Thursday, September 01, 2005

poverty, katrina and the boundaries of national tragedy

The posting titled "Race and Hurricane Katrina," and its comments and links at Amardeep Singh's blog (a blogroll standby here) have helped me form my inchoherant rants and queries to friends into the questions below. Still muddled, but that's where I am:

1. Why does the media care about poverty in Louisiana only when there is a flood?

2. If I grant that the flood is a particularly revealing disaster, in that the "natural" (flood) and the "unnatural" (poverty under US capitalism) converge, can we expand this definition of national tragedy to include deaths at the US Mexico border (desert heat meets US labor and immigration policy), the war in Iraq (natural resources (weak, i know) meets US energy and transportation policies) and so on . . . . ?

3. Are the floods, and other evidence of the earth's activity really "natural" in any sense? Or are they the product of global warming, more water moving on the earth's surface, more pressure on the plates, more active warm and cold fronts in the ocean, etc?

4. Is there a difference between a flood refugee finding food for immediate consumption and finding something else that might have value later (elsewhere called "stealing" and "looting")? Even if it is someone else's, they left it, they have valued it less than their lives and whatever else they took with them, if they were lucky enough to get the information to get out and had the resources to do so . . . . No one is making a profit here. Well, maybe not no one. Which leads us to question 5 . . .

5. Who will rebuild the petroleum infrastructure in the Gulf of Mexico?



Blogger pmc said...

your first question has been on my mind for much of the past week.

watching reporters keep the camera rolling while people weep over little heaps where their homes had been strikes me as at least partly disingenuous. cnn's anderson cooper had a broadcast news moment the other night in a story during which he first filmed a couple digging through rubble and crying; then cut to him pacing back & forth several yards from where they remained hunched over crying. he mused roundtable-discussion-like about how hard it was to report on this stuff; choked himself up and then said "turn it off. stop." did that story represent the media caring or was it exploitive? it's hard for me not to think the latter & much of tvnews coverage strikes me as having a similar (if less explicit tone); enough so that i've stopped watching it.

speaking more directly to your Q. i think it may be because massive disaster stories like this one & the tsunami & perhaps also 9/11 (although, as a terrorist attack, i think there's a distinction) produce so many horrific images and have so many componants that television news cannot end a given story with the anchor's face expressing grave yet somehow inexpressible head-shaking resignation before pulling him/erself together (because that's their job!)and move on . . . "in other news. . ." but there's no such bookend to an event of this sort, so tv news is presented in this drawn-out "caring" way: without transitions & more expressive of concern. generally speaking, whether jouralists are as concerned about poverty or not, i can't say. but i agree with you that right now tvnewsland certainly seems to care, don't they?

npr's on the media had a good segment on the development of this aspect of the story. if you're interested.

this turned into a longer post than i meant. but it's sun. morning & i'm futzing around & as it happens friends & i spent several pints talking about just this last night.

1:48 PM  
Blogger zp said...

Thanks so much for your thoughts on this. I really appreciated your shot by shot analysis of the CNN story. And I generally like On the Media . . . its a good place to go when I can't put my own frustrations with mainstream media into words.

11:00 AM  
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