An almost completely ignored bit of news by the major media outlets was the announcement of Kuwait’s government that they will donate $500 million to Hurricane Katrina relief efforts. Since finger-pointing and playing the blame game sells more papers and attracts more viewers, positive and optimistic news stories are tabled or buried so deep that they become lost in the reporting. Instead of attempting to unite the American people, the media seem to look for any opportunity to polarize the country and demonize the President and his administration. Although mistakes in policy and action have certainly been made—by liberals and conservatives alike—Katrina has quickly revealed the media’s fascination with the “government as the Messiah” of our political, social, and emotional futures.
News stories, radio reports, articles, editorials and commentaries that deal with Katrina seem to indicate that money is the answer. Kuwait’s half-billion dollars, along with many, many other millions being donated and pledged by American corporations and individuals once again demonstrate that the American people are generous, caring and willing to help. The money donated to the 2004 Asian tsunami relief was another such situation where Americans willingly opened their wallets when they were prompted with the correct visual cues. Seeing the devastation on your TV screen is harder to ignore than a newspaper article. Katrina is different in that it is in our own country, not 10,000 miles away. But money alone can’t solve all problems. More money is not the issue; it’s manpower. Money does not make people appear in the streets of New Orleans ready to help in any way that they can.
If we are to believe the media, the relief workers and volunteers that are arriving in New Orleans are being received with scorn and contempt. Instead of being welcomed, they are finding thousands of angry Louisianans complaining that they took so long. We have created a society of people who rely on the government for everything, and when they can’t get there immediately tempers flare. Help is expected, not gratefully received. The government has become our savior. The church has been relegated to the sidelines as a nice emotional experience. And when the chosen savior can’t perform as expected, people get irate. The government has been given messianic expectations that it can never hope to live up to, but such is the problem of a man-centered sovereignty. If man is your savior, than don’t get upset when he performs like a man—slow, lazy, selfish, and sinful. Although government never lives up to expectations, incredibly the answer is always to make it bigger, more bloated and even more of a leech than it already is. A company that can’t perform as a small company will never make it as a big company.
Lest we also forget that the same media that downplayed Katrina as it approached the Gulf coast, saying it is “not as bad as anticipated,” expect the rescue effort to be organized overnight. The media have power over public opinion that is unrivaled. More care needs to be taken in emergency situations such as this. It is often said that the freedom of speech does not entitle one to cry “Fire” in a crowded theater. This same common sense applies to the right of the free press. “Crying wolf” and then standing around criticizing the clean-up effort is inexcusable. The media need to take responsibility for their own lack of responsibility. News reporting does not exist in a vacuum. The news media have a great opportunity to rally the country in support of the hurricane victims and the rescue effort. But if they continue to criticize and name names it will do nothing more than cause Americans to become more apathetic, not only now, but in the future as well.