For Jonah…One Who’s Never Heard the Burning Dogs Scream (Part III)

Part 3 of a series

We watched them, some of them, come in. They were in horrible shape, some of them. We watched one woman whose leg had been severed. Mark Biello, one of our cameramen, went out in one of the boats to help shoot. He ended up being out for hours and told horrific tales. He saw bodies. He saw where — he saw other, just unfathomable things. Dogs wrapped in electrical — electrical lines who were still alive that were being electrocuted.—-CNN’sJeanne Meserve (far right below) New Orleans, 8/29/2005</blockquoteScout

jonah and meserve

(photo shop work by Michael of 2Millionth web log)

Jonahsays “but it is worth reminding people that the Katrina they think they remember wasn’t the Katrina that actually took place. In fact, it is difficult to think of a bigger media scandal in my lifetime than the fraudulently inaccurate coverage of Hurricane Katrina.” This is part 3 of a series that examines Jonah’s arguments. Specifically this part examines his argument that since African American did not die disproportionately the media got it wrong. From Jonah onMay 24th

The stories about poor blacks dying in comparatively huge numbers because American society “left them behind”? Nah-ah.


In all of Louisiana, not just New Orleans, the total dead from Katrina was roughly 1,500. Blacks did not die disproportionately, nor did the poor. The only group truly singled out in terms of mortality was the elderly. SNIP

While most outlets limited themselves to taking Nagin’s estimate of 10,000 dead at face value, Editor and Publisher—the watchdog of the media—ran the headline, “Mortuary Director Tells Local Paper 40,000 Could Be Lost in Hurricane.”

Let’s discuss the 10000+ claims first. Jonah it’s C. Ray man. He says shit and does nothing. That alone usually explains everything Nagin lets lose but in this case there does appear to have been some basis for the claims coming out of the Hurricane Pam exercises and not totally from Nagin’s ass on Sept. 5th or for that matter other officials, such as DHS Secretary Michael Leavitt, who said the toll would be in the thousands on CNN’s “Late Edition onSept 4th. But if Jonah wants accountability on this he’s welcome to get involved in therecall bid aimed at Nagin. However the media is less at fault, as they thought they were dealing with credible officials and a real mayor of a major American city and doubtful were not familiar with the local phenomenon that is Ray Speak.

The argument regarding racial composition of the dead has irked me for a months as it is off point. But before I explain that please note Jonah’s source is from December and is based on486 victims even though he says there were roughly 1500 dead. Of course he was off on that total by 333 people when he wrote this on May 24th as the death toll was1833 on May 19th. But 333 is just a number I guess. (BTW the death toll as of August 21…1720)

There is no final accounting of the dead. But working with what isknown it appears the breakdown by race of the dead is almost exact to the racial composition of New Orleans pre-Katrina. So the storm worked it all out in a racially even-steven manner and I ask So What the Fuck does that have to do with the media coverage?

(Click Read More for the rest)

American’s were disgusted with what they saw on the news. It was people, disproportionately black people, stranded for days on overpasses and at the Convention Center in the worst human misery in the richest land in the world that shook us to the core. Yes we wondered how many had already died but that was done. The point was we didn’t want anymore to die from lack of water, food or medicine because Bush was on vacation, Cheney was fly fishing, Condi was shoe shopping, Rummy was at a ball game and our vaulted much improved first line of defense against the IslamoFascists namely FEMA and DHS were fucked up.

The point which Jonah conviently misses was where was the federal response to aid and rescue the living? (and I’m talking of those standed after boat and air rescue–See Part 4)The question is had the media not turned their cameras on what was occurring how much longer would that pain and misery have dragged on and how many more may have died? For example is Jonah even aware that theSenate investigation found that “Deputy Secretary of Defense Gordon England, who, because he was watching Katrina’s impact on television, concluded that troops and equipment needed to be deployed immediately without the normal paperwork?” It was raw video and screaming anchors that got Bush and friends moving and I’m sure those stranded would thank the media for it.

Yes the discussion of race and poverty came to the forefront as people saw those stranded people. Was that societal self examination not worth having every decade or so… or was it just too uncomfortable for Jonah and Republicans who have patently ignored these issues since Ronald Reagan.

Yes people chose to stay behind for many reasons but many were indeed economically left behind as evacuation is expensive. “Theaverage cost to evacuate a family of four for three days to include lodging, food and transportations could easily exceed $1000.00.”

The reality is that the poor and a good portion of our elderly and disabled living on Social Security can not afford to evacuate. For Jonah to negate that reality but more to the point the miserable reality of those who survived the storm only to be left behind in the response by citing death stats is exploitation of the dead and demeaning to survivors. Worse it’s done in a naked attempt to“Give Bush a Break.”

But if one wants to honestly examine those stats and learn from them then do look at the 75% of victims who were elderly which Jonah does accurately point out. But goHere to see just how the lousy the federal plan for evacuation of the elderly still is.

Even more to the point in regards to those who were killed it would have been better if Jonah had read the adifferent December Knight Ridder article which reported this…

Nearly 600 people who died because of Hurricane Katrina might have survived had floodwalls on two New Orleans canals not collapsed, a Knight Ridder analysis of where bodies were found after the storm indicates

That at the end of this day and for many more tomorrows is the crux of the long term blame to be assessed and justice administered.Federal levees Failed resulting in catastrophic loss of life and devastation to the homes and neighborhoods of every race and class in New Orleans.

But if we really want to look at scandal then look no further than the government’s job in collecting the dead. FEMA ended search and rescue efforts onSept. 30 though it wasknown bodies remained. FurtherFEMA fought state and locals every step of the way over funding for collection of bodies even as Bush claimed the dead would be treated with respect. That bodies were left lying in the streets of an American city or left in their homes only for relatives to find them in horrible states of decomposition months later is the true scandal regarding Katrina victims. Quoting Jonah (sort of) I believe “it is difficult to think of a biggermedia scandal in my lifetime.”

Did the press report rumors they heard (again often from officials)? Yes. But Jonah’s wholesale condemnation to save W’s butt is dishonest. Perhaps the most honestassessment comes from the man, Louisiana State medical examiner Louis Cataldie, who has dealt tirelessly for a year in treating each victim as an individual…

So while the press deserves credit for arriving at the disaster scene before the federal government did, I nonetheless fault the national media for not following up more aggressively on any of these rumors. (murders, rapes, euthanasia)

The media got a lot more right than the federal government. They were there first and their coverage forced the federal government to get going and get serious. Blessed be every last one of them who waded through those waters and stood with the people to speak truth to power and ask where is our government?

(In Past 4 I’ll examine Jonah’s arguments regarding the press and the Superdome.)