Last night, I watched a movie which instantly joined Shane and Clint Eastwood‘s Unforgiven as one of my favorite Westerns. In The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, James Stewart plays Ransom Stoddard, a lawyer who thinks he can deal with Liberty Valance, a bloodthirsty bandit, through the law, but ends up facing him in a gun battle. Legend has it that he shot Liberty Valance (Lee Marvin), but in reality, hiding in the shadows, Tom Doniphon (John Wayne) fires the bullet that finishes off the villain. When, years later, Stoddard returns to the town for Doniphon’s funeral, he tells the press the true story, the editor of the Shinbone Star refuses to use it, saying “When the legend becomes fact, print the legend.”
It seems in the wake of the Hurricane Katrina, the MSM is not much different from its fictional counterpart. In this case, the media made the legend–that President Bush and the federal government failed miserably in response to this once-in-a-century catastrophe. As the resignation earlier today of FEMA head Michael Brown indicates, the federal response was far from perfect, but as this blog (e.g., here, here and here) and others have shown, local agencies made the lion’s share of mistakes in the evacuation and recovery efforts.
But, despite this evidence, the MSM continues to report the legend. In an AP article today, Jennifer Loven notes that the president visited New Orleans today with “New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin and Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco — both of whom have criticized the federal response.” Ms. Loven focuses only on criticism of the president and neglects to mention that many have criticized those two individuals for flawed city and state responses (respectively) to the disaster.
Mainstream broadcast media report a similar legend as well. In a post last Thursday (final UPDATE), Polipundit’s Lorie Byrd observed that when she was watching CNN’s coverage of the disaster
it has been all about Washington and Bush and politics. No act of God. No worst natural disaster in the history of America. No heroes helping their neighbors. No mayor failing to evacuate his constituents, and then putting his Hyatt friends in front of those taking refuge at the Superdome in line for a bus out of town. No governor hemming and hawing and sobbing and failing to take action. Nope. I have only been watching for 30 minutes now. I admit that if I watched long enough maybe I would see some of those stories as well. But who can stand to watch CNN for that long?
It seems the MSM has chosen its theme–its legend, if you will–and insists on reporting on the criticism leveled against President Bush and federal authorities. For the media, the legend of the president’s failure has already become fact.
Just look again at Loven’s AP piece where she address only the criticism leveled against the president and federal officials while ignoring that leveled against local officials. In its coverage of the federal response to Hurricane Katrina, the MSM show themselves to be the real world equivalent of the Shinbone Star. By and large, they’re not interested in reporting the facts, but in spinning their own legends, particularly those which paint the president, his supporters and policies in a negative light.
-Dan (AKA GayPatriotWest): GayPatriotWest@aol.com