Ask and Ye Shall Receive

Ask and Ye Shall Receive

Ask and Ye Shall Receive

The latest chatter in cyberspace.
Sept. 9 2005 5:32 PM

Ask and Ye Shall Receive

Bloggers discuss the latest updates on FEMA Director Michael Brown. They also discuss a much-circulated account of struggles on the ground in post-Katrina New Orleans.

Ask and ye shall receive:Besieged FEMA Director Michael Brown has been replaced by Coast Guard Vice Adm. Thad Allen as the point-man for relief operations in the Gulf Coast.

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"He isn't being fired, just removed from doing his job," writes liberal kingpin Markos Moulitsas at Daily Kos. "Which, um, is like being fired, but not firing him because that would mean Bush was wrong for praising Brown and would be akin to admitting a mistake (which our infallible president never does)." Conservative Michelle Malkin, who yesterday lined up alongside Kos to demand a replacement, disagrees. The decision, she writes, "makes [Bush] someone who has put accountability over cronyism in a time of crisis. Good for him."

"The other shoe – or rather, the FEMA director — has dropped," writes journalist and ventriloquist Joe Gandelman at The Moderate Voice. "Questions will likely still be asked.… But if blog reaction to the news about Brown's 'inaccurate' resume is any indication, it was clear something had to be done or the White House's political crisis would grow."

Read more about the blog outrage here. Read more about Michael Brown here.

"Get off the fucking freeway!": In a harrowing account published in leftist journals Counterpunch, the Socialist Worker, and elsewhere, two EMS workers stranded in New Orleans by Hurricane Katrina recount the horrible callousness and belligerence of those police and sheriffs charged with keeping order in the city. The lawmen in the report show little sympathy for hurricane victims and are all too eager to get rid of them—twice by hustling groups away at gunpoint.

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"This report is appalling, if true," says libertarian Glenn Reynolds at InstaPundit. "Someone—say from the Civil Rights office at the Justice Department—should look into it." Many bloggers are way ahead of the DoJ.  "I will bet the proverbial dollars to doughnuts that it is a fake," cautions David Nishimura, an art historian, at Cronaca. "We'll hear the definitive story before long, but even at first reading the story rings false, in much the same way as the CBS memos did just about exactly a year ago. Like the memos, it contains enough genuine material to convince those inclined to believe, but also enough problematical bits to give away the game," he writes.

Plenty of others are also waiting for confirmation. "There have been so many rumors floating around because of the communications failure that I wouldn't believe this story for a minute until there is some way to verify it," comments Tyree, a reader at libertarian individualist group blog Samizdata, where a popular synopsis of the article was posted. "Remember everyone; the hurricane devastated an area the size of Great Britain. There is enough real good and bad in a situation like that to satisfy us all."

Others say the volume of reports alleging civic antipathy is exactly what makes such a story plausible. At Making Light, self-described centrist Teresa Nielson Hayden collects a busload of circumstantial corroboration. Oregon Commentator Olly Ruff delivers what has become the consensus opinion. "If this story checks out, heads should roll." Still others consider the report commendable citizen journalism. "My hope is as many of these stories as there are survivors are recorded," writesIdyllopus, a progressive from the Pacific Northwest.

For many examining the journalistic fallout of Hurricane Katrina, the EMS workers' account is a representative effort by a resuscitated press. The BBC wondered Monday whether Katrina had saved the American media from a crippling commitment to objectivity and a prevailing sense of political apathy. "Reporters Turn From Deference to Outrage," ran a New York Times headline this week. "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," concurred Gal Beckerman at CJR Daily. (Slate's Jack Shafer discussed the phenomenon here).

Others think the renewed vigor will stand or fall with future treatment of the president. At the American Prospect's roundtable TAPPED, Garance Franke-Ruta paints a target on what she calls the administration's PR strategy of "attack and divide." Colleague Sam Rosenfeld is dubious. "I certainly hope that Garance is right and the president's standard P.R. modus operandi won't work for him or his party this time, but there's certainly ample indication at this point that the press is going to happily do its usual job of facilitating the implementation of just such a strategy," he writes. For Washington MonthlyPolitical Animal Kevin Drum, the discussion is moot, "since as near as I can tell press coverage of the White House has already returned to its old self."

Nevertheless, some skeptics wonder whether the press should even aspire to be this pugnacious. "Spine is always good, outrage is sometimes needed, and empathy can often reveal the story," reasons J-school professor and blog-watcher Jay Rosen, in an encyclopedic post at heavyweight hub the Huffington Post. "But there is no substitute for being able to think, and act journalistically on your conclusions. What is the difference between a 'blame game' and real accountability? If you have no idea because you've never really thought about it, then your outrage can easily misfire."

Read more about the Counterpunch report. Read more about the press and Hurricane Katrina