September 2nd and 3rd, 2005 saw a spate of articles and comments in the press all over the world about the effects and aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. A study of selected newspaper articles and comments from different parts of the world reveal interesting tilts and biases. The Guardian, a liberal newspaper from London, uses the opportunity to attack US policies. Both domestic and international policies are criticized in the article which however attempts to absolve President Bush of any direct responsibility for the consequences of the disaster.
The author’s bias in respect of the Iraq war comes through when the war is blamed for the ineffective handling of the disaster. The expression “anarchic south” used in association with Louisiana almost seems to compare Louisiana with Baghdad after its fall. (What Was Revealed). However, it takes a philosophical stand and talks about the past, reflecting the conservative moorings of the newspaper.
Yet, the use of the word “uninsured” in connection with poverty looks rather incongruous, seeming to imply that being insured would be an excuse for the poverty that was exposed. (Loss of an American Dream). However stresses that more than the loss of property, American leaders and the administration have lost credibility and people have lost faith in them. With Australia often accused of racial discrimination and prejudice, the newspaper finds it an opportune moment to point out that divisive racial prejudices and poverty are issues in America too, despite its wealth. It almost seems that the article was just waiting for an occasion to hit back in the same way.
The Israeli militaristic obsessions come through very transparently in the article by Sever Plocker in the “Yediot Aharonot.” (Plocker, Sever). Almost all events have political implications in Israel and that is what probably prompts Plocker to stress upon the political ramifications of Hurricane Katrina. He even goes so far as to predict a stinging defeat for the Republicans in the upcoming Congressional elections.
The “Toronto Star” is very specific about apportioning blame and does not seem to spare anyone. Officials, President Bush, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the National Guard, and the Army Corps of Engineers have all been blamed for making the disaster so devastating. (Grim Lesson). The bias against anything official comes through, even as the article appears to ignore every other aspect of the disaster.
The Edmonton Journal however appears to take a very balanced view, describing the factual details of the disaster and points at the sociological imbalances that prevailed in the city of Louisiana. (A Society in Collapse. Edmonton). Such a view probably reflects the reputation of Edmonton as the cultural capital of Canada.
The New Zealand Herald calls for sympathy, but stresses on the economic consequences of the disaster for the rest of the world, and reminds the reader that nature is all-powerful. New Zealand has a very strong agricultural economy and is very sensitive to crucial role of nature in all such activities, which probably prompts the article to link the disaster with a poor appreciation of the forces of nature. Pravda, published from Moscow, is stridently critical of President Bush and is clearly biased against him and his administration.
The language used verges on the hysterical, and reminds the reader about the verbal diatribes that were so much a part of the Cold War. The criticism is more likely to be meant at all things American and not specifically the present administration or President. Thus the views and comments reflect tilt and balances of one sort or another and very few unbiased ones. America’s domestic and foreign policies are blamed, and the administration and institutions charged with coping with such disasters are accused of ineffectiveness in most comments.
A Brutal Reminder. London. The Guardian. (2005, September 3).
Aaronovitch, David. (2005, September 3). What Was Revealed. The Times. London.
Loss of an American Dream. (2005, September 3). The Age. Melbourne.
Plocker, Sever. (2005, September 3). Political Ramifications: TEL AVIV. Yediot Aharonot.
Grim Lesson. Toronto. Toronto Star. (2005, September 3).
Edmonton Journal. A Society in Collapse. Edmonton. (2005, September 3).
The New Zealand Herald. A Gesture of Sympathy. Auckland. (2005, September 3).
Hinchey, Bancroft. Timothy. (2005, September 2). View Points. Hurricane Katrina. Comment and analysis from London, Melbourne, Tel Aviv, Toronto, Edmonton, Auckland and Moscow. Retrieved March 13, 2007, from http://www.worldpress.org/Americas/2142.cfm