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Needed Katrina Humor, Perspectives

I haven’t looked forward to a television show as much as I looked forward to Jon Stewart’s take on Katrina, which ran last night. And wow, it was perfect.

Show excerpts, courtesy of the Daily Kos

“Now, for you people who are saying “Well, stop pointing fingers at the president…left-wing…the media’s being too hard:”

No. SHUT…UP! No! This is inarguably – inarguably – a failure of leadership from the top of the federal government.

Remember when Bill Clinton went out with Monica Lewinsky? That was inarguably a failure of judgment at the top. Democrats had to come out and risk losing credibility if they did not condemn Bill Clinton for his behavior. I believe Republicans are in the same position right now. And I will say this: Hurricane Katrina is George Bush’s Monica Lewinsky. The only difference is that tens of thousands of people weren’t stranded in Monica Lewinsky’s vagina.”
–Jon Stewart

Ed Helms: While everybody else is busy setting up commissions and finding fault, through the president’s leadership he’ll end up building a billion dollar dam in Arkansas.
Jon Stewart: Why would he build a dam in Arkansas?
Ed Helms: His plan will be to fight the water there so we don’t have to fight it here.

Jon Stewart: So no one’s going to be held accountable for this at all?
Ed Helms: No. In fact, if history is any indication, they’ll be hard-pressed finding enough medals to pin on these guys. My sources tell me the head of FEMA will be dipped in bronze and turned into an award to be given to other officials. ”

It was even better than the show’s take on Cindy Sheehan when a correspondent said Sheehan was rude to ruin the president’s vacation “which he has been looking forward to since his last vacation, which was way back in April!”

And better yet than the Onion’s satirical take on Sheehan “Bush: Vacation Ruined By ‘Stupid Dead Soldier'” or Google Announces Plan To Destroy All Information It Can’t Index.

Which brings me to best headline I’ve seen today, also from the Onion: God Outdoes Terrorists Yet Again and this subhead (buried low) “Bush Urges Victims To Gnaw On Bootstraps For Sustenance”.

“WASHINGTON, DC—In an emergency White House address Sunday, President Bush urged all people dying from several days without food and water in New Orleans to “tap into the American entrepreneurial spirit” and gnaw on their own bootstraps for sustenance. “Government handouts are not the answer,” Bush said. “I believe in smaller government, which is why I have drastically cut welfare and levee upkeep. I encourage you poor folks to fill yourself up on your own bootstraps. Buckle down, and tear at them like a starving animal.” Responding to reports that many Katrina survivors have lost everything in the disaster, Bush said, “Only when you work hard and chew desperately on your own footwear can you live the American dream.”

Meanwhile, in real news:

The Feds are ordering the media not to take pictures of the dead bodies in New Orleans despite the fact the dead are precisely the story. An appropriate bit of outrage is verbalized here. FEMA later said it was a request, not an order.

Jay Rosen is back and has a good media analysis piece at PressThink on Katrina and media coverage and what to expect next. That’ll teach him to go away on a holiday weekend.

There is also a good media piece in Columbia Journalism Review with this great headline and lead:

Moribund Patient Lurches Awake

What exactly happened to broadcast and cable news last week? On Monday, when Hurricane Katrina touched ground, we did little more than yawn (and, admittedly, giggle a bit) watching station after station slip into numbingly predictable bad-weather mode.

You know the formula: There they were, the intrepid reporters in yellow rainslickers, tethered to poles, whipped around by the rain and wind, screaming above the racket of flying debris. All that overlaid by the dramatic graphics (this time, the satellite image of the swirling white eye of the storm), the horror-movie music, and the fake gravitas of anchors trying to appear like they cared about what was probably another over-hyped story.

But once the storm hit and the levees broke and we had a real catastrophe on our hands — once the story became one of hungry and tired refugees abandoned to their own devices, of a city almost entirely submerged beneath water, of dead bodies floating to the surface, of old people expiring in their wheelchairs, of roving armed gangs terrorizing the bedraggled population — something changed.

Reporters became human.

From Wednesday on, there were many examples of a new anger, a tone of indignation and frustration, creeping into the voices of our coolest and most collected TV personalities. Anderson Cooper cut off Senator Mary Landrieu while she was busy thanking her political allies, telling her that for local people her politicking “cuts them the wrong way right now, because literally there was a body on the streets of this town yesterday being eaten by rats because this woman had been laying in the street for 48 hours … Do you get the anger that is out here?”

However, the best piece on Katrina I read today was this one, by a News Orleans Times Picayune reporter who was missing in action about his week.

Thanks, as always, to the great links at Poynter compiled by Romensko.

About Scott Butki

Scott Butki was a newspaper reporter for more than 10 years before making a career change into education... then into special education. He has been doing special education work for about five years He lives in Austin. He reads at least 50 books a year and has about 15 author interviews each year and, yes, unlike tv hosts he actually reads each one. He is an in-house media critic, a recovering Tetris addict and a proud uncle. He has written articles on practically all topics from zoos to apples and almost everything in between.

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