Writers Let Down Big Easy Watching mainstream media, we should be ashamed
By Rosie Levine
The party's over and Katrina wasn't the only one hanging the people's jazz hats.
Never, as a writer, would I have imagined watching in horror the network coverage of Hurricane Katrina, reeling with disbelief as tens of thousands of New Orleans citizens were portrayed as "refugees" -- not innocent victims -- in their own homeland.
If you write for TV, this should've hit you in the gut like a tire-iron.
The word scrolled endlessly, it seemed, on the mighty media giant CNN banner, although it was eventually changed to more palatable euphemisms. It was accompanied by footage of 15,000 suffering men, women and children -- mostly black and mostly poor -- as they lay dying, dehydrated, and starving, first in the Superdome and then the Convention Centre.
I am so grateful that, as a Canadian and someone who reports on the world, we did not join the American regime in its ongoing phony war in Iraq. Yeah, that reality TV "Shock And Awe" spin -- great title for a bomb-bastic war movie, but with a failed ending -- was snivellingly sucked up by the mainstream media. It's here I want to say, "But not us."
I am forever reminded of that war-mongering idiocy by one of my favourite, globally conscious bands, Spearhead. A song on their latest album, Everyone Deserves Music, called Power To The Peaceful, delivers a powerful message from the band's spearhead, Michael Franti, "You can bomb the word to pieces, but you can't bomb it into peace." But that's for the poetry section.
I was in Los Angeles when Dubya was astonishingly re-elected in 2004. Another rigged gig. But the sense of pure dread that I, my pals and fellow writers felt, was absolutely daunting, beyond description. We tried to soothe ourselves, with great difficulty and lots of drinking. The death knell ringing for the belief in peace was loud and clear. The despair was just setting in.
Back to the present, anyone reading a newspaper, watching television, surfing the net, or listening to the radio (or, in Dubya's case, advisors) was fully aware that an unprecedented Category 5 hurricane was about to hit a worldwide beloved American city.
How sickening that, prior to the hurricane, no busses were deployed to evacuate the residents of New Orleans who couldn't get out by car, because they didn't own one or could not afford to rent one. Time Magazine rather blandly notes that 70% of the nursing homes in New Orleans were not evacuated. Let the dying die. How compassionate. Time doesn't care.
Yet, in the days following 9/11 -- when air travel was forbidden -- under Saudi supervision and with FBI approval, 24 members of the bin Laden family criss-crossed America in private jets, enroute to their homeland. Where were the TV writers then?
During the current debacle, Dubya tried to initiate the "blame game"... childish fool that he is, even blaming, not only the state's politicians, but the media too, for creating a false "sense of relaxation about the outcome." Does he really think that we are that gullible, given the fact that 65,000 body bags have been sent to the beleaguered states? Forget the hundreds of reported dead so far. The "Numbers Game" has only just begun.
Crueler still were the words of Condaleeza Rice, who was Ferragamo shoe shopping in New York at the time her fellow Southern residents were suffering beyond belief.
Apparently, a fellow shopper, vocal in her dismay of the government's fave female pet not being with her peeps during their time of grief, was evacuated from the high-end shop at Rice's request. Before high-tailing it back to Washington, numerous reports have Rice responding, "Jesus Christ will take care of everything." I'm not kidding. This ain't fiction.
What on earth, as writers, for TV or otherwise, can we learn from this tragedy? For one thing, remember the adage "How do you know a politician is lying?.. His/her lips are moving."
The spin is in and it becomes more unbelievable as the days go by. The country's CEO now "accepts responsibility." Wow, what a concept. So soothing. I, for one, will continue to trust, not the mainstream, but online sites like http://www.salon.com, or IN, where you can believe the writing.
When writers, musicians, athletes and actors immediately mobilize to raise funds for the victims, while the powers-that-be are immobile, how is it that Kanye West's statement during the NBC Live Concert For Hurricane Relief that "President Bush doesn't care about black people" is edited out for the West Coast broadcast? Guess Dubya was finally watching TV!! And violating the Freedom Of Speech amendment.
What has happened in New Orleans is nothing short of criminal negligence, yet I suspect there will be many diversions (back to Iraq) to distract from the reality of the grim reaper, guided by the government. Call me a bleeding-heart liberal. I accept that label with humble pride.
Rosie Levine is a Toronto freelance writer and gossip columnist extraordinaire, having covered culture, rock'n'roll and gossip and media for a host of Canadian publications for 25 years. E-mail:firstname.lastname@example.org