8/31/2005

Daily Kos: And Finally, Harsh Reality Sinks In - For Everyone

And Finally, Harsh Reality Sinks In - For Everyone
by ColdFusion04 [Subscribe]
Wed Aug 31st, 2005 at 00:13:54 CDT

My strongest memory of September 11th was, of course, the moment I first learned of the second plane hitting the tower. I was in a meeting, and one of the participants walked into the room and mumbled something about a terrorist attack. The meeting organizer feigned a look of shock, shook her head, and said, "OK, should we get started?"

My mouth hung open. I immediately got up and called my wife, and got as much detail as I could. Then I returned to the meeting, interrupted them, and said, "Everything is not ok. More planes are unaccounted for. This is not over." There was uncomfortable silence. Predictably, the meeting organizer let out another feigned gasp, then: "OK, shall we continue?"

Sunday and Monday consisted of overwhelming deja vu for me.

* ColdFusion04's diary :: ::
*

Sunday, the community debated whether funding cuts posed a very real threat to the levees around New Orleans. Understandably, there was some "wait and see" and some more "don't blame Bush yet". Early Monday, the storm hit, and there was a false sense of relief, that Katrina was a "near miss". Then, last night, I struggled with local wingnut bloggers to try to penetrate their outer shells of denial, to absolutely no avail. My own wife told me, in retrospect, that I was "nuts" over the hurricane. "It doesn't sound as bad as you say it is," she said. People at work used phrases such as "just like every other hurricane", and they spoke of how the media blows things out of proportion.

And really, there are only two gears in the media when it comes to disasters: ON or OFF. And this one was full ON. But so was every other major hurricane in the past 10 years. The media, you see, has cried wolf a few too many times to keep people's attention when it is desperately needed.

Then it hit me. This is what PTSD is like, in real time. It's evident in the media, watching the shift from "routine hurricane" coverage to the emotional CNN reports from late Monday night. It's evident in the throes of blind defensiveness in the wingers, as they bounce fact after fact, even trying to argue that there are plenty of guardsmen oozing out of humvees and amphibious vehicles all over the damage zone. And yes, it was even evident here - maybe even moreso than anywhere else. Why? Because we are a caring bunch, and we are personally impacted deeply and emotionally when others are in pain. How many times have you read a diary comment that starts out "I can hardly type through the tears..." How many times have you seen that in Freeperland?

My God, This community stands in sharp wonderful contrast to the suburbanites I heard on the radio this afternoon, calling the poor in New Orleans (most of whom could not evacuate to anywhere other than the Superdome or a handful of other moderately adequate sites) "Stupid" and "Idiots", and talking about how they deserved to be left to rot by the rescue crews, so they could focus on "protecting businesses and homes".

I've had an interesting experience throughout these last days - an experience which has strongly influenced my opinions on the media and our participation in it. You see, I'm in the process of switching TV providers, and I am in day 3 of a TV blackout between cutoff of the old and startup of the new. Therefore, I missed Fox and CNN and MSNBC and the others - I inadvertently learned of events ONLY through your eyes. And what I saw was fascinating.

Sunday, there was great concern for the Gulf coast, especially New Orleans. By Monday afternoon, there was equally great relief for NO, as we were brought around to believe that Katrina was, indeed, "a near miss". Focus turned appropriately to the rest of the Gulf.

We believed the MSM around these parts, as well. And why not? Wall Street believed the "near miss" theory too, as stocks rallied strongly out of joy from the averted "doomsday scenario". The nation breathed a collective sigh of relief.

Yet at the same time, in New Orleans, people were climbing in attics to escape rising waters, and nearby levees were crumbling under the increasing water pressure. The calls for help were heard by some reporters, but were they heard by the nation?

Tuesday, when the levees broke and the harsh realities finally settled in for all of us, my faith in this community was restored. Tuesday, we began to rise above the mundane repetitiveness and content-free zones of the traditional media, and transformed into the true "new media" that everyone is always referring to. Sure, there were a few unfounded rumors that needed to be researched. But today, I have seen this community transform from shambles, struggling to understand conflicting media reports, sorting fact from fiction, all while gathering steam for fundraising efforts and lodging for the refugees.

In 24 hours, this community has responded. Emotionally, financially, informatively, logistically... It's only the beginning, but it's a damn fine beginning.

Let the rest of the country joke about "Idiots" and "Morons" and people who would build in a flood plain and the folly of the original settlers. Let the wingnuts argue endlessly over the proper role of the national guard and tax dollars, while they struggle with their PTSD-based denial of reality and the true scale of the damage.

A local wingnut radio host spoke for an hour during drive time today about kids who placed beer cans at the scene of a drunk driving accident... This during the exact time that New Orleans is leaving us, possibly for good. Sunday night my local news ran a three minute feature story on adopting puppies - right after five minutes of ho-hum hurricane coverage. Complete denial now has a dictionary picture, and its face is the traditional American media.

In the meantime, keep doing what you are doing. I couldn't be prouder to be a part of it. If this is the worst disaster in our nation's history, in terms of cost, human lives, tragedy... Let's lead, not cower.

In the notable absence of media leadership, let's continue to fill the information void as well.

Daily Kos: And Finally, Harsh Reality Sinks In - For Everyone

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