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Federal Disaster Response Paper

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Federal Disaster Response Paper

Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf Coast earlier this year devastating the entire region. The hurricane hit with winds up to 127 miles per hour and raised the water levels up to 11.1 feet. The total losses were estimated at $8.16 billion (hurricane.methaz.org, 2005). There is no doubt to anyone in the world that this was a tragic event and that, if they could, would erase the staggering amount of losses sustained. The media saw this event in a completely different light. They embraced this tragedy and grabbed every camera they could, hunting for gold. They reported Hurricane Katrina with incredible quickness and sprayed everything they could over the television and internet. They took advantage of the victims of the hurricane. This is something that is all too common in our society and needs to be confronted. They also went to the opposite extreme of this spectrum and helped millions by raising millions of dollars in relief funds.

Races and classes were stereotyped the highest they had ever been since Martin Luther King Jr.’s glory days. CNN’s Wolf Blitzer (9/1/2005) said “You simply get chills every time you see these poor individuals… So many of these people, almost all of them that we see, are so poor, and they are so black.”(Rolling Stone, 2005) This ignorant reporting is what is fueling the fire for racism in America today. Bill O’Reilly of Fox News also shared a stereotyping moment, saying “If you don’t get educated, if you don’t develop a skill and force yourself to work hard, you’ll most likely be poor. And sooner or later, you’ll be standing on a symbolic rooftop waiting for help.” (Rolling Stone, 2005) This comment put direct blame on individuals waiting to be rescued during the hurricane for being in the situation they were in. These people merely wanted to stay with their possessions and stay at their homes. Many educated men and woman would have, and I’m sure did, do the same thing. O’Reilly later described these same people as drug-addicted thugs.

Many journalists also contributed to the spread of false rumors of lawlessness among the victims. Many news organizations carried the unsubstantiated accounts that murder and rape were widespread, and in some cases later repeated the claims as fact, without attribution. These rumors often impeded the relief and rescue efforts. Racial bias was blatant in the media throughout the coverage. In two AP photos, one of Caucasians and one of African-Americans, two different descriptions of the same actions were said. In the picture of the Caucasians, they were described as “finding” supplies while the African-Americans were described as “looting”. The well publicized incident of people shooting at helicopters was blown out of proportion. The media told the single event of a helicopter being shot at as a common occurrence when in all likely hood only occurred that one time. Raymond Cooper of CNN contributed much to the rumors of lawlessness when he reported “They have quite a few people running around here with guns. You got these young teenage boys running around up here raping these girls.”(CNN.com, 2005) Though his statements may have been true, they were taken once again as common place in the disaster area and spread much fear and panic across the rest of America.

Poor media coverage is not something that was created in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, but merely amplified. Rap artist Kayne West is a great example of what happens when too much poor information is spread to influential people. West was among the many celebrities and singers participating in a one-hour special for Katrina, produced by NBC News and run on the NBC broadcast network, as well as MSNBC and CNBC. Hopefully they would raise a sizable amount of money for a good cause, the American Red Cross Disaster Relief Fund, was the idea. It turned into something completely different once West veered way of the prepared script he was suppose to read from. The dialogue went as follows between Mike Meyers and Mr. West:

Myers: The landscape of the city has changed dramatically, tragically and perhaps irreversibly. There is now over 25 feet of water where there was once city streets and thriving neighborhoods.

West: I hate the way they portray us in the media. You see a black family, it says, "They're looting." You see a white family, it says, "They're looking for food." And, you know, it's been five days [waiting for federal help] because most of the people are black. And even for me to complain about it, I would be a hypocrite because I've tried to turn away from the TV because it's too hard to watch. I've even been shopping before even giving a donation, so now I'm calling my business manager right now to see what is the biggest amount I can give, and just to imagine if I was down

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