September 8, 2005

Where To Send Complaints

Brian posts about Katrina, detailing some of the screwups. He correctly points out that there is a lot of blame to go around, which I don't doubt. He identifies blame-shifting. He even ends on a positive note.

Brian is nothing if not fair-minded, so when he writes there is a note of finding a balance in the discussion. And though I think he presents a good take, it encourages me to clarify my point of view on all of this criticising of the federal government lest I come off as completely partisan.

I've already covered some of my specific gripes, and my belief that the blame shifting is a pathology of the Bush administration. So, no need to go into more specifics on the complaints themselves at the moment.

Sometimes it seems like even agreeing with the blame-shifters on reasonable things plays into their blame-shifting plans because they are exerting 24/7 pressure to shift the focus of everyone's attention away from presidential incompetence. And their agents in this effort are numerous, and many have microphones.

But this only encourages people to stick to what they feel, and say that. Which is what I have done. I don't feel the need to soften any message just because it serves some administration official's idea of balance, or some right-wing radio personality's warped concept of fairness.

Because, the fact is, the federal government is my government. If something catastrophic were to happen here, they would be the ones working with my local government to help us in our time of need.

The Louisiana State government is not my government. That they may have made mistakes is possibly news, but it does not alarm me near as much as when the federal government exhibits gross incompetence from the head. All the way up at the top. And trickling down.

It's not a matter of pure self-interest. The federal government is the one that we (as Americans) all share in electing, funding, supporting and then, in turn, relying on when things are completely out of hand. You in CA, you in FL, you in OH and MI, and MN. And the poor souls in New Orleans.

So I don't find it particularly balanced to try to spread the blame around. An investigation into specifics has to be impartial. But, meanwhile, I am appalled at how my government failed. How our government failed. Obviously, and dramatically. And how they then sought to evade criticism, ignobly and pathetically.

Posted by James at September 8, 2005 9:02 AM
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Agreed 100%. Didn't mean to characterize you as just a blame shifter. I was just trying to frame the post and offer links without saying, "Here are five links!" :) Should probably have reread before I posted. I may go back and edit.

As I posted, there is plenty of blame to go around. But that doesn't mean we shouldn't be blaming the administration. It also doesn't mean we shouldn't blame them now. I think both of these things are valid. It was only due to outside pressure that FEMA finally acknowledged the situation in the convention center. And it was primarily due to the criticism that all the big heads in the administration are making visits to the area. They may even have to help people.

Posted by: briwei at September 8, 2005 12:21 PM

They may even have to help people.

So long as there aren't any must-see Broadway shows coming up...

Posted by: Patti M. at September 8, 2005 12:22 PM

Revised my post to reflect the rest of the tone of the piece and added a not saying it was revised. Thanks for the insight!

Posted by: briwei at September 8, 2005 12:58 PM

I really didn't think there was anything wrong with your post, nor that it needed to be changed, and I hope you didn't think I was criticising you.

Your post led me to think more clearly about an aspect of this whole thing (which I clarified in my post) that I hadn't heard anyone voice yet.

Often I read what my friends have written and it reminds me to post more thoughts, and I'm never sure exactly how to say that it's not criticism.


To elaborate on the blame-shifters, it is weird to see the same bahaviors with no terrorist to apply them to. In lieu of terrorists to blame, I saw some completely opposite reactions from the usual jingoistic Bush-boosters. Instead of idolizing the rescue workers, I saw people actually attacking the idea of giving the overworked police vacations (in the wake of a number of stress-related police suicides). The worm turns, and these folks have a lot of anger and no country to aim it at this time. It's harder to make up a target and blame it on the hurricane.

But the other thing, which deserves its own post, is today's idea of "fair and balanced" reporting. (And again, Brian, I don't accuse you of this, but it is an easy trap for well-meaning fair-minded people) Today's idea of fair reporting is allowing both sides to speak, and passing no judgement. But if one side is blatant in their distortion of the truth, equal coverage means elevating lies to the same level as accurate facts.

In a highly media-savvy environment such as this, fairness becomes a lot harder work than before.

An example from science vs. creationism:

Two people go before the studio audience, a scientist and a Blue Sky Denier to talk about the color of the sky. Blue Sky Denier does not want the idea of a blue sky taught in schools.

The scientist says: Through research we know that the sky is blue.

The denier says: I have here some papers from many scientists who are arguing this very point. Your paper calls it "baby blue." Some say the sky is azure. Some say the sky is robin's egg. Here's a whole paper on the changing color of the sky at sunset. Your collegues can't agree, and so clearly this "Blue Sky Theory" is controversial.

(At this point the audience is:

A. Amazed this denier knows so much about science!
B. Cheering for him, because he's standing up to the self-assured scientist.
C. Just learnign that there is a lot more disagreement in the scientific worl than they though.

Scientist: what I mean, of course, when I say that is that in general, in a cloudless sky in the middle of the day, the wavelength of light coming from the sky falls somewhere between 480 and 500 nanometers...

(The audience has now fallen asleep, and they hate the scientist for making them feel stupid, and they figure he's full of shit with all his technical talk.)

Fair and balanced.

Posted by: James at September 8, 2005 1:23 PM

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