Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Stuck on Stupid

Dan Rather finds that there is an increasing "climate of fear running through newsrooms" these days. I certainly hope that this is so -- the former monopolists in the newsrooms should fear that, unless they report with less bias, their audience will continue to decline in the face of competition. And, at a minimum, they should fear that if they present blockbluster reports based on fabricated evidence, as Rather did, they will lose their jobs.

However, the MSM's coverage of Hurricane Katrina suggests that there is no such fear factor. Indeed, Rather himself deems this coverage represents "one of television news' finest moments."

I wonder which part of the coverage Rather liked best. Perhaps it was the appearance on NBC's Meet the Press of Aaron Broussard, president of Jefferson Parish, La. He recounted for a national audience the story of a woman stranded in a nursing home who kept calling her son for help, day after day, until she finally died on September 2, ostensibly because the federal reaction to Hurricane Katrina was too slow. Only the story was false. The patients at St. Rita nursing home died on August 29, the same day the hurricane struck New Orleans. The purportedly slow federal response had nothing to do with it. How did this Ratheresque error occur? Perhaps NBC, like CNN, wanted Broussard to "get angry."

Or maybe Rather was happiest with the bogus death count estimate of 10,000 that the MSM put forth. I'm partial to this one because it springs, in part, from a central fallacy of the leftism of the MSM and others -- that people have no capacity to act without the government's help. The intitial impact of the storm could not have caused anything like 10,000 deaths, nor was this the impression the MSM wanted to convey. The estimate assumed instead that, with government not functioning, a substantial number of residents who did not evacuate the city lacked the intiative to move to higher ground (or to the Superdome, as they were told to) as the water level rose, and the decency to help the incapacitated do so. In effect the estimate assumed that a large number of residents lacked the sense, as the old saying goes, "to come in out of the rain." Only a liberal (think Bill Clinton, for example) would have such a low regard for the ability of humans to engage in minimal self-help. And, given the demographics of New Orleans, it would also help for the liberal to be a racist.

Rather says the Katrina coverage was great because reporters were "willing to speak truth to power." Putting aside the hoariness of the cliche, can Rather possibly be so clueless that he doesn't know that much of what the MSM reported turned out not to be true at all? Or is it that he just doesn't care? It's hard to avoid the conclusion that for Rather, "speaking truth to power" means "smearing Republicans with whatever means come to hand." In other words, the MSM coverage of Hurricane Katrina was fake, but accurate.