Friday, May 28, 2010

Oily News That's Fit to Print: Hysteria Isn't Helping

President Obama visited Louisiana and conferred with public officials there. He said: "Understandably, the feelings of frustration and anger, the sense that any response is inadequate -- we expect that frustration and anger to continue until we actually solve this problem. But in the meantime, we’ve got to make sure that everybody is working in concert, that everybody is moving in the same direction. And I want everybody to know that everybody here -- at every level -- is working night and day to end this crisis. We’re considering every single idea out there, especially from folks who know these communities best."

The President is more understanding than I am. Certainly there is justifiable anger, and in particular continuing suspicion about BP's attempt to manage news about the entire situation, including alleged strongarm tactics versus reporters. But the cable hysteria, once started, is apparently unstoppable, and it's getting wilder in its misinformation, misinterpretations and irresponsibility. Hysteria isn't helping.

There's a certain disingenuousness about it, as if reporters who are supposed to be informed are suddenly aware of bullying and deception by oil companies, or that years of stripping the federal government of resources and regulatory ability empowered by their mindlessly repeating the political oversimplifications of the shrink the government until you can drown it in the Gulf of Mexico Rabid Right.

What misinformation and misinterpretation? Chris Matthews and his crew going off half-cocked about the Coast Guard chief who seemed not to know that the Top Kill procedure was "suspended." Well, it wasn't suspended. Sending the mud down the pipes was suspended, according to plan, so the pressure could be more effectively studied. Now CNN is criticizing Allen for saying the mud was being sent down when it wasn't. Is that really what he said? This is media hysteria. Yes, the whole thing is extremely bad and it's going to get worse, and the effects will be felt for a very long time. If the genocide of wildlife species isn't enough, there's the human beings who are going to be sickened as well as driven into poverty. We can expect more hysteria when the Top Kill procedure doesn't work. But as President Obama said, when the cameras move on, the government will still be there, doing what can be done.

In a comment on a Daily Kos thread I wrote this: I agree that limiting media access unless areas are too unsafe is outrageous. But there are two other things going on here, regarding government response.

First is that the Obama administration is hampered by government capabilities that have been shrunk. People don't want to pay for government, and then when they need government, they want them to have every advanced resource on hand immediately.

Second is that some things just can't be done or done instantly--it's not humanly or institutionally possible. Yet we've got 24 hour coverage and panic-inducing screamers like Chris Matthews screeching misinformation and ignorance along with legitimate concerns.

Today I thought about a little history: about the months and months at the start of World War II, before the U.S. fully geared up its resources, that the Allies lost battle after battle. The U.S. forces were getting slaughtered in the Pacific for months. What if the media was panicking people 24 hours a day then?

This is a crisis with no good solution. It's going to have long and deep consequences. We're paying the piper. This is the future. Grow up and put your shoulder to the wheel."

Another commenter replied: "What are you doing on this blog? You make sense for chrissakes."

President Obama ended his remarks in Louisiana with this statement:

"But as I said yesterday, and as I repeated in the meeting that we just left, I ultimately take responsibility for solving this crisis. I’m the President and the buck stops with me. So I give the people of this community and the entire Gulf my word that we’re going to hold ourselves accountable to do whatever it takes for as long as it takes to stop this catastrophe, to defend our natural resources, to repair the damage, and to keep this region on its feet. Justice will be done for those whose lives have been upended by this disaster, for the families of those whose lives have been lost -- that is a solemn pledge that I am making."

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