Don't Touch That Dial (Smash Your TV Set Instead)

Rarely has a news event thousands of kilometers away created such powerless rage in me as the 2005 Katrina Hurricane and its gruesome aftermath. I'm almost dumbstruck at the ugly mix of bureaucratic inefficiency and political indifference that unfolded over the past couple of days.
There was also a marked contrast between CNN, which mostly showed heroic rescue workers herding refugees into helicopters and distraught white people returning to what, if anything, was left of their rural homes, and BBC World, which was on the scene at both the New Orleans Superdome and the Convention Center and focused on the logistical ineptitude of the local, state and federal governments. When CNN reported about corpses -which was rarely- they were strangely apologetic about it, as if it was an unpleasant reality that the viewers of a worldwide news channel would rather not hear about.
But what most definitely took, eat and shit the cake in my book was a CNN anchorwoman saying: "Up next, which numbers should you call to get in touch with your loved ones? That and more, right after these messages." I'm sure that a starved mother who had lost all of her earthly possession, arriving in a refugee center and seeing a working TV set for the first time in 5 days, would be more interested in the comfort of flying Singapore Airlines business class than in which number to call to find out if her children were alive or dead.

So I took my news from the Beeb whenever I could, and I followed the live reports on the Survivors of New Orleans weblog, one of the very few communication lines of any kind coming out of the city (yay for diesel-fueled generators). The hosting company that is behind this weblog also used to host the famous Something Awful site. SA, instead of reviewing clown porn or insulting 'furries', showed its true colors in a beautiful piece of biting commentary:

Who is responsible? Who should be blamed? All of them. This is a colossal failure of our government to care for and protect its citizenry on every conceivable level. The heroes are the men and women on the scene doing their utmost to help those in need. Coast Guard rescue workers plucking people to safety and Red Cross workers feeding people from emergency kitchens are heroes. The man who commandeered a bus and got people out of New Orleans when the government was woefully impotent is a hero. The woman who smashed the glass on a convenience store to loot bottled water for fifteen kids who should have been absolutely inundated with supplies by then is a hero. The doctors and nurses hand-bagging ventilator patients 24 hours a day in dark hospitals are heroes. In the ineloquent but true words of the Mayor of New Orleans: "Don't tell me 40,000 people are coming here. They're not here. It's too doggone late. Now get off your asses and do something, and let's fix the biggest goddamn crisis in the history of this country." CNN was better prepared to deal with this disaster than FEMA was.
I am ashamed of my country's government in a universal way right now. Republicans, democrats, opportunists, it doesn't matter; they're all guilty in this situation. In a magical world where justice is actually served most of these people would not have jobs in a month or two. Instead the people without jobs will be the millions who have lost everything and found their government with its back turned. Remember that people are still dying because of this incompetence. Remember that when each and every one of these fools appears on TV for a photo op or complains about "placing blame later," because placing blame now is the only hope America has to change the situation.

Lesson learned: the next time a disaster threatens the U.S., you're on your own.

Posted by cronopio at 01:06 PM, September 05, 2005