I want to know what is going on down near the gulf of Mexico in the aftermath of Katrina, but I wish to avoid exploitative coverage. This is nearly impossible.
It seems everywhere you turn on the dial there are exploitative images from New Orleans. In one case an anchor gave a lengthy discussion of how a family lost its priceless heirloom photo album, to which I say...no shit. When a giant hurricane destroys your city a lot of stuff is going to be lost. Some of it will be heirloom stuff. Giving a particular example of that is just sensationalist. It's not news. In another example a Fox News anchor actually filed a report from the devastation wearing an NFL on Fox baseball cap. Sure 2 million people might be without power, hundreds dead, a great world city underwater, but SOMEONE has to remind us about the coming football season. I mean who cares about some poor people swept away in a flood, it's all about BRANDING.
Meanwhile nobody wants to talk about the real news. The fact that the national guard is over in Iraq getting its ass kicked, rather than here in the States ready to assist with relief efforts. The fact that due to the Bushie Bushie budget crunch the federal government defunded the levee system. The fact that Bush hasn't seemed to give a fuck about this disaster at all, only now leaving his vacation to deal with it. Newsflash you traitorous fuck, when two million citizens are in crisis it's the president's job to both be a leader AND mobilize rescue operations ASAP. You don't give a two minute speech and go back to what you were doing.
The networks ignore this shit of course, like they ignore global warming and the wetland depletions that caused this hurricane in the first place, instead showing a distraught man talking about his wife being washed away in the flood. That's not news, it's a gruesome horror show. I am very sorry for that man's loss, but you don't need to take advantage of his grief on national television. Dramatic images of coast guard rescues should not trump cold hard facts and lists of names of people confirmed safe for families who can't get in touch with their loved ones. Do they? Of course. Anderson Cooper gave a report from Gulfport that basically consisted of him standing around and making stupid comments about the obvious devastation. At one point he showed a casino that the storm literally picked up and moved half a mile. Then he showed a tractor trailer that had also been blown away. We get it Anderson, them winds were really strong. Now tell us something we didn't know. Rubbernecking at a disaster isn't news.
And that's what it comes down to. Before Katrina the news networks were hyping it as a huge disaster to draw people's attention, and now that some of what they predicated came true they are reviewing the damage to a public that wants to stop and gape. It's below lowest common denominator, it's heartless exploitation. New Orleans is now a giant reality show. Survivor: Rooftop edition. Occasionally flashing the Red Cross telephone number won't change that. Neither will talking about gas prices as if they matter now. They don't.
In the old days of the media Walter Cronkite would come on the air and solemnly share information with the public as best he could. He would read in a powerful re-assuring voice with gravitas and seriousness. He would treat the audience like adults who wanted to know things. It wasn't perfect, it wasn't always accurate, but it sort of worked. Now you just hope that the news will be more informative than US magazine.
I'm taking bets on how long until Lindsay Lohan is asked what she thinks of the hurricane. The over under is 4 days.