Richard North, 04/09/2005  

Almost without exception, in their coverage of the American hurricane disaster, the newspapers today exhibit the very worst of the nascent anti-Americanism in Britain, combined with the jeering superiority inherent in our "cultured", know-all society. Even the much revered newspaper, The Business, succumbs to the disease, with such a sickeningly partisan editorial that I cannot even bring myself to link with it.

What is missing from the coverage, however, are a few salient facts, to put the disaster into perspective. Firstly, there was the sheer severity of the storm and its effect on the infrastructure. Two photographs, taken by American Red Cross photographer Gene Dailey, convey something of the fury, the like of which I have not seen in the mainstream media.

The first (left) shows Hurricane Katrina after its worst, taking in a view of Biloxi, Mississippi, showing a scene across the bay and the collapsed casinos in Biloxi. Only something of the raw power of the hurricane comes over here, but those who complain of the delay should appreciate that the winds kept the helicopters grounded for two days after the height of the storm. They cannot fly in winds above 40 knots, and earlier intervention would have added to the casualties.

The second (right) showns the bridge leading from Ocean Springs to Biloxi. This was destroyed by the high winds and wave action. What is more, all roads leading in and out of Biloxi were destroyed or under water. When the water subsided, Highway 110 remained as the sole route in and out of the city. And that is the crunch. With the devastation spread throughout the State, the media simply is not conveying the enormous difficulties the rescuers experienced in getting to the scene of local disasters.

The third of the pictures, of the aftermath, shows that even large buildings were no match for Katrina's fury. One can only imagine the sheer, terrifying violence of the storm and wonder just how well London would have survived such an elemental force and - for that matter- how well Red Ken would have managed the aftermath.

The fourth of our photographs is the "killer", quite literally. It, and many more are published by the Junkyard Blog. The scene depicts Municipal (mainly school) busses in their depot in New Orleans, which should have been used – but were not – for the local evacuation plan, which was never implemented.

What the dire, lame-brained, ill-natured hacks and the archair pundits seem not to realise is that disaster response, and the preparations for disaster, are primarily City and State responsibilities. Conscious of the constitutional and legal niceties, the Federal Authority – short of declaring martial law - can only respond when requested by the State Governor. And, for all those pathological Bush-haters out there, they would do well to remember that both city and State administrations are Democrat.

What, I suspect, the response of the British media actually shows is an underlying jealousy of America, a childish, half-formed resentment that the USA has "usurped" the role of Great Britain as leader of the free world. It manifests itself in this petty, carping, dismal negativity, that erupts in the guise of objective news reporting, evident in the ill-concealed glee with which reporters linger on every aspect of bad news and ignore the good.

From this same well-spring stems the evangelical "Europeanism", driven not so much by any great vision of the role of Europe, but by a smouldering resentment of the fact that, in so many things, the Americans do things so much better.

For all the people who seem so much to delight in the misfortunes of America, however, there is only one real message: Get over it.

Photographs: Gene Dailey/American Red Cross


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