Wednesday, September 07, 2005


The crudely (naively?...primitively??) painted cover for the latest NEW YORKER magazine (9/12/05; the grandiosely titled: "REQUIEM" by Ana Juan) depicts a black jazz instrument-playing man standing on what's supposed to be a cast-iron balcony overlooking the flooded streets of the French Quarter; the floodwaters are so high that the street sign pole - (it says Bourbon Street) - is partly underwater.

ONE PROBLEM: the French Quarter remained dry, (as did MOST of ther city which was near the river).

I WONDER: Why did they run a cover that so patently distorts the truth, and that also plays into anachronistic racial and regional stereotypes?

The cover - (sort of a "poster" for the editorial content of the magazine) - reveals more about the New Yorker magazine's penchant for knee-jerk "thinking" and stereotypes, and their own narrow, facile prejudices than it reveals about New Orleans and its flood.

My guess is that they feel they have "artistic license" to depict the catastrophe in a way which their readers will find accessible - and which will reiterate and dramatize their editorial stance toward the flood. Which says a lot about the disdain they feel for the truth and their readers. They are - in effect - saying: "Why let the truth get in the way of a good cover/good story!?"

A more truthful cover might have depicted the Convention Center - itself (like the French Quarter) sitting on dry land, flooded only in a sea of self-inflicted human filth, and human misery born of the mayor's neglect; their own understandable fear, and no one able to take charge and establish order. In other words: a HUMAN tragedy caused (or at least COMPOUNDED) by HUMAN NEGLIGENCE (of Mayor Nagin), and not SIMPLY a natural disaster.

But this truth wouldn't look so nice on coffee-tables. They'd rather have a deceitful yet pretty picture under their masthead than the awful truth. I think that says everything you need to know about The New Yorker magazine.

[Inside the ON-LINE magazine, Nich Lemann - a former contributing editor to The New Yorker, and Nawlins native - can't help but speak SOME truth:

"But it’s also true that, after the levees broke, we watched every single system associated with the life of a city fail: the electric grid, the water system, the sewer system, the transportation system, the telephone system, the police force, the fire department, the hospitals, even the system for disposing of corpses. Perhaps it is all the fault of the force of the storm; I suspect that, as we move into the yearned-for realm of reliable information, we will find out that society and nature were co-conspirators in the tragedy. And the societal fault won’t all have been the federal government’s."

As someone who lived in Nawlins for a few years - and LOVES the city - I believe the truth of this observation will eventually be driven home. That the worst problems were caused by the local "government" - mostly by Nagin...

ASIDE: the LEVEES did NOT fail; a few canals did - chiefly the 17th Street CANAL. The chief of the canal system has said that it would take 20 years to reinforce the canals and make them able to hold back a category 4+ hurricane. Therefore, it is disingenuous to blame Bush - or Clinton, for that matter. This VULNERABILITY would have to have been addressed beginning in the 1980's if is was to have been corrected in time for Katrina.]

A better cover might have depicted the Superdome as an ark - as poor vulnerable people streamed in - AT THE BEHEST OF MAYOR NAGIN - BEFORE the storm - not knowing what was going to be in store for them... not knowing that this ark and its Noah would fail... It would have been a much more sadly ironic and more truthful cover.


kalisekj said...

Cool Blog, I never really thought about it that way.

I have a Hurricane Katrina blog. It pretty much covers hurricane related stuff.

Thank you - and keep up the thoughts!

Anonymous said...

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Come and check it out if you get time, Scott.