations and flat-out fictions being offered by New Orleans officials were accelerated and amplified by the media echo chamber. Glib predictions of 10,000 dead, and the chief of police’s insistence that there were “little babies getting raped,” swirled around the media like so much free-flowing sewage.

It was as though journalistic skepticism of government officials was reserved for the White House, and everyone else got a free pass.

Y'know, first of all, they archive the witty repartee that is The Corner. In case anyone's forgotten.

And the casual nibbler at that Burkean tapas bar could easily be convinced that before they were (largely) debunked--most thoroughly by reporters at the Times-Picayune--the Cornerites were generally less than skeptical themselves, provided the reports in question appeared to justify their preconceived notions. Which, since much of their information came from the likes of John Gibson and Neil Cavuto, qualified as "frequently".

We understand that Golberg is not (suddenly!) aiming for accuracy; his full-time job is the sort of moralistic preening he accuses nameless reporters of engaging in. It's possible--it's always possible with Jonah--that he's not even familiar with standard wall-to-wall teevee news coverage, in which wild rumor and rank speculation stop being filtered to the extent they usually are, and that under those conditions one should adopt the same attitude about drinking straight and deep from the news font that one takes about floodwater. We know by now, those of us who've read the record rather than just checking the Google hits counter, that a lot of those stories were sourced, at least originally, and that they were couched in the usual "reportedlys" and "according tos" which are routinely accepted by Goldberg and the rest of us. We suggest that self-styled Middle East experts who can't name a book on the subject should be the first to renounce the practice. In the meantime, so it goes.

We also know this: that a denizen of Left Blogtopia--who we are embarrassed to admit we friggin' don't remember--caught the frame of the early New Orleans coverage by noticing that Black People Loot while Resourceful White People Find. That little discovery was the drop that topped the levy of racist coverage that dominated the first 48 hours on the television. Teevee reporters are not actively recruited from the ranks of the urban poor, they are not notably eager to join them or particularly sensitive to their circumstances, or knowledgeable beyond a sort of demographic /political Dewey Decimal assignment. There's absolutely no question that the timbre of the early coverage bordered on racist and fell fall short of what we might describe as simple human compassion. The revelations of racism from the Blogosphere came as, well, a genuine revelation to some. (This pathetic little blog received two emails from cable or network news producers protesting that they were just reporting what they could see from their extremely limited perches; our response, "Bullshit," effectively ended the debate.) Meanwhile, much of the Right's free time was spent arguing over whether looters should be shot on sight or merely wounded on sight. In this, K-Lo, somewhat surprisingly, took the opposite theological approach to Peggy Noonan, and Jonah posted an email he'd received (we know he didn't make it up since it contains, like, an historical citation):
"Don't Arrest Them, Beat Them" [ Jonah Goldberg ]

Email from a reader about the great Chief Greenberg:

It's interesting that no one has yet remarked on the behavior of recently-retired Charleston police Chief Reuben Greenberg during Hurricane Hugo in 1989. When the eye of that Category 4 storm passed over the city and offered a half-hour of calm, Greenberg sent out a paddy wagon to round up looters. It got as far as the entrance to the police lot, which was flooded (the police HQ in Charleston is on reclaimed landfill - not below sea level, but not above it by much). He was able to get on the horn to his lieutenants around town with the order: "Don't arrest [looters]; beat them. We don't have any place for them in our jails." I credit the attitude espoused in those lines - a refusal, even in the eye of the storm - to tolerate lawlessness, with the subsequent quality of the response. The National Guard was called in immediately, especially on the barrier islands that had lost their bridges to the mainland (I remember taking our boat to inspect our beach house two days later and being politely told to inspect and leave by the Guard troops on Sullivans Island. Though the entire response in the Charleston area was phenomenal, Chief Greenberg and Mayor Joe Riley were phenomenally strong that horrible night, and they facilitated the rebuilding effort that has led to the Charleston that has developed today. Their response was pure Giuliani - before there was a Giuliani.

09/02 11:35 AM

It's also true that as time went on and the scope of the disaster and the disastrous Bush administration non-response became clearer, the tone changed. To be sure, the exaggeration continued. People who have witnessed the wildfire speed with which contrast-enhanced newspaper photographs become global media conspiracies on some websites--whose denizens' lives are threatened by nothing more than the theoretical possibility that the sommelier will break a cork at lunch--can perhaps understand how panic set in among people at the Convention Center who were desperate for rescue in the swampy heat, people whose only source of food or water was being described as lawlessness and a hanging offense, at that. Not to mention the fact that a lot of the horror stories originated with National Guardsmen and FEMA officials who were in no real danger themselves.

AS for "ganging up on Bush", we find that even more risible than most things that come out of Jonah's mouth in the company of Cheetos spray. The administration had no problem getting face time on teevee, aside from the delay caused by its reluctance to rouse from vacation. The Washington Post stovepiped the Blame Bianco stuff, despite it being, uh, factually challenged (remember "she didn't ask for a state of emergency"?). Ray Nagin was frequently portrayed, rightly or wrongly, as an overmatched lunatic. Everyone dutifully ran the loop of the unused school buses and dutifully inflated their number tenfold. Tim Russert aided the sliming of Aaron Broussard, the Jefferson Parish President who'd errantly reported a couple days of non-existent phone calls to a 92-year-old woman already drowned. Not only was Broussard's emotional response to an unmitigated disaster fact-checked, it was still an issue for the national press three weeks later, as though it somehow made FEMA appear not so bad. Name me one time Timmy has similarly chased down someone with real power. Bush went unchallenged when he claimed the levee breach had been unthinkable, and when they finally got Pickles out of Crawford and dried out she was a walking-three-feet-behind-the-President photo op of cheery Here's Your Blanket, Now Go Find Yourself Some Bootstraps can-doitiveness.

The simple fact is that the pathetic administration response to Katrina finally unleashed the dissatisfaction bordering on disgust that had been building around Bush for some time, and while there might have been some debate room had the delay been twenty-four hours, it fucking wasn't, now, was it Mr. Goldberg? There's no question it wasn't Da Media's finest hour, a description Katrina shares with the 2000 elections, among others. There's also no question that the implicit racism and semi-malignant neglect were allowed to fester until many Americans didn't like what they were seeing about themselves. And that, to the extent that this runs counter to Mr. Goldberg's point of view, it's basically his Tough Shit.
Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Telethon [ Jonah Goldberg ]

BET will be holding one for the victims, according to the AP.

08/31 04:20 PM

I'm assuming Jonah posted this tidbit because he wanted to make sure his fellow Cornerites--not all of whom are regular BET viewers, apparently--made sure to set their TIVOs.


Christopher said...


You'd think it'd take more time before people would show complete ignorance about a subject most of their audience experienced.

M. Bouffant said...

Pantload indeed. Heh.
But that sidebar photo!! At first glance I assumed it was a ventriloquist & vent figure. But that figure on the right is a human, isn't it?? Double-plus icky!!
The Ronald McDonald was amusing, but this?