mr. zilla goes to town

Sunday, September 04, 2005

live and pretty damn direct

From the Washington Post, via Pandagon:

NBC's levee broke and Kanye West flooded through with a tear about the federal response in New Orleans during the network's live concert fundraiser for victims of Hurricane Katrina last night.

West and Mike Myers had been paired up to appear about halfway through the show. Their assignment: Take turns reading a script describing the breach in the levees around New Orleans.

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.

(Myers throws to West, who looked extremely nervous in his super-preppy designer rugby shirt and white pants, which is not like the arrogant West and which, in retrospect, should have been a tip-off.)

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 there, and those are my people down there. So anybody out there that wants to do anything that we can help -- with the way America is set up to help the poor, the black people, the less well-off, as slow as possible. I mean, the Red Cross is doing everything they can. We already realize a lot of people that could help are at war right now, fighting another way -- and they've given them permission to go down and shoot us!

(West throws back to Myers, who is looking like a guy who stopped on the tarmac to tie his shoe and got hit in the back with the 8:30 to La Guardia.)

Myers: And subtle, but in many ways even more profoundly devastating, is the lasting damage to the survivors' will to rebuild and remain in the area. The destruction of the spirit of the people of southern Louisiana and Mississippi may end up being the most tragic loss of all.

(And, because Myers is apparently as dumb as his Alfalfa hair, he throws it back to West.)

West: George Bush doesn't care about black people!

Just goes to show how politically out of touch people in the music industry can be, especially when they're pushing their own barrows over some perceived slight. Of course the Bush administration cares about black people! After all, around 15% of black voters nation-wide voted for him in 2004! I mean with 85% of a constituency voting for the other team, it's gotta be one of the number one areas of potential growth in the Republican vote!

Yeah, or, maybe not. And while I realise I've become the Billmon redirection service of late, have a look at this post of his comparing and contrasting the response to this disaster to the aid given to Florida during hurricane and election season last year.

The final word, or lack of one, goes to NBC who found West's criticism of the President untenable:

West's comments would be cut from the West Coast feed, an NBC spokeswoman told The TV Column. (The Associated Press later reported that only his comment about the president was edited out.)

I hope their reasoning was that potential donors to the cause might be offended by West's assessment and decide not to donate to the telethon, rather than executive toadying to the administration. In either case I strongly disagree. A free media is a pillar of democracy because it's a core mechanism of public accountability. If NBC won't bare some teeth and claws at the deadly incompetence of the Bush administration over the last week, they shouldn't have the gall to edit out the people who make proper use of their air time to do so.

To be fair to the US cable news media, it seems that CNN and even the occasional Fox reporter on the ground in Louisiana have actually been making a fist of calling bullshit on the press-release pronouncements of senior officials. The post-disaster media dynamic couldn't be more different to 9/11; I'm sure its got everything to do with the lack of an external agressor to blame.

As my friend Owen in Philadelphia said in an email last week, this is not only a national disaster, but a national embarrasment for the country with the lion's share of the planet's wealth. We can only hope the current righteous anger remains stoked and channelled into positive reforms of FEMA and DHS, and an occasional accountability moment or two. It would be a horror if this embarrasment allowed the story arcs to shift quickly to only cover the warmer tales of recovery and reconstruction that we hope are not too far away.


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