All New Orleans All the Time

When writing the Blog Report, we normally link only to posts that are a day old at most. But in light of the tragedy in the Gulf Coast, and by way of exposing, yet again, the hackery that often passes for punditry in parts of the blogosphere, we present you with the words of one Jonah Goldberg, who on Sunday wrote the following on The Corner:


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.

Now, on Sunday, we knew things were going to be bad, though not nearly as bad as they turned out to be. Still, making fun of people driven out of their homes and huddled in a sports stadium with no running water is never acceptable, even if you’re the spectacularly inane Jonah Goldberg, whom no one expects much from anyway.

This morning, Jack Shafer of Slate pens a piece on a topic CJR Daily has been hammering home all week — that of the racial and economic disparities between those who escaped New Orleans, and those we see huddled on roofs and wading through chest-deep water. (And yes, those still trapped in the Superdome.) He writes that “broadcasters covering the New Orleans end of the disaster demurred from mentioning two topics that must have occurred to every sentient viewer: race and class.” Seems like a bunch of bloggers have been noticing the same thing.

Jane Galt writes that “It is, of course, no more tragic when a poor person dies than a rich one; the ratio of one life, one death is the dreadful arithmetic we all face alike. But it is more tragic when someone dies because they have nowhere to go, than when only their own bullheaded stupidity is to blame.”

Boing Boing posts an email attributed to a rescue worker who writes, “The poorest 20 percent (you can argue with the number — 10 percent? 18 percent? no one knows) of the city was left behind to drown. This was the plan. Forget the sanctimonious bullshit about the bullheaded people who wouldn’t leave. The evacuation plan was strictly laissez-faire. It depended on privately owned vehicles, and on having ready cash to fund an evacuation. The planners knew full well that the poor, who in New Orleans are overwhelmingly black, wouldn’t be able to get out. The resources — meaning, the political will — weren’t there to get them out.

White per capita income in Orleans parish, 2000 census: $31,971. Black per capita: $11,332.”

Marc Cooper chimes in as well, writing that “There’s another dirty, little secret about the scenes we are watching. A secret because a feckless media can’t bring itself to say what is dead obvious: much of the area devastated by Katrina is among the poorest parts of America. Millions of people who were victimized by this disaster simply didn’t have the material resources to flee. To where? And with what money?”

Bookerrising, for one, doesn’t like how all this is playing out, and sets about going after the “liberals” who are bringing up the race issue. “A key question that these liberal critics should ask: Where are their Hollywood and other entertainment friends, while various Christian and other religious groups are already out in force with relief efforts? Why aren’t their beloved European allies helping out, as America helps out folks when disaster strikes? Using their own logic, it must be because (at least in New Orleans and parts of Mississippi) it mostly affected black folks.”

Black or white, every citizen of New Orleans has been affected by the hurricane, and while it’s important for us to explore the economic and racial components of the story, in the end let’s not lose sight of the fact that it’s our fellow citizens who are suffering. While the tens of thousands trapped in the Superdome the past few days are overwhelmingly black and poor, no New Orleanians are getting out of this unscathed. Rich or poor, most of their city is gone. If they haven’t left yet, they must, and they are not welcome back for no-one-knows-how-many months.

Paul McLeary

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Paul McLeary is senior editor of Defense Technology International magazine, and is a former CJR staffer.