SADOW: Politics Explains Media’s Louisiana Hurricane Coverage

Sixteen years to the day Hurricane Katrina struck Louisiana, Hurricane Ida did the same. But over a week later, political reaction to it has been vastly different because of political agendas.

The storms differed only in strength and location. Ida was the stronger of the two and landed west of New Orleans, while Katrina made landfall to the city’s east. Potentially, this made Ida more destructive not only because of its strength, but because a hurricane’s rotation in this part of the world makes its northeastern quadrant the most damaging.

Ida did plenty of damage, tearing through a number of communities with extensive damage or complete destruction of most structures that, at this point, looks to take months for life to get back anywhere close to normal for affected individuals. Katrina caused this on a much lesser scale, but infamously supplied s storm surge that knocked out some area levees, with most of the ensuing flooding affecting New Orleans (and Jefferson Parish) and claiming far more lives.

This meant, in a geographic sense, Katrina impacted severely a distinctly smaller area although the numbers of residents affected (whether there at the time) wasn’t too much different than with Ida. However, that population was much more concentrated in an area with, in the aggregate, much more development.

This crucial difference distinguishes how the media can cover each. With Katrina, you had large media outfits (if in disarray) on the ground when the flooding came to document people standing on roofs, wandering elevated roadways, and sweltering in a sports stadium. Further, these conditions permitted national media to descend and to focus on a small area with plenty of stories to generate (so much so, in fact, they could create fake outrages, including phantom sightings of floating dead bodies).

Ida’s immediate aftermath also featured many rescues and many displaced people, but spread out over a much larger area. You couldn’t easily find a bunch of people signaling for rescue to grab in the form of aerial footage, and the fortunately few deaths permitted their concentration apparently in only one place, a way station for nursing home evacuees.

The greater ability of media to cover a potentially big story out there – many deaths – proved crucial because it allowed for the media to advance an agenda it shared with the political left: discredit a president with which it had policy disagreements who it deemed illegitimately elected, twice for different reasons: Republican George W. Bush.

With their leftist allies, almost all media began to seize upon the mediocre government response as a Bush presidency failure alone, imputing it to general indifference by the president if not some kind of institutionalized racism. In reality, many of the problems in getting disaster assistance on track came from the administrative failings of Democrat Gov. Kathleen Blanco and Democrat New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin (with major responsibility for what transpired resting in agencies over which they had authority, such as the Orleans Levee Board). Both had reelection on their minds, and their botched responses, from failure to prompt evacuation to inability to follow disaster plans and related procedures to a months-long campaign of blame-shifting, had them trying to make Bush at fault which dovetailed nicely with the desires of their national allies.

By contrast, with Democrat Pres. Joe Biden in the White House (who took longer than Bush to survey damage, yet hasn’t received any of the same media condemnation for “waiting” so long to do it), the media and left don’t have any complaints – even as the Biden Administration does nothing to hasten promised disaster aid of last year to southwest Louisiana of a storm every bit as destructive, Hurricane Laura. And you’ll get no finger-pointing from fellow liberal Gov. John Bel Edwards who these days would rather work for Biden than stick around Louisiana.

Even if Biden proves as slow to aid in southeastern Louisiana recovery as he has for the southwest, don’t expect anything more than tepid media criticism and nothing like what they heaped upon Bush. Nor would Democrats like Edwards, Rep. Troy Carter, or any at the national level say one bad thing about that, given Biden’s increasing erosion of popular support and the drag that has upon Democrats’ deteriorating chances in the 2022 election cycle.

The two disasters differ only somewhat, yet the media reactions are light years apart. The media, acting as a megaphone for the political left, tried to create an unwarranted negative narrative about a conservative Republican president sixteen years ago to damage him politically while deflecting from their Louisiana allies’ failures. Now with Democrats clinging to endangered power, expect indifference to Louisiana’s recovery if not outright cheerleading about Washington’s role to try to bolster the fortunes of leftism in America.

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