When an event of such horrific magnitude occurs like the Haitian earthquake, one becomes stunned at the misery and devastation which can occur in such a short period of time.
However, after the initial shock, logic and reason start to seep in again, and you notice certain things which have become almost secondary to the event at hand.
From what I have observed from the coverage of this disaster, specifically from MSNBC and CNN, is an almost pathological desire to “pimp” out this tragedy.
The scope of the reporting has been needlessly excessive. Both networks reacted to this like a couple of opportunistic vultures, hovering around, rubber-necking on a massive scale, ready to pounce given the opportunity to showcase just how compassionate one reporter or network could be over the other.
I watched a bit on CNN a couple of nights ago, where they had the always concerned looking Anderson Cooper gabbing with two other CNN reporters about what they had witnessed. As each took his turn at the mic, a kind of “my story is worse than yours” engulfed these three stooges. Each took his turn at describing, in graphic detail, what specific horror he had seen during the day, almost trying to out do the other with their description. Along with this came an almost forced emotional response; a point in the conversation when you could almost sense they were trying to show just how affected they were, and they would convey this come hell or high water. Ambition trumped compassion, and it was an uncomfortable scene.
While I have no doubt the people covering this story can be truly moved by the events which they see, this disaster is horrible enough that it need not be embellished to the point of morbid obsession.
In comparison, I find it ironic how media outlets almost instantly refused to show the planes hitting the WTC, or the people jumping out of windows to escape an excruciating death, yet they will eagerly show hundreds of dead Haitians piled up on a roadside clearing.
Are these people not deserving of the same “dignified” treatment? Why is it fine to display the truth and misery of people from one devastating event and not another. Is there an underlying racial component in this attitude? Piles of dead black people from a third-world country can be shown in all of its horror, yet the death of thousands of mainly white people is too sensitive to repeat in its horrible essence?
To add to the sinister component of this, coverage is already being politicized.
Comparisons of the response between how President Bush reacted to Katrina and Obama to Haiti can only serve to be a political and polarizing purpose.
Haiti is a third-world nation, lacking any semblance of a responsible government. Corrupt thuggery reigns. Governmental institutions which are supposed to help people in times of catastrophe are non-existent. Infrastructure was poor before the earthquake, housing inadequate, medical services wretchedly thin. No such things as evacuation planning, social services, rescue components, or emergency provisionary support existed. Nothing.
In comparison, Louisiana (as an example) had all of these structures in place. The first priority of the government, from state institutions to local jurisdictions, is to protect the people and ensure their safety. That is why we have them. Ample warnings were given to ensure the safety of the population, enabling them to take every precaution to help themselves. Governmental agencies had the ability, and the duty, to use every resource at their disposal to maintain order, safety, and provide every method to evacuate people to secure locations. Unfortunately, due to gross incompetence at the state and local levels of government, this disaster planning fell apart in the most critical initial moments of the situation. People died as a direct result of this. By the time the federal government was allowed to intervene, the blueprint for sustained success was useless, as negligence on the part of state and local officials rendered first response all but defeated.
This from a state in the most powerful nation in the world.
Louisiana has a population of 4.5 million people. 971 died.
Haiti has a population of 9.4 million. The expected death toll from this earthquake is from 50,000 to 100,000.
A comparison to Katrina just cannot be equally justified.
If any comparison should be made between recent responses to a natural disaster, it should be made between the 2004 Tsunami and the Haitian earthquake. While it is too soon to see just how effective Obama’s response to the current crisis will prove to be, President Bush’s response to the tsunami was swift, compassionate, and effective. While the Obama response may prove to be just as meaningful, it is too soon to tell. However, this does not stop his adoring media from claiming how “decisive” he has been in his response.
I’ve no doubt this sort of useless comparison will continue and amplify as politicians and partisan hacks fan out across the airwaves to score political points over a situation where lives will become secondary to poll numbers.
Disasters can bring out the best in people.
They can also bring out the worst.