Ageism and Katrina
Neil deMause’s piece is excellent (“Katrina’s Vanishing Victims,” 7-8/06), especially in showing that the media’s memory for race and class lasted just about a month. But what of age? That is still the most underreported story of all.
The “vast majority” of the people who died in New Orleans were old, Martin Smith reported on Frontline’s special on “The Storm” (11/22/06). Katrina was “one of the worst medical catastrophes for the aged in recent U.S. history,” reporter Roma Khanna concluded in the Houston Chronicle (1/28/05). As early as late November, the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals knew that 78 percent of the identified dead were over 51. Seventy-eight percent. People died by age.
Older New Orleansians were most at risk, by being also predominantly poor and female and African-American, and also sometimes weak, ill or disabled. In New Orleans, 23 percent of the 484,000 citizens had disabilities. The figure was 50 percent for people over 65.
Not race or class but age was the most underreported story of Katrina. Front-line’s “The Storm” gave its shocking fact—“the vast majority” of dead were old—only one sentence in an hour-long show. Nobody (according to Nexis) picked up the statistic about the 78 percent over 51. Nursing-home deaths accounted for only 10 percent of the toll. The full story goes far broader and deeper than the cases of institutional abuse.
Why did so many people older than 51 die? Unfortunately, no one has investigated, or even done enough reporting to answer this, except piecemeal. But we know that many deaths were preventable. Ageism explains much about why they died in the first place, and ageism explains the lack of media coverage. It’s a grim story both ways, and it still hasn’t been told.
Margaret Morganroth Gullette
Resident Scholar, Women’s Studies Research Center
Resisting the Pundit Phalanx
Re: “Tom Friedman’s Flexible Deadlines” (Extra!, 7-8/06):
I don’t usually read Thomas Friedman’s columns. So thanks for the revealing chronology of his prophetic words regarding resolution of the war in Iraq. I stopped reading his column after the first few proved, once again, that good English and a precocious mind don’t always combine to produce sound thinking.
Unfortunately, having the technical prerequisites and a desire to succeed in a corporate-dominated society have filled the mainstream media with a phalanx of such pundits who make it possible for the Establishment to dehumanize society and wage aggressive wars.
Those who can see through clever writing and its effect on the public mind have their work cut out for them. FAIR regularly offers such insight, important work that promotes critical thought and resistance to propaganda. Please continue!
Nonintervention in Nicaragua
I need to make a clarification regarding the letter by my compañero, David Gullette, in last month’s Extra! (7-8/06). In the last paragraph, he states that the Nicaragua Network Hotline has “also come out against [Daniel] Ortega.”
As a member of the executive committee of the Nicaragua Network, I can tell you that our national organization does not support any single candidate in the upcoming presidential race. Representing 200-plus constituent organizations from around the U.S., we understand that there are different preferences and positions taken that must be respected.
The position on which we are fundamentally and concretely united is that the Washington regime must stop its gross interference in Nicaragua’s elections and, indeed, all of its internal affairs. U.S. Ambassador Paul Trivelli has publicly admitted that Washington has already allocated over $12 million to “facilitating” (read subverting) the electoral process in Nicaragua (again). Trivelli has been ham-handedly bribing, coercing and threatening the right-wing parties to coalesce in order to field a single candidate against the FSLN—conduct that would be patently illegal for a foreign agent to attempt here.
Readers should be alert to the corporate media’s increasing campaign to demonize the left in Nicaragua, and to keep milking the Cold War/terrorism paranoia, as they are already doing against President Hugo Chávez Frías of Venezuela.
I’m sure FAIR will continue to do its great job of exposing the never-ending propaganda coming from Washington and the anything-but-liberal media.
Thank you for commenting on the execrable reporting on stolen election issues after 2004. I have not done this experiment myself, but I’m sure that if one took most of those stories and counted the number of statements dismissive of stolen election concerns, they would by far outnumber the number of statements allowed into a piece that actually took them seriously.
As shocking as Sherole Easton’s story is, I think an even more shocking story, which has received little or no media coverage that I am aware of, is the multi-affidavit story about a recount where election workers in one county in Ohio were actually using stickers to change Kerry votes to Bush votes in order to hit the “correct” numbers in the sample recount (Raw Story, 1/26/05).
How do things like this go unnoticed in the mainstream media? I mean, come on, election workers manually altering ballots! That’s juicy stuff!