Glancing Blow

I spent the day in a backwater of news updating — I rely on NPR and the Net for news (and just now I’m away from my radio). I gather that New Orleans had a severe, but not catastrophic interaction with Katrina. I hope Long Beach MS survived intact, but haven’t heard anything yet.

So New Orleans fared better than I feared last night; all through the day, I was unnerved by the contrast between the seriousness of the [possible] havoc and destruction (on one hand) and the amount of public attention (on the other). In the aftermath of a natural disaster, we can find a lot of news coverage, but in the hours yesterday when it wasn’t clear that this wouldn’t be the most devastating hurricane strike in U.S. history, I heard more time devote to pledge drives and read more web pages replete with lite chatter.

Now, my worries don’t oblige other people to change their programming (“Hey, Roone — there’s a guy in Chicago worried about the hurricane; let’s cut away for some special coverage, right?”). It did, however, heighten my attention to the discrepancy between post facto coverage and the preparatory reports (and on-going news).

I kept busy whipping up the fifth sheet of Theology Cards. Forty cards is plenty good for the game of which Scripture would say, “Naomi called its name Ekklesia: The Gathering.” I compiled and submitted a heap of receipts from the Disseminary, and got some necessary office work done. I’ll try to get to sleep early tonight, maybe catch up after a rest-less weekend.

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11 Responses to Glancing Blow

  1. I spent most of the day watching the live coverage on WDSU.com, and when they finally showed footage of New Orleans the anchors could hardly contain their shock. One of them even went off set for a few moments to collect herself.

    It didn’t look to me like NO escaped with very much intact. Looked like 75% of the town was underwater, large fires here and there and people being plucked off their housetops. Tons of wind damage and all kinds of structural damage from collapsed walls to one whole side of the Hyatt hotel blown out.

    And all I could think about was what happened to anyone without the means to escape.

  2. AKMA says:

    That’s startling to me, Chris — but I haven’t seen any footage at all, and am just going by the relative calm that Chicago (and web) media describe. I’ll keep looking; at times such as this, I miss the Weather Channel.

  3. Considering the time stamp on your last post, I’m sure you seen it by now, but Lake Pontchartrain has overflowed the floodwall damaged in some places. The French Quarter is starting to flood. And then the rest of the Gulf Coast to the east is a disaster. Many people are known dead and many more presumed dead. Much prayer is in order.

  4. e says:

    we couldn’t get on the streams for WDSU or WWL, but it seems that Mobile is streaming very good coverage. go to TBO.com and click on the Mobile-WTRG live stream link. Some video is coming out, but there’s still not a lot known as they can’t get in to a lot, including the worst hit places in coastal Mississippi of which nothing on the ground is known at all yet. One thing in New Orleans is that an unknown number in “hundreds and hundreds of homes” are trapped in their attics with rising waters. Prayer, certainly, they’re having to chop through their roofs and get coptered out. this could be many hundreds of dead, pray that it is not. If anyone hears of any in country volunteer opportunities, please let me know as providentially I am on 2 weeks annual leave starting today and could go help if needed. BTW, I am safe in Florida…

  5. e says:

    here is a blog that’s reporting: http://neworleans.metblogs.com/

    The weather forum on nola.com is very active also. A friend and I have skyped each other and have been simultaneously searching fora and copying relevant info links into IM, so if you have pressing questions let me know and we’ll try to find something. won’t clutter these comemnts with any further links unless required, though.

  6. e says:

    I feel the need to publish one more. While nature may be colorblind, culture is not. The people trapped in attics and worse are, for the most part, black. It is an historical “fact” that the bloggers, the people in New Orleans who were able to leave even if their mobility is due to an overdrawn credit card, are, for the most part, not black–just look at the footage of the evacuees in the Superdome. Now after the fact, the people able to write, to post, with the education to search our sophisticated nets, to serve, are also for the most part not what the media is calling “the most vulnerable”. They are us.

  7. AKMA says:

    Thanks, e, for the link and for putting into words a point that had been nagging at me all along — a feeling that there was at least one dimension of the calamity to which people weren’t paying enough attention.

    I feel better that you called my attention to it, and worse that it points up still further ways that the media culture, including Blogaria, unhappily, tends exacerbates the classism and racism-of-[im]possibility. Not that blogs and the Net are bad, not that we should be beating anyone up for failures, and certainly not that the miseries of more-privileged people are less real than the miseries of less-privileged people — but we should keep a close eye on the differential effects of economic and racial inequities on the various communities that Katrina afflicted.

  8. Tripp says:

    What I heard this morning was that 80% of New Orleans had flooded…and that many had died in Biloxi.

    The news suggested a push/pull in predictions. First it was going to be horrible, then it looked as if they dodged a bullet, and now it looks like things were much worse than anticipated.

  9. e says:

    Misery is absolute. No, the miseries of less-priviledged people are not more real than those of more-priviledged, it’s just that there are more less-priviledged, and many many, more in New Orleans. And of course the more-priviledged are better able to recover. (I just heard a young woman in tears say “I called my Dad out of state and said get me out of here, please.” I don’t in any way mean to minimize her pain, of course; misery is absolute.)

    Justice, however, must be relational. Blogaria was born just a minute ago and is, in general, unaware of history and culture, caught up in the delusion that it invents it. We do this at our peril. We owe a very great historical debt to the people of New Orleans. We ignore unpleasant facts, in the hope of making them not be, not only at our own peril, but at the sometimes mortal peril people we don’t even bother to realize we are denying when we disregard their reality.

    Thanks AKMA.

  10. AKMA says:

    That sounds right to me, Tripp and e — and (again) it underlines the artificiality of news coverage, where projections (in both relevant senses of the word) matter more than actually observing what’s going on. One benefit of Blogaria, and it’s a class-limited benefit at least for now, is that there are more potential observers to learn from than when there were three networks, or a dozen networks. I learned more from the Metroblogging link you sent me than I had from all the news coverage I encountered.

    (I should admit to some responsibility too — I refuse to install Windows Media Player, so I couldn’t see some of what the web offered.)

  11. What struck me about the TV coverage was how the white news anchors found themselves describing the devastation of more upper class neighbourhoods and they could even pinpoint which yacht club was on fire, but they were at a loss to describe other neighbourhoods.

    It was only when the video on WDSU was shown again this time with an assignment editor and a black anchor doing the talking that we learned about the other neighbourhoods.

    It just seemed so stark, the contrast. I would have thought that the anchors of a local American city news cast would know their city pretty well, even under water. Even I could identify locations using Google maps as the choppers flew around.

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