Thursday, October 13, 2005

Do We Care?

The earthquake in South Asia was certainly a catastrophe. Katrina was also a catastrophe. The death toll in South Asia is over 40,000. Katrina, over 1000. When I look at the way the media has handled both disasters, I start to wonder. Why is it that Katrina received major media coverage, where for days and days it was the top headline on major American media websites, while the earthquake in South Asia, on many media outlets, has become buried beneath headlines about idiots like Senators Bill Frist and Tom Delay?

Is American life more valuable than Indian, Pakistani and Kashmiri life? Reach deep down, ask yourself -- was I more concerned about the lives of those left in Katrina's wake? We are the viewers and readers that major American media outlets cater to, after all. Is the lack of media attention to the rescue efforts in South Asia indicative of a problem with American attitudes or American media or both?

I haven't seen Bill Clinton or George Bush holding hands on television asking people to donate money to help these poor people. Last I checked, Hollywood stars aren't marshalling their efforts to help victims of the earthquake.

Granted, the tsunami received media attention and, yes, Hollywood came out in full force. The death toll from that catastrophe is 118,000 lives. Does a macabre threshold exist? Will we only pay attention to the loss of life in foreign countries when a hundred thousand people or more die? Note -- I'm discussing trends here. I know that many of you care deeply about the loss of all human life. Yet my main question remains -- on average, do we deem American life as more valuable than that of our foreign counterparts?

I discussed the tsunami death toll with a coworker this morning. His response, "Man... 118,000, huh? I'm glad we've forgotten about that one."

18 Comments:

Anonymous FNPhD said...

American life is more valuable **to me** than life elsewhere. I'm sure if you ask the countrymen of those killed in the quake, that they are less concerned about American life than I am. I think it's natural to be more concerned about the lives close to you than those far away. I mean, who wouldn't shoot two intruders to protect their chile or wife? Two for one? Bad deal, right?

10:47 AM  
Blogger mindful said...

Katrina is also more important to Americans because it is more relevant to our situation. A disaster in Pakistan, horrifying though it may be, does not reflect on America's disaster readiness, while Katrina certainly did.

11:16 AM  
Blogger Edge said...

Disaster is unfortunate anywhere. I'm sorry it's not getting the attention it deserves.

~Jef

11:23 AM  
Blogger RT said...

Vavoom, I understand your frustration here -trust me, I do- but let's not jump the gun. American people (the yous and mes) are very giving. We gave to the tsunami victims, we gave till it hurt to the Katrina/Rita victims, and we will give to the earthquake victims also (I find it hard to believe that we would leave them with no help at all, especially after so many have helped us in our time of need,) but it may take a little more time. We're still in the process of licking our own wounds, but when it's all said and done, I suspect that we will be as generous as possible.

As for the media coverage, I'm a little baffled by that, too. Although, I am seeing more and more stories coming out. Maybe that's just a matter of time also? Of course, it'll probably never get as much coverage in America as Katrina/Rita did, simply because it's not as accessible to our news reporters.

12:08 PM  
Blogger Vavoom said...

fnphd: As inappropriate as humor may be when discussing such matters, exactly what kind of chile are you willing to kill for? Hormel? I'm a Stagg guy, myself.

12:30 PM  
Anonymous FNPhD said...

Vavoom: Don't touch my f@!*%&g Hormel!!!!

You'd think Fancypants would have taught me to proofread....

3:14 PM  
Blogger Ivan said...

For one thing, it is farther, so its harder to connect with it. We just had the katrina disaster so its going to take longer to get the wheels in motion because the givers are getting stretched out. As for the converage i don't know. But how do you think the people in Guatemala and El Salvador and Honduras feel, they have gotten practically no coverage, and i know it is less then 5k people dead. But they still deserve converage. Just because its less doesn't mean its less important.

4:44 PM  
Blogger Lily said...

I don't feel that life in one geographical area is better or more important than life in another. I haven’t been watching TV news so I am surprised at the lack of attention the South Asia earthquake is getting. As morbid as it may sound perhaps there was just a lack of devastating video coverage to accompany the story.

At work we have started a relief fund for the South Asia quake, I doubt that it will reach the 2 million mark that the tsunami brought in or that Katrina brought and is still bringing in, but people are generously donating.

Since Katrina happened in our own backyard so to speak people can relate to it more. Every one of us has been affected by Katrina’s aftermath in the form of rising fuel costs and electricity costs. Where I think the media has dropped the ball on Katrina is its lack of reporting on the gross human rights violations and environmental health problems. Blacks and Latinos are blatantly being harassed and singled out.

We had two colleagues visit the Gulf Coast area and the stories they told sounded like pre 1960’s segregated US. I almost expected them to say they saw signs that read this drinking fountain for colored only. It’s sad and embarrassing.

6:48 PM  
Blogger An80sNut said...

I do agree that we aren't taking the latest disaster with as much fervor as the tsunami and Katrina/Rita. I find that there are two reasons for this. The big reason is that we are still trying to get people back in to look at their homes (because a lot of them aren't able to be walked into yet) and the outcry from people saying that we aren't helping those at home but going abroad could be deafening. The second reason is pretty much put succinctly in a recent statement made by Susan Sarandon, "You need to keep the press involved in the aftermath when all of those really dramatic pictures are no longer on the air, when the water drains." She went on to say, "Now, at least, we're aware and America is aware about how other Americans have been living. Nobody's been paying any attention to them." Not that I take celebrities seriously but it seems like the idea of keeping the focus here is to keep politicizing it.

BTW: I don't remember seeing anyone mention Dennison's.

7:33 PM  
Blogger Xenia said...

If you are interested in a objective outside observer for both the Katrina/Rita disaster and the Pakistani disaster, try to listen to the BBC. I do each morning on my local NPR on my way into work. They are commiting just as much time to this catastrophe as they did to our hurricanes. As well, this is a good resource for information about Russian and African issues. I love the BBC because they aren't as focused on pleasing an advertiser as the American media outlets, so you actually get real news from multiple different sources. Also, I know more people effected by the Pakistani earthquake as I have close friends from work with family in the area, than I knew directly effected by the Hurricanes.

9:07 PM  
Blogger thc said...

C'mon Vavoom. Do the Boston papers carry as much news about murders in say, St. Louis or Denver as they do Cambridge? Of course not. Yes, we do care more about things closer to home than on another continent--it's human nature. What are you trying to suggest?

9:20 PM  
Blogger Vavoom said...

thc: I'm not suggesting anything. I'm asking a simple question -- is American life viewed as more valuable than that of our foreign counterparts?

Your comparison to deaths in Denver or otherwise is somewhat problematic. Americans have shown that, on a national level, they *do* care about the deaths of their compatriots that live in other states. Katrina was given as an example.

It is a simple matter of fact -- this tragedy is getting less attention by American media outlets than did Katrina. I was simply asking for your opinion why.

Considering that the integral roles that those nations play in the war on terror, how can we claim that a massive earthquake there will not affect us. As always, I ask such questions out of curiousity, not rabble rousing.

9:38 PM  
Blogger Vavoom said...

Ivan: Great point. I'll reiterate -- 5,000 have died in Guatemala and Honduras and the media has paid virtually no attention to it, does a macabre threshold exist before we pay attention?

9:44 PM  
Blogger mis_nomer said...

hm.. What did your coworker mean with that comment of his? I don't think I would ever forget that tsunami.

11:02 PM  
Blogger Camphor said...

Probably does exist.
More like - how immediate is the problem?

BBC, however, has fair coverage. The only news channel that I trust to have fair coverage, in fact.

Distance has something to do with it - I'm in India. I did not think about Katrina much - the US was taking care of it's own just fine... So I didn't bother.

India is more important to me... because I'm Indian, and because there is more I can do here.

Besides, there were floods down here that killed about 1500 people that I was more concerned about. Floods, in the same country as me, spreading disease apart from killing my countrymen (and women) and ruining infrastructure.

After the floods the earthquake. I haven't the TIME to look outside my country, my hands are full as it is.

As for the macbre videos - *grim smile* They just haven't been telecast whereever you are. Teh TV is full of it here. I'm glad I don't watch TV. I can help without seeing people buried under tons of cement and children starving and freezing to death in the aftermath.

The aftermath is more terrible anyway.

3:44 AM  
Blogger Linny said...

human compassion should not be contained within imaginary borders... but it is

6:40 AM  
Blogger Linny said...

on a humorous note (not that this topic is at all humorous but I just must) after the tsunami a coworker of mine and I were talking about it and she said... "well it was bad enough when the first one hit but then the second one hit..." I looked at her dumbfounded.. "huh? I only heard about the one..."

"no" she said (dead serious)... "there were TWO nami's"

6:46 AM  
Anonymous Mike said...

Recall extremist Muslims rejoicing over Katrina? The earthquake hit smack in the middle of Islam's most extreme area and it happened exactly 40 days after Katrina. 40 days is the Muslim's period of mourning. Also, do a word search on forty in the Bible--about 145 instances. Remember Noah's 40 days and nights? Israel was in wilderness for 40 years. Jesus was tempted by Satan for 40 days. It's definitely a number favored by God for judgment, testing, and completion. Here's a thought...40 days after Paki earthquake is Nov. 17th. Will anything major happen? Time will tell.

10:19 AM  

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