Thursday, September 01, 2005

Hurricane Katrina Reactions

Hugo Schwyzer wonders where the line is between being well-informed and voyeuristic with regard to the media coverage of Hurricane Katrina. I think there's an important element to disaster coverage like this that he doesn't bring out enough, and that is watching as a form of participation. When confronted with the crisis at hand, I sometimes feel guilty if I go on as if nothing has happened, and so watch with concern out of respect for what is happening. In addition, I think it's important that we try to understand the world as much as possible, and sometimes it's true that a picture can be worth a thousand words. After all, don't we have a duty to be shocked and horrified in a world where shocking and horrible things happen? These emotional memories will stay with us far longer for what we have seen than if we just heard about it second-hand.

Another issue being raised is the appropriateness of political commentary regarding all this, what Josh Marshall calls "the accountability free moment". For now, let me just say that this disaster calls attention to the fact that politics matters. Political decisions have consequences, often life-or-death consequences, and when people have different policies, it matters who wins elections. I'm undoubtedly preaching to the choir here - after all, I'm posting this to a blog dedicated almost entirely to current events - but I've talked to enough people in my life who think it doesn't matter that I can't help but make the point. And since politics matters, then it's also important to take note of policy issues and problems as they arise, even if the raging debate comes later. After all, what in education you might call the "teachable moment" is now - coming back in December and saying you think we need to examine FEMA won't have the same effect.


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