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Lee film public relations disaster for Louisiana

Never mistake the vast majority of movie critics for sophisticated critical thinkers (although there are exceptions to that rule, one present, one past), which is why Oliver Stone’s World Trade Center drew jeers and Spike Lee’s When the Levees Broke garnered applause at the Venice Film Festival – while the sensible American public probably is reacting in the opposite fashion.

In almost a self-parody of their lack of intelligence, many critics thought Stone’s effort too emotionally-laden (and too pro-American) while they heaped praise on Lee’s effort which was nothing but an intellectually-void screed based on one long emotional whine that lacked utterly any real critical, sophisticated analysis of the politics surrounding Hurricane Katrina’s destructive visitation a year ago. And the punch line is it was Stone’s film that is fiction based on fact, while Lee took a story of fact and turned it into fiction.

I haven’t seen World Trade Center but the public certainly has been blessing it at the box office. However, I have seen When the Levees Broke and can tell you that, among the American public, it’s probably going to do more harm than good if its goal was to arouse sympathy that produces a political payoff of more and quicker aid to New Orleans.

This is because Lee, in his quest to argue that the response to the hurricane was conditioned by a callous conservative Bush Administration and racist America, has to highlight the most insipid arguments and whiniest people in order to sell that ridiculous thesis. Just to give some examples from the film:

  • A number of people criticized the rescuers' response, mainly led by the federal government, some casting aspersions that poverty and race had something to do with it. But turning on the History Channel later after the second part of the Lee film aired, one could watch a (genuine) documentary on the tremendous efforts made by federal troops to rescue people, and after that you would have to conclude the Lee film must have been about some other disaster, given the truth you had just seen compared to the people he put on camera describing it.
  • Others whined about how they were cooped up for days then sent to distant locations, oblivious to the fact that the American taxpayer were coughing up all the money to pay for this and first responders from all over the country were putting their lives on the line to help them out. Do these people even know the meaning of the word “gratitude?”
  • Still others were pictured standing around, carping about all the things they had lost (a couple drinking beer in the process), not truly realizing that that was all they had lost, just things. They had their lives, if they had common sense they had had insurance, and, while they were waiting around for others to help them after their $2,000 blank check courtesy of the American taxpayer (assuming it wasn’t spent fraudulently with other bogus claims), others were taking matters into their own hands and pulling themselves up from bad luck (curious that Lee never obviously showed any of the destruction – or steady rebuilding by residents – in mostly-white hard-hit Lakeview). Lee never bothered to put the latter on camera.
  • After a pedestrian media career, liberal radio talk show host Garland Robinette transformed himself from drive-by talking head, corporate shill, and occasional concealed weapon-carrier to be everybody’s angry man after the storm, and in the film pugnaciously and obnoxiously carried out his wild man act, accusing the federal government/Bush Administration of slighting Louisiana – despite the fact that the slow pace of recovery has been almost entirely attributable to the actions of state and local politicians. Viewers probably don’t know that Robinette largely has been AWOL in substantive (as opposed to easy shots, admittedly numerously provided by Louisiana politicians) criticism of those politicians before and after the storm.
  • Perhaps the most asinine comment of all came from Tulane professor of history and frustrated wannabe Kerry Administration member Douglas Brinkley, author of an entirely simplistic, inadequate tome on the disaster, who said more explicitly than even Robinette that the feds/Bush were shortchanging Louisiana on relief money. So he’s telling us that the lion’s share of the recovery money which is going to Louisiana provided by the Bush Administration/Congress totaling $110 billion isn’t enough? That the typical American taxpayer who has paid $2,000 each for this gift isn’t coughing up enough? (Actually, few taxpayers will pay that much; a small percentage, America’s higher-earners, will pay the majority of it.) How much is enough, $250 billion?

    Not all vignettes feature such crass people and attitudes. A few reinforce the idea that big government by its nature is inefficient, showing people with legitimate gripes and heroic struggles who acted much more gracefully. But what the casual viewer gets out of all of this is a highly-distorted picture of what Louisianans and New Orleanians are like. Through Lee’s prism, they come across as self-important claimers of victimhood who are entitled to impose on the generosity of America.

    Again, the people portrayed and commentators utilized no doubt represent the distinct minority of those affected by the hurricane, and, again, Lee needs these kinds of people to try to fob off his view on an American public which has become increasingly skeptical of the need to spend larger and larger sums on an area representing a half of a percent of the American population that has a well-deserved reputation for dysfunctionality in governing. But this film just manages to achieve the reverse: it only reinforces America’s impression of Louisiana as blaming others for problems it could lead in solving, preferring to waste its time by sticking its hand out demanding no-strings-attached charity.
  • 1 comment:

    Anonymous said...

    You at least took the time to watch the show. Most people splatter their opinions around without ever laying eyes on it.
    Unfortunately, I think we can both say that you would be a better leader than a lot of these crazies who don't take the time to read and vote with their pocket book. Most politicians (all parties included) have let us down in the recent years. Their failures are obvious to the educated eye and their actions are self-preserving. We need new leadership on all levels local, state and federal. Maybe you could run for office. I do not agree with you on everything but at least you take the time to explain yourself.