Friday, September 09, 2005

Not Their Finest Hour

Now that the initial nonpartisan outrage at the incompetent response to Katrina has given way to paid spin and the "blame the locals" bunch is working overtime, it's time to take a look back at the bits of truth that emerged last week. Some of it was quite enlightening, and at the end I'll explain why I think it is important.

On Monday, August 29, NRO's Jonah Goldberg advises people in New Orleans to "grow gills" (each post header below links back to the original):
I think it's time to face facts. That place is going to be a Mad Max/thunderdome Waterworld/Lord of the Flies horror show within the next few hours. My advice is to prepare yourself now. Hoard weapons, grow gills and learn to communicate with serpents. While you're working on that, find the biggest guy you can and when he's not expecting it beat him senseless. Gather young fighters around you and tell the womenfolk you will feed and protect any female who agrees to participate without question in your plans to repopulate the earth with a race of gilled-supermen. It's never too soon to be prepared.
Tim Graham then chimes in with a crack about Dan Rather:
CNN has lots of anchors out in the storm today, but Anderson Cooper seems the closest to the Rather-wrapped-around-a-pole look.
Later on Monday, Jonah responds to a post by Stephen Bainbridge that criticized him for the "gills" comment. Note Jonah's prediction about what will happen in the Superdome:
Doc Bainbridge chastises me for my insensitivity and implores my more mature colleagues to take me to task. He even goes so far as to call me Taranto-esque, for what that's worth.

Perhaps Professor Bainbridge -- of whom I am a fan -- thinks something really awful will befall the denizens of the Superdome and therefore making a joke at their expense is wrong. My guess is that it will simply be a really unpleasent time for the remainder of the day, but hardly so unpleasent as to sanctify them with refugee or some other victim status. I assumed the reference to gill-growing and whatnot made it clear where I was coming from. I'm sorry if we don't always fulfill the good professor's expectations around here. But it can't be all brandy-snifters and Latin puns in the Corner.
Jonah then comes right back with another crack about the storm's name:
But it would be pretty cool if Fox played to caricature and repeatedly referred to the hurricane as Katrina vanden Heuvel.

"The destruction from Katrina vanden Heuvel is expected to be massive."

"...the poor and disabled are particularly likely to suffer from the effects of Katrina vanden Heuvel ...."

"Coming up: how to explain Katrina vanden Heuvel to your children."
To his credit, Jonah appears to have been visited by conscience that night (or maybe he just checked his email) and he posted the following on Tuesday morning:
To those who lost lives, loved ones or property in the hurricane yesterday. After sleeping on it, I decided I probably could have waited longer for the levity.
As New Orleans descends into chaos on Tuesday, Jonah makes several weighty posts about his favorite cartoons, including the following:
Warren -- I loved those cartoons, even though there was really almost no animation whatsoever. Most of the scenes were just still shots of comic-panels. I can't imagine what a kid watching those today would think. Anyway, other great lyrics from that series:

When Captain America throws his mighty shield,
All those who chose oppose his shield must yield.

If he's lead to a fight and a duel is due,
Then the red and white and the blue'll come through.

When Captain America throws his mighty shield.

And of course:

Tony Stark
Makes you feel

He's a cool exec

With a heart of steel.

As Iron Man,

All jets ablaze,

He fights and smite'n

With repulsor rays!

A blaze of power!

Iron Man!

Amazing armor!

Iron Man!
Again to his credit, and apparently after receiving emails slamming him for his previous comments, Jonah then posts the following later on Tuesday:
Not to drag it out, but this really has turned out to be a far more awful disaster than I ever dreamed it would be. My thoughts and prayers to those affected and my apologies to those offended for my making light of it. It'd be nice if the Huffington Post types could understand that I did not make jokes after the death toll and damage were known, but before -- when the media seemed to be making the usual spectacle of itself. But that's really neither here nor there. Anyway, here's hoping for the best. It's really become no joking matter and, at least in hindsight, it never was. Donations to the Red Cross relief effort can be made here. And, yes, I'll be making a donation.
Rich Lowry doesn't seem to quite "get it" however, and comes to his defense:
Personally, I thought the Jonah Superdome riff was funny and clearly was poking fun at the media frenzy around Katrina at a time when it seemed especially over-blown.
Even on Wednesday during the height of the chaos and suffering in New Orleans, Jonah---a graduate of Goucher College, known by many as basically a finishing school for women in suburban Baltimore before it went co-ed in the 1980's---still can't quite help himself and makes an apparent crack about Tulane:
It's just, like, closed at Tulane.
Inexplicably, he then posts the following email without comment (if there was a preceding post to which this one refers, I was unable to find it):
From a longtime reader:
I just wanted to refute the writer, its a myth that black people generally don't know how to swim, we can swim just fine and everyone one I know who is black (other than elderly or handicapped) know how. Just because there are not a lot of us on the swim or hockey teams across the name doesn't mean we don't how to ice skate or swim. I don't see a lot of us on the tour de france or at motorcross show but we know how to ride bikes and motocycles too. Silliness
[Name withheld]
PS- the looters regardless of color who are stealing for greed as opposed to food and water for necessity, should be shot.
It was all apparently too much for NRO's Mark Levin, who posted the following on Friday:
Frankly, I am embarrassed by some of the nonsense I am reading here. Much of it isn't even thoughtful, just knee-jerk. This is a massive tragedy. An entire city is under water. 100,000 people either didn't or couldn't leave. For the first 100 hours, access was almost impossible. The entire infrastructure was obliterated. The nation is rallying. Every available governmental resource has been or is being mobilized. Individuals, charity groups and corporations are all rallying. Nothing is being spared. The president is doing that which any president, of either party, would or could do. It disappoints me that conservatives in particular, who supposedly understand the limitations of government, are reacting so callously to the unprecedented response in the name of compassion for the suffering. There's nothing compassionate about it. And I dare say that many of those reading it, including those who are volunteering time and money, find is distasteful.
Even John Podhoretz was moved to post the following, the main value of which was the honest and unintentionally-revealing header:
...but everybody on the Right better wise up and fast. Bush blew this first one big time, and needs to be prodded to improve, not apologized for. Don't defend him just because you know liberals are going to attack, and don't come up with bizarro theories about how he's a man of action not reflection etc. etc. He emoted plenty around 9/11. Look, it's not too much to say that the continued viability of his presidency resides in how he and the administration respond in the next week.
Besides the obvious fact that much of this is profoundly nonserious tripe, I'm not posting it here simply to criticize or play gotcha. Indeed, Jonah and his colleagues were appropriately aghast once the full scale of the disaster became obvious. But these comments collectively are a perfect example of what I've written in the past about the growing division between the professional chattering punditry (and by extension, the upper class) and those who do the working, the fighting, and the dying for this country. For days while the hurricane was bearing down on New Orleans, everyone knew how strong it was. Even before the storm "seemed" to avoid a direct hit on the city, it was obvious there would be death and destruction. It didn't take a brain surgeon (or an urban sociologist) to realize that those who would suffer the most would be people living in low-lying areas and those unable to evacuate---in other words, minorities and the poor. And the response of some to that obvious and unfolding scenario while sitting at keyboards in the comfort of their dry, clean, air-conditioned living rooms? Puerile jokes about Dan Rather, cartoons, and "growing gills."

As we move further away from the initial horror and the spin kicks in again, from here on out let's not forget to evaluate the chattering punditry in the context of the dark fundamental truth that emerged from some of its members last week.


Anonymous susansouth said...

Thank you for this. Fantastic post.

9/09/2005 12:35 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Taken together those comments are quite a damning portrait. For the sake of posterity, I agree it is important to not forget them.

9/09/2005 12:39 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It would be good to forget Jonah Goldberg though.
As a long time rabid Bush-hater, I'd just like to say that I don't think the vapidity of the chattering class is at ALL restricted to Jonah's ilk.

9/09/2005 12:47 AM  
Anonymous garymartin said...

I don't read NR, so I had to check each link to be sure those post were actually real. Indeed they are.


9/09/2005 1:18 AM  
Blogger EconAtheist said...

I enjoy what I've seen of your blog.

While it's probable that we'd not see eye-to-eye on some (as of yet untouched) topics, I definitely like your independant streak -- it's one of the signs of a person without fear of intellectual competition.

With the exception of 2000, I think we voted for the same presidential candidates... not an amazing coincidence, but interesting.

Continued good fortunes in your chosen profession (sounds high-stress.. but someone has to keep the capital markets' information flowing).

=) cheers

9/09/2005 3:20 AM  
Blogger EconAtheist said...


>=( *mutter*

9/09/2005 3:21 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

All I can say is shame on you Jonah Goldberg. Shame on you.

9/09/2005 5:56 AM  
Blogger Todd and in Charge said...

Cunning, how can you have missed Jonah's thoughtful comment during the storm about how it might affect the quality of shellfish in restaurants?? I am being completely serial......

9/09/2005 7:23 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Whre is the outrage by the Right on accountability?
Officals all up & down the line blew this one but to congtaulate Brownie, not to indepently investigate, to hand out go ahead rob us passes (50 b to fema now? CC transcations ok up to 250,000 a transaction?)
TO ignore the price gouging (what's exxons profits lately? up 69%) to waste our money on Blackeater in NO when we use volunteer firefighters to hand out fliers?
WHAT will it take for the Furher follers/King fawners to open their eyes?

The Big EAsy will soon be bull dowzed and replaced with a gated community....
I hear fiddling in the backround....

9/09/2005 7:41 AM  
Anonymous semper fubar said...

Another great post, TCR. (And a nice link from gilliard.)
The reaction from the Repubicans has been almost as appalling as Bush's handling of the disaster.

No, cross that out. It's every bit as appalling. And it's enabling the next bungled response to the next disaster.

9/09/2005 7:51 AM  
Anonymous archangel said...

I've been watching the circus;now where's my bread?

9/09/2005 8:00 AM  
Blogger 277fia said...

This week, Rush Limbaugh made a derogatory remark about Shep Smith and his coverage of Katrina. Shep is going to pay for being a real reporter.

9/09/2005 8:45 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If you spend more than five minutes on the net, you can find people who offend you.

It might even consume you...

The absolute hilarity of these spats is that it increases page visits, but doesn't reflect the visitor.

Dailykos is read by every conservative in need of red meat, as is the NRO, equally treated by progressives. I congratulate the left for raising Goldberg/Corner in the internet page visits, as I congratulate those on the right that go to Kos. You increase each others value.

This phenomena is not just found on the net, but in news as well. Rupert Murdoch counts on a quarter of his viewers, to be progressives searching for something to react to.

Making your enemies rich and famous...only in america.

As an aside though-Armando ridiculing George Will?

The equivalent of the Polish army attacking the German Stutka's on horseback. (I don't think the planes even saw the 'calvary'.)

9/09/2005 9:55 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

George Will is a lying hack (yes, I can prove that he lies). What's your point?
Will is a perfect exemplar of the useless chattering class.

9/09/2005 10:25 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Exactly, who listens to Geo. Will anyway?

9/09/2005 10:35 AM  
Anonymous JWC said...

Thanks CR, for another outstanding post. I've started coming here first every day.

Now, if we could just get people like you to go into politics.....

9/09/2005 11:09 AM  
Anonymous semper fubar said...

Now, if we could just get people like you to go into politics.....

Now if we could just get people like you to stop voting republican!

9/09/2005 11:17 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't think you're presenting Mark Levin's post correctly. He wasn't upset about Goldberg's "levity," he was attempting to rebut criticism of the administration ("The president is doing that which any president, of either party, would or could do"). And there was such criticism at the Corner... just look at the posts of Derbyshire, Stuttaford, and yes, Goldberg circa September 1-2. Even Lowry joined in from time to time. That would be "all too much" for Levin, a complete partisan shill.

9/09/2005 12:16 PM  
Anonymous Mary said...

I hate to nitpick, but . . . "minorities and the poor"? I think you must have meant "the poor, many of whom are black [or African American]." But it came out wrong. I hope.

Other than that, I think this post goes along with Bob Somerby's railing against the liberal punditry for being so out of touch with the world they supposedly represent. Sometimes he gets overwrought and makes too much of minor sins, but I think that a lot of what he says is right. On the other hand, I have to say that the conservatives are much, much more detached from reality -- not just from the reality of the poor (and/or the nonrich) in America, but from all manner of fact and logic. And I also think that until (or unless?) more Republicans speak out against the worse excesses of the Bush administration, the Bush administration will not have any reason to change its tactics. So, in other words, the Republican punditry and the supposedly moderate Republicans in congress are doubly responsible for the mess we're in.

9/09/2005 1:09 PM  
Blogger Jake said...

"TO ignore the price gouging . . . to waste our money on Blackeater in NO when we use volunteer firefighters to hand out fliers?"

That's a rather disturbing typo, considering the circumstances. Not that I disagree with the sentiment as I read it.

9/09/2005 3:11 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Like Mary, I, too, raised an eyebrow at the "minorities and the poor" wording in the context in which TLC used it. Also, however, like Mary, I got what he meant, even if he didn't mean it to come out the way that it did. So, no harm done.

Both jwc and semper fubar (love the handle, by the way!) make interesting points. I'm not a Republican, so I'm inclined to echo semper fubar's sentiments--perrhaps you should stop voting Republican (though I'm really no fan of the current crop of Democrats, either). If, however, we can't get you to stop voting for these assholes, then jwc's solution will work for me, but only if you could replicate yourself many times over, because your party needs to be overhauled big time.

Anyway, TCR, thanks for your blog--and, given what I've seen so far, for helping me to see (well, more than I already knew intellectually, anyway) that not all conservatives are racist, classist, clueless trash. Good work.

9/09/2005 4:08 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I e-mailed Jonah about his funny post. I also sent him some extremely disgusting jokes about jewish people. He was very offended. It seems like it is ok with him to slam others, but he cries like a little bitch when the shoe is on the other foot. Poor widdle Jonah.

9/09/2005 4:40 PM  
Anonymous Vividu said...

Don't you worry about a thing. The Corner is back to their clowny ways.

9/09/2005 5:54 PM  
Anonymous wmr said...

I think this also goes in the "what the hell happened to this country during the past few years" file....

Newt has the answer: "Gingrich argues that the values debate that has divided America so sharply during the past decade is over. There's a broad consensus about most issues, and anyway people realize that the country's big problems aren't about morality but performance."

9/09/2005 10:46 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Let's not forget Barbara Bush's comments (a la "Let them eat cake") about how so many were so poor that coming to Texas and living like they are will work well for them.

9/10/2005 4:47 PM  
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