Friday, September 09, 2005

Who's to blame for the blame game?

The Associated Press this morning points out that finger-pointing and backbiting have dominated the aftermath of Katrina, a marked change from the "let's all pull together" attitude following 9/11. The writer attempts to place the blame for the blame game on differences between the attacks and the hurricanes, such as that Osama bin Laden apparently had nothing to do with Katrina (though he may believe otherwise).
The extraordinary showing of national and political unity displayed after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, is nowhere to be found in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

That's right ... and you know why? Because "national and political unity" didn't serve the Jerry Springer model of conflict-based media. Respectful, reasoned analysis doesn't sell nearly as well as hyperbole and speculation. So now we have a reporter actually asking the President for comment on the rumor that the U.S. military deliberately flooded New Orleans by blowing up the 17th Street Levee in the hours after Katrina struck. Had any reporter indulged in such ludicrous and irresponsible gossip in the days after 9/11, there would have been a backlash. Not so anymore.

What mainstream media learned from 9/11 is that they don't have to adapt in the face of horrific tragedy. They can continue to make division and controversy their goals, to do their best to create the national atmosphere that suits their needs and not the needs of the people. Meanwhile, they can claim the pious defense that the muck they're raking up (or inventing) serves someone's interests. Remember when the media tried to drive a wedge into the war effort by playing the race card? We had to listen to plenty of hysterical speculation from people like Charles Rangel that the pain of war would fall with unfair weight on America's minority population, since "[a]ccording to his office, minorities comprise more than 30 percent of the nation's military." Well have a look at the photos of the young men and women who've lost their lives in Iraq. If 30 percent of our front-line soldiers are minorities, then insurgents in Iraq must be somehow targeting the whites. By my informal count, it appears that roughly 10% of those killed are African-American and another 10% are Latino. Casualties almost precisely reflect the racial make-up of the nation, but does anyone in the mainstream media feel it necessary to call attention to this, now that reality would not serve to cause tension and bitterness? No. Not a peep. Race and the military was only an issue when it had the potential to cause conflict and controversy.

Selling acrimony has become the number one priority of America's mainstream media. The AP is part of the problem. Their duplicitous attempt to find reasons for America's poisonous political atmosphere belongs up there with O.J. Simpson's ongoing investigation into his ex-wife's murder.