Heartless, Patronizing Haiti Pundits

While many are opening their hearts and purses to Haiti’s suffering, itâ┚¬Ã¢”ž¢s important to note the corporate media’s high profile exceptions. Televangelist Pat Robertson, carried on Disney‘s Family Channel, suggested Haiti invited the disaster by making a deal with the devil 200 years ago (FAIR Blog, 1/14/09). Radio big Rush Limbaugh discouraged donating to Haiti disaster relief on his January 13 show, saying: “We’ve already donated to Haiti. It’s called the U.S. income tax…. You just canâ┚¬Ã¢”ž¢t keep throwing money at it.” Meanwhile, Fox‘s Bill O’Reilly and New York Times columnist David Brooks each presented nauseatingly patronizing prescriptions for Haitiâ┚¬Ã¢”ž¢s rehabilitation.

On his January 13 show, O’Reilly said the way to cure Haiti’s economic and social problems was to impose discipline on Haitians:

My travels there have been illuminating. Only half the population can read and write. Unemployment’s more than 50 percent. Most Haitians live on less than $2 a day. No matter how much charity is given, no matter how many good intentions there are, Haiti will remain chaotic until discipline is imposed.

In his January 15 Times column, David Brooks offered his prescription: To “fix” their “progress-resistant culture,” Haiti needs to develop “No Excuses countercultures,” and turn to paternalism:

It’s time to promote locally led paternalism. In this country, we first tried to tackle poverty by throwing money at it, just as we did abroad. Then we tried microcommunity efforts, just as we did abroad. But the programs that really work involve intrusive paternalism.

But according to the human rights group MADRE, the U.S. has already tried that:

Ironically, Brooks’ prescription of “intrusive paternalism” to “fix the culture,” aptly sums up U.S. policy towards Haiti for the past 100 years: a brutal military occupation from 1915 to 1934; support for dictatorship from 1957 to 1986; and, more recently, the imposition of trade policies that have further impoverished people. What the outside world needs to “fix” is not Haitian culture, but its own self-serving policies that have left thousands of Haitians literally buried alive.

Bill Fletcher, executive editor of Black Commentator, had more to say on this subject on the latest edition of FAIR’s radio show CounterSpin (1/15/10).

About Steve Rendall

Senior Media Analyst and Co-producer of CounterSpin Steve Rendall is FAIR's senior analyst. He is co-host of CounterSpin, FAIR's national radio show. His work has received awards from Project Censored, and has won the praise of noted journalists such as Les Payne, Molly Ivins and Garry Wills. He is co-author of The Way Things Aren't: Rush Limbaugh's Reign of Error (The New Press, 1995, New York City). Rendall has appeared on dozens of national television and radio shows, including appearances on CNN, C-SPAN, CNBC, MTV and Fox Morning News. He was the subject of a profile in the New York Times (5/19/96), and has been quoted on issues of media and politics in publications such as the Chicago Tribune, Washington Post and New York Times. Rendall contributed stories to the International Herald Tribune from France, Spain and North Africa; worked as a freelance writer in San Francisco; and worked as an archivist collecting historical material on the Spanish Civil War and the volunteers who fought in it. Rendall studied philosophy and chemistry at San Francisco State University, the College of Notre Dame and UC Berkeley.