Saturday, September 10, 2005

FACE DOWN: Greed is the answer to 9/11?

In their desperate campaign to misdirect, to deflect responsibility from their figurehead, those freeloaders at Fox have resorted to some strange tactics, among them, lying, ridiculing the victim, and insisting that the overall solution is... greed.

The desperation has been evident in the vigor of their attacks on everyone else (we might include Rush Limbaugh twisting the NO mayor's name into a racial epithet).

Brit Hume has made fun of the victims, taking as his only example what he described with ridicule as a 64 year old voodoo druid who couldn't leave because one of his four snakes had gone missing.

Ha! Ha! Those wacky victims!

One wonders how he would have felt if, say, someone were to mock one of the 9/11 victims who failed to evacuate in time for a reason that might seem a bit silly and proceeded make an implied caricature of all the victims from that.

Mr. Hume attacked the New York Times for inveigling, in the past, against proposed flood control projects... speaking as though those proposed projects were in New Orleans.

They weren't - Hume was lying to the extent he could get away with it. The projects in question had nothing to do with the levees around Lake Pontchartrain, and he knew that. But don't let the truth get in the way.

(They were actually projects elsewhere, which were, in fact, rightly opposed.)

Further, Hume somehow "misread" polling numbers showing the majority of respondents felt the federal government were most to blame.

If you weren't reading carefully as the numbers flashed by, you'd think people felt the state and local governments were more to blame - exactly the opposite of the truth but, coincidentally, exactly what Fox wants people to think.

But the worst would have to be Bill O'Reilly, who, in an attempt to outright vilify the victims, suggested high-school students be shown Katrina aftermath footage with this commentary:

"Teachers should point out that many U.S. citizens without the financial means to get out of New Orleans wound up floating face down in the water or, at the very least, were subject to gross indignities and suffering of all kinds."

This, our dear Mr. O'Reilly insisted, would show students that the need to "Educate yourself, work hard, and be honest." That will keep a hurricane from killing you.

That is, the victims are to blame.

Would Mr. O'Reilly say the same thing about people tumbling, alive, out of the World Trade Center before it collapsed? Would he suggest every schoolteacher show their dead bodies lying broken and smashed on the pavement as some kind of lesson?

Maybe he would:

"The teachers should then tell the students that the local, state and federal government bureaucracies failed to protect those poor people, even though everybody knew the storm was coming days in advance. The lesson should then segue into how the most powerful nation in the world was powerless to stop 9/11, and scores of other natural and man made disasters throughout our history.

"After presenting those undeniable facts, the teachers should then present two questions to the students: Do you want to be poor? And do you believe the U.S. government can protect you if you are poor?"

Ah, Bill? Those people in the World Trade Center on 9/11 - they were rich, most of them.

You've just blown your whole point. A responsible government, that heeded the ample warning could, yes, have protected them. And, no, money wouldn't have helped them. It didn't.

Like, duh.

O'Reilly goes on to tell us about his friend, a professor, who stayed in New Orleans but, when things got bad, was able to drive out in his SUV (you need not just a car, but an SUV), and thus was rescued by affluence.

Well, if the Category 5 had hit the city, the professor probably wouldn't have been able to drive out - either he'd be dead or, even if his education, hard work, and honesty had caused the hurricane to spare his life, the damage would have been such that exit routes would have been impassible even for a Hummer, which all people who educate themselves, work hard, and are honest can buy.

Mr. O'Reilly tells us it was not race, but class (greed is good, greed will save you from hurricanes): "I didn't see one affluent person at the Superdome. Not one."

Too bad he missed them - they were there, stranded tourists who were removed to nicer digs for their own safety. They were, coincidentally or not, white.

But if O'Reilly doesn't see them, if Fox doesn't show them, they don't exist.

As the public infrastructures that long permitted the fantasy of individual wealth rescuing oneself deteriorate, it's sad to see people like O'Reilly so desperately clinging to their fantasies. I think this is behind such desperation as to blame even face-down corpses.

Because the lesson is exactly the opposite of the one O'Reilly drew: A strong community, a shared sense of responsibility for each other, well-funded programs of public health and safety - all are essential to both individual and societal well-being, and you can't separate the two.

In fact, the soldiers in Fox's beloved Global War on Terror are not acting out of personal greed, but showing the sort of selfless community spirit O'Reilly otherwise derides (perhaps that's why he so gladly joins in misleading them, perverting a noble ideal into such a horror, and doesn't encourage them to follow his own example: dodge the military until you reach your chickenhawk years).

Imagine one of these poorly paid soldiers returning home, gradually getting back on her feet, only not quite achieving affluence before a hurricane comes along and she ends up floating face down, to be pointed out a lesson for high-school students (yet another service she can donate to our dear Mr. O'Reilly).

He likely assumes his health is due to his affluence, but O'Reilly and his family haven't had to deal with polio or smallpox not because he's so greedy, but because other selfless public servants ignored just his sort of advice. Government-run public health infrastructures eliminated one of these diseases, and nearly finished off the other (before the Reagan-Thatcher era of unenlightened self-interest took hold in certain advanced economies, and we started this precarious slide backwards).

And because of that infrastructure, he can imagine himself to have paid is own way, with no debt to anyone else, not even Jonas Salk or Albert Sabin, nor to any face-down foot soldiers.

Those foot soldiers and public health advocates are still out there, their skills getting less and less "marketable" as O'Reilly and his crew freeload off them.

What about activists against racism? Let's accept the (absurd) Fox contention that there's no more official racism in the United States. So, when did it end? Was it last week? Last year? Ten years ago? Thirty? Were the people fighting it then being stupid in their failure to instead pursue affluence?

Should high-school teachers point out the partially decomposed bodies Mike Schwerner, James Chaney and Andrew Goodman and tell students that this, in one way or another, is going happen to them if they don't pursue affluence?

Same with a whole host of other people, poorly paid and often ill-tolerated - sometimes risking, sometimes losing, their lives - who the O'Reilly's of this world deride while freeloading off their efforts.

And at last we come to those goofy tree-huggers, who thanklessly decried the destruction of the inland forests and the coastal wetlands while O'Reilly types bought SUVs and laughed off such folly. Lacking Fox-issue blinders and myopia, some see how puny a bulwark a pile of money is in the face an environmental calamity or a public health cataclysm.

These people persist in their Quixotic crusades, desperately sounding the clarion on things like global warming, earning only the ridicule and opposition of Fox types, who believe affluence can best protect populations from hurricanes.


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