<$BlogRSDUrl$>

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

The biggest media scandal of the age 


Jonah Goldberg argues forcefully that the mainstream media's coverage of hurricane Katrina, particularly in New Orleans, is the greatest media scandal of his lifetime. Fair use excerpt:

Time writes matter-of-factly that “the government’s inept response to Hurricane Katrina” is a major liability for Republicans in ‘06. Howard Dean and other Democrats mention Katrina as a staple talking point. That’s certainly fair, given that the bar is set pretty low for what constitutes fair in American politics these days. 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.

Where to begin? As I’ve written before, virtually all of the gripping stories from Katrina were untrue. All of those stories about, in Paula Zahn’s words, “bands of rapists, going block to block”? Not true. The tales of snipers firing on medevac helicopters? Bogus. The yarns, peddled on Oprah by New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin and the New Orleans police chief, that “little babies” were getting raped in the Superdome and that the bodies of the murdered were piling up? Completely false. The stories about poor blacks dying in comparatively huge numbers because American society “left them behind”? Nah-ah. 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.”

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. According to a Knight-Ridder study, while only 15 percent of the population of New Orleans was over the age of 60, some 74 percent of the dead were 60 or older, and almost half were older than 75. Blacks were, if anything, slightly underrepresented among the dead given their share of the population.

This barely captures how badly the press bungled Katrina coverage. Keep in mind that the most horrifying tales of woe that captivated the press and prompted news anchors to scream—quite literally—at federal officials occurred within the safe zone around the Superdome where the press was operating. Shame on local officials for fomenting fear and passing along newly minted urban legends, but double shame on the press for recycling this stuff uncritically. Members of the press had access to the Superdome. Why not just run in and look for the bodies? Interview the rape victims? Couldn’t be bothered? The major networks had hundreds of people in New Orleans. Was there not a single intern available to fact-check? The coverage actually cost lives. Helicopters were grounded for 24 hours in response to media reports of sniper attacks. At least two patients died waiting to be evacuated.

And yet, an ubiquitous media chorus claims simultaneously that Katrina was Bush’s worst hour and the press’s best.

I was in the Adirondack woods when Katrina hit, blissfully isolated from television or broadband. My perception of the disaster came from reading a few wire service articles on my Blackberry and the first few graphs of the articles in the New York Times. When I spoke to a couple of friends about it over the phone, their reaction struck me as entirely out of proportion to the situation, even though the property loss was devestating. It was only when I returned to civilization and got a glimpse of the tail end of the television coverage did I realize how the whole thing had come across to Americans and the world. Point is, however many factual errors made it into print, I think that the television coverage was particularly hysterical and indefensible.

CWCID: Instapundit.

17 Comments:

By Anonymous hepzeeba, at Thu May 25, 12:09:00 AM:

TigerHawk:

Goldberg makes a good case, but even if he's right, you can't unring the bell.

Those images were indelible. It was impossible to turn away from the television. Watching it made you feel powerless and helpless, and you felt great empathy for the victims. Regardless of what the facts turned out to be later, you saw things with your own eyes that were horrifying.

You didn't have to believe the crazy rumors (shootings, rapes, etc.) in order to see that this was a catastrophe. And to draw an important lesson from it:

that people need to be prepared and self-sufficient, and that they should not wait for the government (whether Republican or Democrat) to rescue them.

Going after the media about this is a mistake, I think. It wasn't their finest hour. Let us hope they drew some lessons from it. If they didn't, no fact-filled, well-reasoned argument from Jonah Goldberg will change that.  

By Blogger Shochu John, at Thu May 25, 04:29:00 AM:

"And yet, an ubiquitous media chorus claims simultaneously that Katrina was Bush’s worst hour and the press’s best."

If Jonah needs help on why that is, I'll give him a hint. The press showed up. Clearly, many of the stories were hysterical, exaggerated and poorly fact-checked. But there they were. That's far more than can be said for government forces. Day after day, the press was reporting live from the Superdome, the convention center, from all over the city filming the official non-response. By no means should it have been one of their finest hours, but merely by being present, they made it so.  

By Anonymous Timdido, at Thu May 25, 08:03:00 AM:

To paraphrase: "Clearly, many of the stories were hysterical, exaggerated and poorly fact checked, but at least they were there."

Not the "fake but accurate" meme again...give me a friggin' break. Who cares if it's not real, it's what we feel is real. By this standard, Walter Duranty should have received a Pulitzer. (what? that ship has sailed?)

Anyway, doesn't it bug any of the media's apologists in the slightest that their slipshod, hysterical reporting could have possibly led to a few more deaths by diverting resources to where they weren't needed?  

By Blogger Screwy Hoolie, at Thu May 25, 09:19:00 AM:

So much venom for the press, so little for the administration that bungled the response.

The media loves the hype. They love trying to keep their viewers glued, waiting for the next floating body or scene of devastation. They did it with O.J., with 9/11, with those weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

Hell, Fox News presents outrageous positions almost every day that may be costing lives.

I think you like to criticize the media because it's so easy. I wonder why you don't have the same enthusiasm for criticizing the Bush administration's myriad missteps, lies, and possible crimes.

I don't watch TV news anymore because it sucks. It's sucked ever since Wolf Blitzer crawled under his desk in Baghdad and the 24-hour news cycle was born. Turn it off.  

By Blogger TigerHawk, at Thu May 25, 10:22:00 AM:

I don't watch TV news anymore because it sucks. It's sucked ever since Wolf Blitzer crawled under his desk in Baghdad and the 24-hour news cycle was born. Turn it off.

Agreed!  

By Blogger Screwy Hoolie, at Thu May 25, 11:28:00 AM:

Oh, and I meant to mention, if you're going to call the big media out for factual errors, then don't be afraid to police your own blog.

CardinalPark posted on the debunked Iran/Jewish Yellow Star story and continues to stand by it. This is disinformation at its worst.

Background on how this story was born, propagated, and debunked. A retraction from CardinalPark would be great. Otherwise his credibility is shot.  

By Blogger Cardinalpark, at Thu May 25, 12:06:00 PM:

Screwy - In the very link you provide, you protest too much, I think. The story confirms legislation which prescribes a nationalistic and islamic dress code for muslims. With a different spin, it supports Taheri's claim. If Taheri's claim about the notion of a yellow piece of fabric for Jews turns out to be incorrect, it does not alter the fact that non Muslims will do, well what prescisely? -- this as Muslims are forced to wear "islamic dress." And after all, I would point out that Taheri has responded on the record, publically, with no retraction, but a reaffirmation of his original column.

In your zeal, Screwy, to hyperventilate against those who point out the Iranian islamic tyranny's threats and flaws, you either fail to see or acknowledge the abject oppression and tyranny that stares you in the face. It either suggests you, in fact, support Iran and its form of government, or this piece of legislation, or something else that smacks of lunacy akin to Mr. Ahmadinejad.

And if you want to wax poetic about the press, I won't bother digging through your archives on Mr. Rather, or Mr. Jordan, or any of your diatribes about Hurricane Katrina.

There is nothing about Mr. Taheri's story that represents a lie, and your link makes it even more clear, from a Taheri opponent no less. And of course you never responded to my call to offer sanctuary to Iran's non Muslims, which Tigerhawk agreed is a cracking idea.

You need a vacation Screwy. Really. Check your pulse. And learn how to READ.  

By Blogger Shochu John, at Thu May 25, 01:39:00 PM:

Timdido, possibly in over-eagerness to use the word "meme" in a post, paraphrases me and responds with, "Not the 'fake but accurate' meme again...give me a friggin' break." Except that's not what I said. I sometimes wonder if people actually bother to read what I post before becoming outraged by it. I never said anything about the stories being fake but accurate. In fact, in the very part of my statement you paraphrased, I said just the opposite, that the stories were "hysterical, exaggerated and poorly fact-checked." In other words, not particularly accurate. My point is that the press actually showed up and simply by doing so looked good compared to the official response. Such were the incredibly low standards set by the response to Katrina.

Now back to the fun, if OT, continued implosion of the Ayatollahcaust story. The National Journal has outright retracted it:
http://www.canada.com/nationalpost/news/story.html?id=6df3e493-f350-4b53-bc16-53262b49a4f7

In their words, "It is now clear the story is not true."

Whereas CP says, "There is nothing about Mr. Taheri's story that represents a lie"

So the story is somewhere between "not true" and "a lie" then?

CP also says, "The story confirms legislation which prescribes a nationalistic and islamic dress code for muslims. With a different spin, it supports Taheri's claim. If Taheri's claim about the notion of a yellow piece of fabric for Jews turns out to be incorrect, it does not alter the fact that non Muslims will do, well what prescisely?"

In the words of Timdido,"Not the 'fake but accurate' meme again...give me a friggin' break."

Oh, and TV news does, in fact, suck. Anyone think there's a market for a cable news channel that doesn't suck? As it stands, they fill 24 hours every day with young attractive white girls in trouble, celebrity scandals, the latest high profile trials, and Democratic and GOP hacks screaming bumper sticker slogans at each other. Instead of that, how about actual reporters doing in-depth reporting all over the world, a network of correspondents stationed virtually everywhere. It would be expensive to maintain such a network, but the idea is that it would be a global news network for a global audience, broadcast in multiple laguages. It would be an enourmous undertaking, but I think there is a giant unsatiated market for actually relevant news.

Think how much more difficult it would be for Amir Taheri to spread wild stories if everyone could just turn on their TV's and get updates from the Tehran correspondent.  

By Blogger Cardinalpark, at Thu May 25, 02:10:00 PM:

SJ - I did not defend Taheri by saying "fake but accurate", and your interpretation of my commentary as such is dead wrong. People interpret the same facts (in this case, a piece of hideous legislation, however you interpret it)differently. Happens every day. Frankly, it's what makes a market. Name calling is for my 7 year old, not for supposed adults (though having seen that pic of Screwy, who knows?).

Please tell me you adore that Iranian legislation. Tell me so. Please. Confirm your lunacy. Tell me that legislating an Islamic dress code is sane, tolerant, freedom loving law. Tell me that. Respond to the issue at hand, rather than name calling. If you can't do that, then tell me what you think of said legislation, eh? Or tell me you believe it doesn't exist. But don't fraudulently say something was a lie and debunked, because that is simply wrong. Screwy's own evidence says there is an Islamic dress code law now passed. Give me your views on it. Then respond to the query, what do you think about offering non Muslims in Iran sanctuary here.

Focus on the substance.  

By Blogger Screwy Hoolie, at Thu May 25, 02:15:00 PM:

CP,

You've learned well from Karl Rove. Never apologize. Change the subject. Attack the critic.

"The story confirms legislation which prescribes a nationalistic and islamic dress code for muslims. With a different spin, it supports Taheri's claim. If Taheri's claim about the notion of a yellow piece of fabric for Jews turns out to be incorrect, it does not alter the fact that non Muslims will do, well what prescisely?"

With a different spin, CP? With a different spin? The claim is true or it's not, and all signs point to not. You can hold fast to your willingness to push falsehood as fact, or you can acknowledge the story is wrong. And then to compare me with Ahmadinejad? It's too crude, really.

Regarding all the other things you'd rather have me talk about - Repression = bad. Whether it's Iran, Saudi Arabia, Oman, Qatar, Russia, China, or here in the United States, governments dictating dress codes, national religions, female oppression, or denying detainees the right to a fair trial is a bad idea.

Settled then, are we?

Can we get back to whether you're deliberately lying or simply obfuscating?  

By Blogger Cardinalpark, at Thu May 25, 02:46:00 PM:

Screwy - I am putting Taheri's story out there because it is not a lie, he stands by it and it is clear that it is credible. Furthermore, your "debunking" CONFIRMS dress code legislation. Taheri's sources have suggested to him that Muslims will have an islamic uniform, and non muslims will receive "markers." Your "debunking" says there won't be any markers on non muslims. That's a difference in interpretation Screwy, no doubt. Neither you nor I know the final facts. But let me suggest, oh obdurate one, that if there is Muslim required dress, than it's a tautology that non Muslims will too have a uniform, won't they? So it is the height of arrogance for you to conclude that one source's interpretation is correct, the other not. Especially since you are no more expert than I (unless I missed that claims someplace) It is, furthermore, arrogant and fraudulent to call me a "liar" and "a militarist", whatever that is.

If I call you an "idiot", does it make it so? Probably not. But if I suggest through argument that you are wrong, or misguided, then the argument will have had its day. Others will form their own judgment. My opinion doesn't matter, and in any event can probably be deduced.

Meanwhile, you ignore the core point, mostly. You get so breathlessly entangled in calling me names, that you rather tediously say, yes, oppression is wrong. Yawn. Big deal. It's wrong everywhere. And then you draw moral equivalence between the US and Iran. Which is pure silliness.

The US is a just, fair and prosperous country and society. It is free and tolerant. Within the US, are there individual cases -- even many -- of injustice and poverty and bigotry? Of course. The US is composed of flawed, venal humans, just like everyplace else. But its system is the best in the world.

Iran is an unjust, intolerant, oppressive society. The only place it doesn't discriminate much is in its oppression of just about everybody. So to draw a parallel between the 2 and oppression is laughable, absurd, stupendously so.

Again, it makes it easy to dismiss your argument, and you, because it's such an indefensible perspective. So when the real debate comes over how to deal with Iran, you can't be taken seriously. Now I already know that, because you exposed yourself as a Dean supporter, and he is a crackpot of the first order. Well, maybe second or third. I will reserve first order for guys like Qaddafi, Arafat, Saddam and Ahmadinejad.

But go one, Screwy. Please defend an Islamic dress code. Don't respond to the question I asked about offering sanctuary to Iranian non Muslims.  

By Blogger Cardinalpark, at Thu May 25, 02:54:00 PM:

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.  

By Blogger Lanky_Bastard, at Thu May 25, 04:51:00 PM:

I saw videotape of bodies floating in the water. I saw photos of flooded school buses in parking lots. There was live footage of people stranded on their rooftops, clinging to their children and crying.

You can blame the media for overdramatizing things. But the videotape speaks for itself. Sure, the media are human vultures who feed off tragedy and pathos, but that's their job. It's the reason we buy their product. They were in New Orleans doing their job. Others weren't.

Conservatives would do well to stop using Katrina as a proxy in their battle with the "liberal" media. We all know that reporters were there when the bodies were floating in the streets. And FEMA wasn't.

Also, you can't score points by arguing only 1,500 people died, not even if they were mostly old or white. It was fucked-up drawn-out week, and we weren't prepared to save our fellow citizens. That's what I'll remember every time Katrina is mentioned, even if it's just to bash the press.  

By Blogger Screwy Hoolie, at Thu May 25, 05:47:00 PM:

CardinalPark,

We're done. You're impossible.

Here's another link about the propaganda you're pushing.

The dress code story is true. The yellow-star story is not. End of discussion. Come clean on that point, then we can talk. Otherwise you are simply lying.

LINK: "It is now clear the story is not true," Douglas Kelly, the National Post's editor in chief, wrote in a long editorial on Page 2. "We apologize for the mistake and for the consternation it has caused not just National Post readers, but the broader public who read the story."

The article was based on a column by Iranian expatriate writer Amir Taheri, who said a law being debated by Iran's parliament would force Jews to sew a yellow strip of cloth to their clothes. Christians would wear a red strip while Zoroastrians would wear a blue one.

Iranian lawmakers, including the country's sole Jewish parliamentarian, have flatly denied the National Post story, saying there is no mention of discriminatory measures against religious minorities in a new dress code bill."

You talk all you want about dealing with Iran. You are dismissive of the truth, and that is reprehensible on the heels of the great failure of truth regarding Iraq.

Be as conservative, as pro-war, as bilious, and as dismissive as you like. It's a free country. But please don't be a liar. We have too many of those already.

----------------

Maybe a new post about the dress code law is in order. One with the facts. Then we can have a nice little discussion about how you'd like to go to war to free the oppressed peoples of the world.  

By Blogger Screwy Hoolie, at Thu May 25, 05:51:00 PM:

...almost forgot...

You compared me directly to Ahmadinejad then blew a gasket when I compared one injustice to another injustice.

Your blogfather, Tigerhawk, floated 2k to Chairman Dean.  

By Blogger Shochu John, at Thu May 25, 06:33:00 PM:

CP, Perhaps we should make a couple of things clear at this point. I never accused you of saying "fake but accurate," What you said was, "If Taheri's claim about the notion of a yellow piece of fabric for Jews turns out to be incorrect, it does not alter the fact that non Muslims will do, well what prescisely?" In other words, what you are saying is that it does not matter much if the story is false, it still shows Iran is oppressing religious minorities. In other words, fake (the story) but accurate (Iran is oppressing minorities). If this is not what you meant, please clarify it for me.

Secondly, I at no point enagaged in any name calling, which stands in sharp contrast to your accusations of "lunacy" in the context of your odd, "Please tell me..." rant.

Also, the Islamic dress code law was never at issue. What was at issue was the color coding of religious minorities, which seems to have existed only in Taheri's imagination. My opinion of mandating Islamic dress, obviously, is that I'm against it, but one thing it clearly does not do is visibly single out religious minorities.

Why you have defended Taheri as somehow credible on this issue as it became increasingly clear the whole thing was a fabrication is beyond me. That is why I commented on the issue. If you want to draw out more discussion on your suggestions for helping Iranian religious minoirties, it may be good to throw the wild fabricated color coding story overboard.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Thu May 25, 10:29:00 PM:

"Day after day, the press was reporting live from the Superdome, the convention center, from all over the city filming the official non-response. By no means should it have been one of their finest hours, but merely by being present, they made it so."

This shows how easy it is to mislead people. The whole point about the media's failure is that the government, led by the Coast Guard, did respond and save tens of thousands of people's lives. All the efforts went to saving people from their roof tops and the dome was used as a fallbcak point. The media didn't cover the rescue operations that saved thousands of lives and just showed a bunch of people standing around, asking 'how come no one is responding?" Anyone who thinks that Katrina was some huge government failure got played badly by the media.  

Post a Comment


This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?