Thoughts on Blogs and The Flood of New Orleans

By Deane Barker on September 3, 2005

I think The Flood of New Orleans is the first really big crisis in the U.S. to come after blogs have hit their prime. 9/11 was back in 2001, before blogs were big, and before you got the unfettered accounts of amateur jounalism like we’ve got with this. But with this disaster, people are able — like never before — to tell millions of people what they saw and how they feel about it.

The results are depressing as hell. I’m reading these accounts of what’s going on in New Orleans, and I’m thinking:

  • Is this situation a new level of horror, or am I just hearing about things like this accurately for the first time?
  • Even the national news is more depressing than ever. Is it that bad, or is this one of the first instances when their accounts have been held to the fire by first-person accounts so they can’t white-wash anything?

And more importantly —

  • Am I ready to be hearing about this without the comforting filter of CNN?

That last question just kills me. For the first time in a long time, I just want to stop reading about this and that makes me feel like a coward. When CNN reported on 9/11, that was one thing — there’s a level of detachment about hearing something on the national news. You’re told about it by a face you’ve seen before, in a perfectly modulated voice, from a clean, well-lit studio. But when you read first-person accounts on the Web of the horror that has gone on down there, it rattles you.

I feel like, all this time, CNN has protected me in a shelter of arms-length proximity that the Web has managed to summarily rip away. This first-person reporting — it ain’t like that. It’s hard to distance yourself, to look away, to flinch. I’ve been in a daze all day, reading about what people have gone through. It’s wrenching. The information I’ve heard and seen about this disaster — all via the Web — is much closer to the metal than any other crisis. Even 9/11.

Let me end with an editorial comment —

The Flood of New Orleans will become one of the turning points of race relations in this country. When everything is said and done, and the dead are counted, we will discover that 95% of those who died were black, and 80% were below the poverty line.

The natural question will be, why? The answer to that question — even the contemplation of that question — will be one of the most painful and divisive things this country has ever gone through.



  1. If 95% of those that died are black, what is/was the percentage of the population of New Orleans that’s black?

  2. What really sucks about it is that FEMA had several days warning before the storm and did nothing! FEMA could have comandeered buses and airplanes to evacuate the city (especially the hospitals and the elderly), but FEMA sat on it’s hands. Now that FEMA has responded they are keeping legitimate businesses from entering the city to help in the relief (to wit: a catering company that provides food to the PGA Tour’s caddies was not allowed into the city by FEMA with a full truck load of food for the storm survivors. This was stated during the USA cable channel broadcast of the Deutsche Bank Championship on Saturday!)

    Whomever is in charge at FEMA should be prosecuted in the criminal courts as an accessory to homicide!

  3. I’m sure the fact that New Orleans is one of the most corruptly-governed cities in America, and Louisiana one of the worst-governed states has something to do with it. A week later, the governor still hasn’t declared a state of emergency, after all.

    The lesson is that if you elect the corrupt and incompetent to be first responders, you’re going to be in serious trouble when emergencies occur. Unfortunately, if something of the same magnitude happened where I live, it would probably have similar results from local and state. Which is why I’m looking to move.


  5. Hello, I am from Germany and probably get different informations than you get.

    It is a terrible thing what happens in New Orleans at the moment. How can the wealthiest country in the world forget their own people?

    Why don`t they get enough food and water to the people for five days?

    Why can`t they evacuate 100.000 people in five or six days?

    In many countries the USA have a problem with their reputation because of the IRAQ WAR. Your President MR BUSH seems to have special interests in OIL. And the people who voted for him were mostly white.

    New Orleans doesn`t seem to have OIL nore WHITE People. It did not seem to interest him for the first three to four days. Praying is just not enough at some stage…

    I just cannot imagine, that it is not possible to send to drink (coke, beer, water , whatever) and food to those people in 1 day. Why did it had to take 6 days????

    You should ask your president these questions and don`t let him get away with his view to a great future.

    Let me say one thing: Mr. Bush in one of the craziest COWBOYS you have ever had as a president…

  6. Unfortunatly, our press do not really investigate on hot button issues like this before they write. Yes, FEMA has fault, but let’s point the finger in the right direction. First, according to the law that governs disaster response, The Stafford Act, FEMA dollars are not meant to be first dollars spent. Read the law and you will see that local government must open their books and plans to the county, and them to the state, and everyone to FEMA, in order to respond. Obvioulsly, something is fishy at the local, parish, and state levels in that they spent more time complaining than working with FEMA in the days immediately before and after. The delay was mostly State, Parish, and City, not Federal. The Feds had people onsite a few hours after the storm, ready to work with local government, but they refused. Also, FEMA is full of political appointees that don’t know how to tie their own shoe laces, let alone manage anything. Sure, some are Bush’s appointees, but many came from the Clinton era. Where do you thing all the Arkansas State Police, from the White Water Trial and other Clinton era scandals went? The former head of the NJ State Police, who was driven out in scandal. They are still working at FEMA, and very involved in this current Katrina fiasco. And, finally. Why didn’t the Governor order the National Guard to evacuate the city before the storm. That’s her call, not the Presidents. That’s why she is commander of the guard.
    There is a lot of fishy smell in Louisiana, and it really stinks. But, unfortunately, nothing will touch any of them. It never does.

  7. Wait, I’m confused. I could of swore you were complaining about CNN’s “sensationalism” in the immediate aftermath of the storm? Now, we’re discussing their comforting filter? [I use my quotes loosely because I can’t seem to find that original post abhoring CNN’s use of a large headline to describe the destruction.]

  8. Wait, I’m confused. I could of swore you were complaining about CNN’s “sensationalism” in the immediate aftermath of the storm?

    Wrong blog, sorry. We never had anything like that.

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