Thursday, September 08, 2005

THE BUSH ADMINISTRATION is incapable of doing the right thing, even when they are being attacked from all sides for their incredibly incompetent, slow, inefficient, and indifferent response to Hurricane Katrina. The "damage control campaign" the White House announced over the weekend seems pointless, given that Bush keeps doing things to cause more damage.

The latest example is FEMA's announcement that it does not want news photographers to take pictures of dead victims being recovered from New Orleans. A FEMA spokeswoman explained their request by claiming that "space was needed on the rescue boats and that 'the recovery of the victims is being treated with dignity and the utmost respect.'"

Gary Farber at Amygdala says that's a load of you-know-what.

Leaving bodies to float around for a week or so, bloating and bursting, as they brush against branches, tires, pieces of shit, and whathaveyou, in a hellish broth of toxic waste and sewage: you just can't buy dignity and utmost respect like that; you have to experience it.
And Joe at AMERICAblog thinks it's a shame that "FEMA didn't show as much concern for these people before they died."

Then there is the e-mail Barbara O'Brien got today from Bob Brigham of Swing State Project. Bob, who is currently blogging on Operation Flashlight, tells us that the National Guard is turning away all media people at a checkpoint outside the city. Under direct orders from Pres. Bush, the press is being barred from reporting what is going on in New Orleans. This is not about respect for the dead. This is about wanting to prevent the public from knowing and seeing the reality of what has happened in New Orleans, and what is happening still.

Josh Marshall at TPM says, "...[I]t's pretty clear that a key aim of the Bush administration's takeover of the NOLA situation is to cut off press access to report the story."

First, there were the FEMA orders barring members of the press from photographing anything to do with the recovery of the bodies of the dead.

Perhaps there could be guidelines about photographs which in any way clearly identified the deceased. No one wants to get first confirmation of the death of a loved one by seeing their body on the nightly news. But a blanket ban serves only to prevent the public from knowing what really happened last week. And the right of FEMA or any branch of the federal government for that matter to issue such a ban on American soil seems highly dubious to me. It's one thing with military casualties: the military operates under its own legal code and not under normal civilian rules. But this is happening on American soil. This isn't a war zone. Nor is it any longer a situation where police or National Guard troops are in the midst of retaking control from mobs or looters. This is a recovery from a natural disaster.

Now comes this post from Brian Williams, which suggests a general effort to bar reporters from access to many of the key points in the city.

Take a moment to note what's happening here: these are the marks of repressive government, which mixes inefficiency with authoritarianism. The crew that couldn't get key aid on the scene in time last week is coming in in force now. And one of the key missions appears to be cutting off public information about what's happening in the city.

This is a domestic, natural disaster. Absent specific cases where members of the press would interfere or get in the way of some particular clean up operation, or perhaps demolition work, there is simply no reason why credentialed members of the press should not be able to cover everything that is happening in that city.

Andrew Sullivan thinks the press should defy FEMA's ban and find other ways to get the hell into that city:

The press should ignore those requests, get boats themselves and show the world what has actually happened. (Hey, much of the media was ahead of FEMA during the worst of it. Why not again now?) That goes for any intrepid bloggers with camera-phones or anyone else who can slip through the censorship net. If necessary, faces can be blurred to protect the dignity of the dead. But it matters that we see the full consequences of government delinquency. That's what the press is for. Ignore FEMA. Photobloggers, here's an opportunity for important and necessary work.

Steve Soto at Left Coaster includes FEMA's press muzzling in his summary of the "despicable shenanigans the Bush team executed as part of their concept of 'emergency response' over the last several days."

And Edward at Obsidian Wings, noting that police officers are now turning their weapons on reporters, wonders if America is becoming the tyranny we hate and supposedly went to Afghanistan and Iraq to defeat:

This is what we're spending a billion dollars and far too many American lives a day to preserve? This third-world banana republic sort of repression? Poorly trained thugs with weapons, threatening reporters in our own country...reporters armed only with notepads and cameras? Why would it occur to that police officer for even a second that pointing her weapon at reporters was an appropriate response? Where on earth does she think she lives?

The fourth anniversary of 9/11 is mere days away. Looking around at what we're becoming, I'd say the terrorists are most definitely winning this war.

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