Saturday, September 03, 2005

The Limits of the Blogosphere

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This week showed a major weakness in the blogosphere. While good things are being done all over for the victims, blogs were pummeled by the MSM as a whole and TV news in particular.

While the country was watching the devastation, they were treated to new conferences in where the federal government was wrongly maligned. Every person who has an axe to grind with the Bush administration was put on camera and given their opportunity. The Congressional Black Caucus had a news conference in which some esteemed representatives were making the partisan most of their air time:

Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), said "To the President of the United States, I simply say that God cannot be pleased with our response." Cummings also said: ""We cannot allow it to be said that the difference between those who lived and those who died in this great storm and flood of 2005 was nothing more than poverty, age or skin color."

The dead tree press is also getting in on the act by injecting race into the issue.

Blogs can't compete with this onslaught. While the blogosphere is a major part of the information wagon train, they are much better with slower moving issues such as the Dan Rather affair or the Trent Lott kerfuffle.

I'm not saying that blogs have not provided a service during this disaster because they have proved to be a tremendous resource with raising donations and such. What I am saying is that during any type of disaster--especially in August when the Cindy Sheehan peace train lost its interest--the news networks have no peer when it comes to setting the agenda.

In the coming weeks and months, the blogosphere will pick apart the lies and distortions that have been flowing from the MSM, that is what we do. Unfortunately, in the eyes of most Americans, the federal government as a whole, and George W. Bush in particular, have failed in the relief effort. This is of course not the case as I've alluded to before.

This catastrophic event has shown just how limited the blogosphere is and will continue to be. I believe that most Americans watched the news the first day or so and formed opinions based on what was presented to them. I hope that people take some time after this emergency is abated and read what the truth is and was. Sadly, they most likely won't.

Update: A post concerning response procedures from yesterday. (BTW, thanks Glenn)

Update: These are great examples of the blogosphere at its best. For the record, I am not saying that the blogosphere is not an important medium, for it truly is. My point was that people aren't going to blogs for instant info, which is a shame because blogs are most useful for this purpose. People are going to FOX news or CNN and their opinions are instantly shaped by what they see. Jeff Goldstein shows exactly the role that blogs have in the information mechanism, the methodical dissembling of conventional, MSM-induced opinion and rhetoric. (Note: Post changed due to pre-coffee poor grammar).


Andrea said...

Wh-- you mean, personal web pages written by individuals on an internet that only a small percentage of people actually use, and most of those use it to download porn or email cancer kid chain letter spam back and forth to each other, can't compete with the multi-quadrillion dollar news media that enters every American's home via tv, the newspapers, and the radio? (Smacks hand to forehead.)

Jesus. Christ.

John Bragg said...

I've been following mostly through the Internet, and I've taken this opportunity to hand in my Bush-supporter card. Five years after September 11 made/should have made civil defense/disaster preparedness
a priority, and we have the Homeland Security Cabinet-level boondoggle and the clowns at TSA slowly bankrupting the airlines. Meanwhile we were caught with our pants down for one of the two most predictable calamities we could have. Granted the Louisiana and New Orleans governments' responses were useless--it's a given that the NOLA governments are run by knaves, crooks and charlatans.

This isn't a case like the invasion of IRaq, where we planned for the wrong things (Jay Garner's tidal wave of humanitarian relief over people who weren't that hungry.) This was the absense of a plan, which effectively means that at the highest levels no one gave a damn. Once the political operatives at the White House had defanged the Democrats demagogic proposal for the DHS by adopting it, they stopped caring.

The MSM question I'm waiting for: "What kind of Federal level planning has been done for a 1906-style California earthquake?" The answer: "Homina homina homina"

Chris said...


That would be, Jesus tap-dancing Christ.

No, bear something in mind. One of the things I am counting on is that the MSM will go overboard in its Bush hatred. It's a canine pathology with these guys. MOST of the ordinary people in the country do not post ad Daily Kos or Free Republic. Get it? They have real lives. They will look over the next several weeks and ask themselves who is working to rescue people and get them to shelter and who is raising issues of partisanship, race, gender, and cannibalism (hat tip: Randall Robinson).

Eventually, the light must shine on the criminal negligence of the craven, incompetent Louisiana authorities, who were too busy taking graft to take care of their people.

It's simply a question of performance, now. Bush will simply look like a proactive leader from here on in and ignore the catcalls from the Donks. The people will slowly, but surely, appreciate his work. Just as they did Clinton during Monicagate.

You don't see this now because the MSM is in full jihad mode against Chimpy McBushhitler. But they have overplayed their hand. They just don't see it yet.

harscand said...

If the media could restrain itself from overkill, the criticism could be devastating. But who wants to bet on a restrained press?

Anonymous said...

John, the problem isn't really at the federal level here. Do you think the federal government had a plan for what happened at the Twin towers on 9/11? The fact of the matter is that disaster response has to begin on a local level. NYC's government handled itself well, where NO's government skipped town leaving mostly anarchy behind. Add to the fact that there are so many reasons why getting supplies into the city are difficult (, and you have a situation where it is almost impossible for the federal government to enact an immidiate response.

If you ask yourself why didn't the feds anticipate this, ask yourself why New Orleans didn't either.

Anonymous said...

This story will look much different in three weeks than it does righ now. The response of blogs will be to point out the many gaping holes in and biased judgement of the MSM. They will be the subject of further ridicule by the time the true story of local inompetence and corruption gets out.

Anonymous said...

John Bragg,

In case you are not aware of this a Hurricane is not the same as a terrorist act.

The responsibility for disaster planning for natural disasters lies with the local and state officials, not with the federal government. The federal government is restricted by law in what it can and can not do in the instance of a natural disaster. The local/state officials have to make the request for federal assisstance. The President can not just push aside the local/state officials and take over.

Also, if you had not been drinking the MSM kool aid you would understand that we do not have transporters like the ones in Star Trek. It takes time to move major amounts of assets into a disaster area. Ever heard of a little thing called logistics, hun? If you haven't try reading up on it. If NOLA had been blown up by a nuke it would have still taken awhile to get relief effort in there because it takes time to move the stuff needed from where it is stored to where it is needed.

If you want to blame anyone in this instance I suggest you blame the Mayor of New Orleans and it's city government for not taking this storm seriously enough and not having a sound disaster plan. Blame the Governor for being slow on everything from requesting assisstance to activating the National Guard. You are aware of the fact that it takes 48-72 hours for the National Guard to get people in position after an activation order are you not?


stavr0s said...

The media loves hysteria. Geraldo and Shepard on Fox were hysterical. Some black people are using this disaster to play the "poor black" card once again.

I'm not buying that crap.

Most Americans didn't learn anything in civics class either and don't understand the role of the federal government, who owns the National Guard [it's the states], etc.

And everybody and his dog is using this to blame Bush.

I gave money to the Salvation Army and to Soldier's Angels [they are setting up a special fund for GIs coming back from Iraq to their devastated homes].

Today I'm going to give money to the Republican National Committee.

Alan said...

I think that of all the sources of information on this, has done the best job of identifying the scope of what the crisis should be, identifying what the local officials SHOULD have done as the hurricane was approaching and discussing the aftermath.

BTW, FEMA has discussed this eventuality and NO was one of their priority places. Unfortunately, a series of mistakes on the local level hampered any chance of them making a real difference. The only acceptable course of action in the case of a Category 4/5 storm hitting NO was evacuation. They knew and everyone knew that the city's protection would fail, but neither the Mayor or the Governor had a plan in place to actually make that happen.

As more and more information comes out, Bush will look better and better in this crisis.

Anonymous said...

Stavros said:

"Some black people are using this disaster to play the "poor black" card once again.

I'm not buying that crap."

Poor black people outraged that they're starving to death, watching corpses being eaten by rats and living among looters and lawlessness? How dare they! How dare the media give them airtime better used on Sean Hannity! Why can't reporters just let them drown?

Wanna know why we're pissed off at the federal government? Because this administration, which took a day to call Congress into session to restore a feeding tube to a brain-dead woman in Florida, took five days to deal with the destruction of a city of 486,000. Because the situation demanded martial law for the restoration of law and order in the city. Because the state government IS fucking up, but martial law CAN'T be declared unless Congress authorizes it. Yet local authorities could not make a request for martial law because Congress was out of session as a great American city descended into chaos.

Pathetic. And doubly pathetic for anyone to blame the media for this crisis. Upset by the images you see and the articles you read? You damn well better be. New Orleans may be lost, our national economy will be seriously affected and millions of people have lost everything they have. The policies of this government must -- and should be -- scrutinized.

Anonymous said...

There was a picture yesterday of scores of New Orleans school buses parked in tidy rows. They should have been used for evacuation had the incompetent local government not had its head up its ass -- a 24/7 posture it seems. Yet the elephantine FEMA bureaucracy, its arteries clogged by civil servants who don't know a world apart from flow charts and studies in three-hole binders, was criminally slow off the mark. Get rid of that monstrosity as a first step. Then find a way to teach the urban underclass that when a natural disaster threatens they have an obligation to fend for themselves for as long as it proves necessary, not wait for government to do it for them as usual.

Anonymous said...

Ah, c'mon. Let's just blame God, he's responsible.

aelfheld said...

Meanwhile we were caught with our pants down for one of the two most predictable calamities we could have.

Yeah. Katrina was so predictable that late Saturday, 27 August, the National Weather Service was predicting it would hit Pensacola, Florida.

[...] martial law CAN'T be declared unless Congress authorizes it.

But local police can take whatever steps are necessary to ensure order, up to and including shooting those caught looting. The failure of the mayor of New Orleans to authorise the use of whatever level of force necessary is deserving of scrutiny. This was compounded by restrictions placed on the National Guard by the governor of Lousiana. The failures started with the local government and were compounded by the state government - trying to shift the blame to the federal government is dishonest.

DS said...

Hey Anonymous @ 10:42...

The federal government did NOT take five days to begin its response. Remember it wasn't until late Tuesday night (even Wednesday) until anyone realized the situation (because, as we were told ad nauseum by the same people complaining now... "New Orleans dodged a bulliet").

By Wednesday midday, Bush had deployed an entire fleet of Naval ships toward New Orleans in ANTICIPATION of federal aid being requested. The USS Bataan, for example, carries the much needed helicopters and is capable of producing drinking water.

The problem is NOT with Bush AT ALL.. you will have to accept that. So where should the Bataan drop of people that it rescues? The Superdome, where city officials just sort of threw people and left them there withuot food, water, or any idea of what was next? Where should the USS Bataan take the drinking water that it produces? The city left no relief infrastructure at all.

What you think the feds should be doing when there is no foundation in place AT ALL is beyond me. Instead of just complaining, I would absolutely LOOOOVEEEE to hear what you think should have been done differently by the FEDS. Please, don't confuse the responsibility of the feds with the local gov.

Anonymous said...

My issue with the federal response is this... (and I will totally agree that the state and local response was just as disasterous)

Days after the storm, we have cities from Chicago to NYC reacting in shock that FEMA and other agencies have so far given meek responses (in some cases, none) to the cities' offers to loan hundreds of firefighters, paramedics, equipment (even helicopters) and other personnel and expertise to the effort. Keep in mind many of these personnel are "first responders", folks who could have been rescuing the injured, sick and trapped days ago.
This alone, w/o any MSM reporting, tells me the folks at FEMA have no idea what they're doing or how to manage all of their assets.

Then we move on to the military, which finally got around to deploying the USS Harry Truman (the centerpiece of the naval floatilla relief effort you last saw utilized in the tsunami response, Operation Unifed Assistance) THREE days after the storm hit. Now I'm wondering, they knew the storm was hitting somewhere from FL to LO, how hard is it to decide to deploy the ship the day of the storm or the day before? If my aircraft carrier forward deployed in Japan can deploy out to sea in less than 24 hours to avoid a typhoon, I'm sure the Truman could have deployed in a similar time frame and have been on the scene way before it is going to arrive now. That, along with the sluggish National Guard activation and response, has me concerned as well.

Lastly, the geniuses at FEMA and the federal government have shown (a) a disturbing lack of urgency and (b) a downright frightening aversion to the truth. FEMA's golden years are long gone, but the massive bloated DHS that is there to replace it in part is just as bad if not worse. The serious lack of staging of supplies, personnel and equipment is unbeliveable. How hard would it have been to start prepping a response a day or so before the storm hit in a relatively safe but still close area like Texas or South Carolina? From this response I've seen, there was literally no planning.

Then you have everyone from Chertkoff to Brown trying to spin this thing and its blown up in their faces everytime they've opened their mouths. The only person, predictably, to tell the truth was Pres. Bush, who said what we all knew and still know: the "early relief effort was abysmal".

That's the kind of man the President is, and that's why in the end this will all work out, but how many people needlessly died in the days past because everyone from the locals to the feds got caught with their pants down?

And I understand the urge for people to overreact (much as the media anchors and reporters have) to the media's overreaction, but in this case, the reporters are there on the ground in the middle of the carnage, the outrage is real, and the failure is very well apparent. The media is merely reporting the consequences of the arrogance and ignorance (accumulated over years of whitewashing all too real scenarios, trimming budget and project requests and failing to properly plan) of everyone from the Army Corps of Engineers, FEMA, the federal Office Of Management and Budget (OMB), the louisiana and new orleans authorities and Congress.
You may see it as an attack against Pres. Bush (and this criticism IS a vicious attack when coming from partisan democrats) and try to ignore any of the validity of it. However, there are plenty of conservatives and libertarians who are soberly knocking this disaster for what it truly is; a grievious failure of the disaster response system in this country on all levels and a galling failure of the federal government in particular to take the necessary action to save some of its citizens when they most dearly needed it to.

Anonymous said...

Good observations. Indeed, the old media still shapes the general information flow, and to watch the clueless copy readers (from every cable outlet) slowly breake uder stress and self-referential feedback loops is always eye opening. WHat stuns me most is the media is sooo very afraid to touch the MOST CRITICAL ASPECT of this disaster: the inept woman govenor and the negligent black mayor. It is not gender nor color that is the issue, it is that New Orleans, LA is overseen by corrupt, inefficent, ineffective and wholly unqualified politicians. There is no leadership at the local level, and without that the Feds are hamstrung--indeed my only fault with the Feds is that they have so far refused to acknowledge what is clear and evident to all us from LA: they must federalize that portion of LA, fire the mayor and neutralize the Gov'nr.
This is the elephant in the room that the MSM is soo very frightned of (those 23 year old producers are too steeped in P.C. to allow questions about the mayor to least for now).

Anonymous said...

There really is enough blame to go around on this at the federal, state and local level. In hindsight, aside from the inadequate response from FEMA, Bush should have taken the option of federalizing the Louisiana National Guard by late Tuesday, similar to what Eisenhower did in 1957 in Little Rock, when it became clear that the levee break as calamatous and Gov. Blanco had yet to call for military assistance with the situation. And once it became clear on Wednesday that people were actually shooting at relief helicopters, relief boats, firefighters and hospitals to prevent help from getting in immediately, shoot to kill orders should have been issued by the president to restore some semblance of order, if no one at the state level was willing to take on the responsibility.

Aside from the structural dangers of New Orleans' design that has been known for years, the political corruption, police scandals and vicious criminal element within parts of the city tourists don't visit also has been a well-known fact for decades. Whether or not anyone could have foreseen snipers firing on relief helicopters I don't know, but as governor of a neighboring state, Bush had to have known what kind of governmental mess Louisiana as been since pre-Huey Long days and ordered a more pro-active response.

gs said...

I don't consider the blogosphere as an equal-footing competitor of the MSM. Why should it be?

What the blogosphere can do is to stay on top of the issue once the news cycle has moved on. First and most important, there are lessons to be learned for the future; this is shudder likely not the last major disaster we will experience. Second, I expect the MSM, local authorities who share responsibility, and various extreme partisans--and also some bloggers whom I expected to know better--to emotionally imprint the country with the blame-Bush meme and, ah, move on.

Behavior which was counterproductive or outright malicious should not be swept under the rug. Retrospective settling of scores would be hideous given the scope of the cataclysm, but I hope we get clarity.

(Full disclosure: I particularly distrust and dislike because I fell for their "nonpartisan" effort to oppose the Clinton impeachment. Nevertheless, their site supports Katrina relief efforts.)

Anonymous said...

Eddie has it exactly right.

I see a lot of conservative and liberal dogma. The former try to absolve Bush of all blame and say that it's all media hype. For the latter it couldn't be anybody BUT Bush's fault.

Reality is somewhere in between you people.

Recovering Democrat said...

Good post.

It is very rare that the writers of blogs do much, if any, investigative reporting (aside from Michelle Malkin and other professional journalists). When they do, it is usually an analysis of MSM reporting in light of the particular knowledge or expertise of the blog's writer (e.g., Charles Johnson and the Dan Rather scandal - Charles' expertise with type fonts helped show that the Rathergate memos were forged, however, Charles did not go down to Texas and interview any of the principals)

Most blogs take info from MSM - i.e., newspapers, television news, online news sources - and then essentially comment on or criticize the findings in the particular article.

Blogs are a great source of links to get more information, however, they will almost always rely on the MSM to at least give them the basic facts.

As such, MSM is in no danger of being taken over by blogs.

Anonymous said...

Well, say what you will about blogs, many of us were reading of the chaos in NO from The interdictor's blog a full day and a half before the MSM began reporting on it.

If nothing else, blogs are the new 'newswires', sources of raw, unfiltered news. Even though in this case that was probably the only blog in NO still alive, the fact is the MSM probably used it for finding a story.

Anonymous said...

Please read point #1 of the Department of Homeland Security's 6-point agenda:

1. Increase overall preparedness, particularly for catastrophic events


Perhaps this could have been done if Bush had appointed someone who had disaster relief experience to head FEMA. Sadly, he appointed one of his cronies.

I was pretty centrist before this happened. I understood the reasons for the Iraq war, even though I thought it was somewhat mismanaged. But this takes the cake. We're no more prepared for a national disaster than when Bush started the Department of Homeland security, and I'm tempted to say it's just a program he started to give his contributors jobs.

Anonymous said...

"and I'm tempted to say it's just a program he started to give his contributors jobs."

Yeah, that's probably the smartest, most informed opinion.

Anonymous said...

Well, if you can give me a better reason that such an unqualified man was running such an important agency, I'll look into it.

Anonymous said...

Well, we Republicans have to face it. Katrina was a royal fuck up and the party will pay the price. It's nice that Bush is loyal to his people, but that was a big mistake when he told the FEMA boss, a former supervisor of horse show judges, "Brownie, you're doing a heckuva job." Look for that clip to be repeated over and over. Brownie did a shitty job and he should have been fired not long after the first raindrop fell.

Anonymous said...

I spent many days contemplating whether or not I should post in response to the wildly ourageous things I'd seen on the news. Instead I posted about logistics and difficulties for the most part.

Thankfully I don't have to eat any crow, but I did learn this lesson:

The MSM are not any more capable than the federal government at responding to a crisis at the local level.