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Why is American tv coverage of the Haitian disaster driving me to drink?

Chris Matthews is on my tv carefully saying how much Haiti’s problems are due to its politics. He is also congratulating the US on how much its image will be burnished because of how quickly it is responding to the crisis. Really. Yes, really. And aren’t we the greatest country in the world?

And most of the reporters that are on my tv are emphasizing how poor and desperate Haiti’s people were before the quake. And how sad isn’t it, that this country has never been able to get its act together oh my! But don’t worry, America’s there to save them now. And aren’t we the greatest country in the world? And not ONE of the assholes has mentioned that the United States and the French were and are a main cause of the poverty, and dictatorship and blood shed. Let me just add to the education going on all over lj and dreamwidth What the US owes Haiti

In 1801, Thomas Jefferson – an owner of 180 slaves himself – became the third President of the United States. Jefferson, who was deeply troubled by the slaughter of plantation owners in St. Domingue, feared that the example of African slaves fighting for their liberties might spread northward.

“If something is not done, and soon done,” Jefferson wrote about the violence in St. Domingue in 1797, “we shall be the murderers of our own children.”

So, in 1801, the interests of Napoleon and Jefferson temporarily intersected. Napoleon was determined to restore French control of St. Domingue and Jefferson was eager to see the slave rebellion crushed.

Through secret diplomatic channels, Napoleon asked Jefferson if the United States would help a French army traveling by sea to St. Domingue. Jefferson replied that “nothing will be easier than to furnish your army and fleet with everything and reduce Toussaint [L’Ouverture] to starvation.”MORE

Catastrophe in Haiti

During the Cold War, the U.S. supported the dictatorships of Papa Doc Duvalier and then Baby Doc Duvalier–which ruled the country from 1957 to 1986–as an anti-communist counterweight to Castro’s Cuba nearby.

Under guidance from Washington, Baby Doc Duvalier opened the Haitian economy up to U.S. capital in the 1970s and 1980s. Floods of U.S. agricultural imports destroyed peasant agriculture. As a result, hundred of thousands of people flocked to the teeming slums of Port-au-Prince to labor for pitifully low wages in sweatshops located in U.S. export processing zones.MORE

Why is Haiti so poor and Hidden from the Headlines: the US war against Haiti and  Democracy Now:US Policy in Haiti Over Decades “Lays the Foundation for Why Impact of Natural Disaster Is So Severe” and Haiti and the global food crisis and What you are not hearing about Haiti (but should be) Really, former US diplomat??!!? REALLY?????? and IMF to Haiti: Freeze Public Wages.

Now, in its attempts to help Haiti, the IMF is pursuing the same kinds of policies that made Haiti a geography of precariousness even before the quake. To great fanfare, the IMF announced a new $100 million loan to Haiti on Thursday. In one crucial way, the loan is a good thing; Haiti is in dire straits and needs a massive cash infusion. But the new loan was made through the IMF’s extended credit facility, to which Haiti already has $165 million in debt. Debt relief activists tell me that these loans came with conditions, including raising prices for electricity, refusing pay increases to all public employees except those making minimum wage and keeping inflation low. They say that the new loans would impose these same conditions. In other words, in the face of this latest tragedy, the IMF is still using crisis and debt as leverage to compel neoliberal reforms.

(I pause here to let loose a hearty FUCK YOU! in the IMF’s direction. The blasted parasites!)
But aren’t we the greatest country in the world? So generous! And they’ll pay us back! After all, this is such an opportunity to further exploit them! Oh come now, I hear you say. Those are just the far rightwing you say? We expect that from them! Oh yeah?

Let me just point out one more thing from Catastrophe in Haiti:

In close collaboration with the new UN Special Envoy to Haiti, former President Bill Clinton, Obama has pushed for an economic program familiar to much of the rest of the Caribbean–tourism, textile sweatshops and weakening of state control of the economy through privatization and deregulation.

In particular, Clinton has orchestrated a plan for turning the north of Haiti into a tourist playground, as far away as possible from the teeming slums of Port-au-Prince. Clinton lured Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines into investing $55 million to build a pier along the coastline of Labadee, which it has leased until 2050.

From there, Haiti’s tourist industry hopes to lead expeditions to the mountaintop fortress Citadelle and the Palace of Sans Souci, both built by Henri Christophe, one of the leaders of Haiti’s slave revolution. According to the Miami Herald:

The $40 million plan involved transforming the now quaint town of Milot, home to the Citadelle and Palace of Sans Souci ruin, into a vibrant tourist village, with arts and crafts markets, restaurants and stoned streets. Guests would be ferried past a congested Cap-Haïtien to a bay, then transported by bus past peasant plantations. Once in Milot, they would either hike or horseback to the Citadelle…named a world heritage site in 1982…

Eco-tourism, archaeological exploration and voyeuristic visits to Vodou rituals are all being touted by Haiti’s struggling boutique tourism industry, as Royal Caribbean plans to bring the world largest cruise ship here, sparking the need for excursions.

So while Pat Robertson denounces Haiti’s great slave revolution as a pact with the devil, Clinton is helping to reduce it to a tourist trap.

Lovely. Having to commoditize one’s religion for the entertainment of strangers. And I wonder if the Haitians will be able to afford the entry fees into that historical monuments and archeological digs that all these tourists will be visiting? To say nothing of that good old standby of exploitation, the sweatshop. Some of whom have fled the country in its hour of greatest need. What a solid economic linchpin. But aren’t we the greatest. most generous country in the World?

And if this all it would be bad but par for the course. But WTF is UP with the insistent, slavering drumbeat anticipation of violence breaking out among the Haitian populace? EVERYONE, from Keith Olbermann, who with his disclaimers shows that HE FUCKING KNOW BETTER BUT CHOOSES TO DO IT ANYWAY, to Brian Williams and that CNN can-we-please-kick-this-stain-on-humanity-Wolf-Blitzer! To the point that they happily this morning seized on rumors that they had rifled a UN org’s food warehouse, and only reluctantly were forced to acknowledge that this was a fucking LIE. And of course there was much seizing on the boys carrying machetes around, completely ignoring the fact that machetes are a fucking farming implement, not a fucking weapon in and of itself! Shades of fucking Katrina.

Of course, the trend of focusing and individualizing and humanizing the trapped and dead Americans, as opposed to the tragic undifferentiated mass of shell shocked dying and dead Haitians is par of the course in disaster reporting on American tv. “Thousands of Haitians are dead tonight (camera pans over shrouded bodies). ” ” Sarah American went to Haiti to study poverty (camera pans over Sarah’s  famiy and friends and homes and dorm rooms and church members etc.”) I suppose its a sign of progress that that mantle of of “American” was bestowed on Americans of Haitian descent? This is actually the first time I have seen disasters happen outside of America and so many non-white Americans were interviewed. :/  And aren’t Americans the greatest country in the world, helping out those poor unfortunate souls and risking their own lives to do it!

To say nothing of sensationalizing the ordinary live sand actions of poor people THEY ARE DIGGING WITH THEIR BARE HANDS OMG THEY ARE SO DESPERATE AND POOR DID I TELL YOU HOW DESPERATE AND POOR THEY ARE??!?!?!??!?!?! THEY ARE DIGGING WITH THEIR BARE HANDS!!!!! What does everyone do if they can’t afford fancy rescue equipment? Or if said fancy equipment is held up at the airport? Why on EARTH was this treated as such a strange exotic novelty?

And then there is the subject of aid. You see, as far as US news networks are concerned, the only aid that matters is US Aid. In the broadcasts that I have seen, US Aid  listed in detail, over and over again. 2000 marines, several ships, piles and piles of stuff, 100 million dollars. But aid from other countries is slipped over.  Barely mentioned. Brian Williams for instance this evening, (this was yesterday) came out with Andrea Mitchell and they promised tell us about all the global aid that that was pouring into Haiti. Only to spend the majority of the segment talking about US aid, and them mentioning 6 or 7 countries in which aid was coming from. Nothing about the specifics. But isn’t the US the greatest country in the world? In fact at one point, Mr. Williams went on to comments that aid was coming in from the “free world”. I presume that China and Cuba and Venezula don’t count? Let me tell you what the rest of the world has been doing:

Brazil offers to build cemetery in Haiti and promises it will respect the Voodoo beliefs of part of the Caribbean country’s population, officials say. They are also “setting up of field hospitals, debris clearing, security, and the distribution of food and water.”

The Sun Online gives us the following info

The United Nations has released $10 million from its emergency funds

Meanwhile, China dispatched a chartered plane loaded up with 10 tons of tents, food, medical equipment and sniffer dogs that arrived in Haiti on Thursday. Accompanying the emergency materials were a 60-member earthquake relief team that had firsthand experience in the country’s own quake disaster two years ago.

Australia pledged an initial $9.3 million for emergency humanitarian relief and reconstruction assistance, with about half going for emergency water, food and shelter, while the remainder will be for rehabilitation efforts.

Japan will provide up to $5 million in aid, along with $330,000 worth of tents and blankets, a Foreign Ministry official said. A four-member fact-finding mission will also be sent to determine what Japan can do to help.


South Korea will give emergency humanitarian aid worth $1 million, its Foreign Ministry spokesman Kim Young-sun said, and is considering sending rescue teams.

The European Commission has approved $4.37 million while member states Spain, the Netherlands and Germany promised millions more.

Rescue teams from France and Switzerland were on their way, while Spain dispatched three planeloads of rescuers and 100 tons of tents, blankets and cooking kits.

The Israeli army sent in two planeloads of rescue staff and equipment to set up a field hospital in Haiti that can serve up to 500 people a day. The crew will include 220 rescue workers, including 40 military doctors and 24 nurses.

Israel was sending in an elite Army rescue unit of engineers and doctors.

Canada sent a military reconnaissance team to assess and planned an initial donation of $4.8 million, with more aid to flow after reports to Ottawa by military reconnaissance team.

I am not counting the international orgs that are giving money and aid as well.

In Haiti seeks aid after powerful quake we find that:

… search and rescue teams were said to be arriving from nearby Guadeloupe and the Dominican Republic with other rescue teams on their way from many other countries…

Russia was ready to dispatch an Il-76 plane with a mobile hospital, food and medicines to help the victims, said a spokeswoman for the Emergency Situations Ministry on Wednesday.

She said 45 people, including 20 doctors, would leave for Haiti on Thursday.

Germany would donate 1 million euros (about 1.45 million dollars) in immediate aid for the victims, the Foreign Ministry said Wednesday.

Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said Germany had called together a rescue team that would help in rescue work and provide relief to victims.

Italy was ready to do its part in the relief operations, ANSA news agency quoted a Foreign Ministry official as saying on Wednesday.

An emergency cargo flight was to be sent to Haiti with food, medicines, tents and other supplies. On board the flight would also be a team from Italy’s civil protection department tasked to make a first-hand evaluation of the immediate needs of the Haitian population.

France had also decided to dispatch civil security service and gendarmes to participate in rescue operations in Haiti, said its Foreign Ministry.

The Brazilian government announced on Wednesday that it would send two planes with 28 tons of food and water to Haiti.

Earlier in the day, Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva announced a 10-million-dollar aid to the country.

Venezuela sent the first airplane with humanitarian aid to Haiti on Wednesday. The help consists on doctors, medicines, water, search and rescue experts and damage assessment specialists.

Inside the previous Democracy Now Link you can find that Cuba already had 400 people there and sent an additional 30 more doctors to help

Nicaragua on Thursday sent 31 military doctors of the Humanitarian Rescue Unit (URH) and humanitarian aid for the victims of a magnitude-7 earthquake that shocked Haiti on Tuesday…The 31 officers of the URH travel in one of the planes, while the other plane was loaded with portable beds and medicines to aid the victims in Haiti. The cost of this aid is of 100,000 U.S. dollars. Among the 31 URH officers there are experts to reestablish the electricity system and to provide the first aids.

In this article we find

Mexico will send doctors, search-and-rescue dogs and infrastructure damage experts.

Sweden has offered 6 million kronor (US$850,000), along with tents, water purification equipment and medical aid.

Denmark has donated 10 million kroner (US$1.9 million).

The Netherlands has donated euro2 million (US$2.91 million) and will send a 60-person search-and-rescue team.

The Irish telecommunications company Digicel said it would donate $5 million to aid agencies and help repair the damaged phone network.

Germany gave euro1.5 million (US$2.17 million) and sent an immediate response team. Another team with 20 rescue dogs is on standby.

Taiwan is flying in 23 rescue personnel and two tonnes of aid and equipment.

Jamaica sends 150 JDF soldiers, and supplies including generators, collapsable water containers, mattresses, water purification tablets and general purpose tents.

Trinidad is sending US 1 million dollars

Qatar sent 44 tons of supplies

Iceland sent a 37- strong team of search and rescue workers to Haiti to help in relief work after the massive earthquake on the island. The team was due to arrive in Haiti later Wednesday and would transport 10 tons of tools and equipment, including communications facilities and water purification gear.

South Africa is sending search and rescue teams

Lebanon will send tents and medical supplies

Panama sent 22 rescue workers and 15 tons of supplies

Turkey is sending a mobile hospital, two check-up devices, 20-member relief team, 10 tons of medicine and medical equipment.Also, Turkey will send 20 tons of tents, blankets, foodstuffs and kitchen sets by a General Staff plane.

Chairman of the Red Crescent Society of Iran Masoud Khatami reported that the society will send its aid…30 tons of food, tents, medicines and more.

The UAE (United Arab Emirates) Red Crescent Authority (RCA) is gearing up to send emergency aid…consisting of foodstuff, medical and sheltering stuff, will be dispatched to the survivors of the earthquake, in keeping with the directives of President His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan and H.H. Sheikh Hamdan bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the Ruler’s Representative in the Western Region and Chairman of the RCA.”The first stage of the relief programme will involve provision of sheltering materials to the people who lost their homes,” added Am Mazrouei.

Georgia is gearing up to send …40 tons of humanitarian aid is available and 10 rescuers who are ready to go to the island at any moment, have been mobilized.

Liberia is sending US $50,000

Bangladesh is sending a medical team

Canada readied two warships, military helicopters and planes with medical supplies, as well as a large relief and rescue force, with a first aircraft expected to arrive in Port-au-Prince on Wednesday.

And I’m sure I’m missing some other countries. *sigh* Frankly, it weren’t for the fact that other people who insist on watching television in my house, I would have thrown it outside a very very long time ago.

16 thoughts on “Why is American tv coverage of the Haitian disaster driving me to drink?”

  1. Erika says:

    Thank you, so much, for posting this. I have been building up a good head of steam over the coverage of this crisis over the past couple of days. I haven’t been really watching any of the television coverage of the earthquake’s aftermath, but I have been reading articles here and there. David Brooks wrote an opinion piece in the NYTimes yesterday that I found quite offensive. While I am not very surprised that US media would focus on the aid that the USA is providing (and minimize the contributions of other countries), I am nonetheless disappointed at how hard it can be to get an accurate picture of what is going on, and who is helping. So thanks, again, for posting this with all the helpful links.

  2. Nalo Hopkinson says:

    I like you so much. And I’m so going to propagate this post, if I may.

  3. bindicated says:

    This is a great collection of links. My partner was watching Brian Williams last night and I was torn between wanting to hear more to know how ridiculous the reporting would get, and wanting to scream. Brian Williams and Ann Curry talked about how they were “on the ground” even in advance of the first responders, and I was really kind of upset by that. I mean, I guess that’s part of what news reporting is about (getting there ASAP), but still… they took up apparently scarce airport space and resources, and for what? So they could stand around in lightweight fabrics and less makeup than usual, wringing their hands about the poor Haitian people who are teetering on the brink of violence? Left a bad taste in my mouth.

  4. Rona says:

    Thanks for posting all these links, and for your commentary. i’ve generally been avoiding US mainstream / right wing media of the haitian earthquake aftermath and reading other countries’ media instead. my family, for example, is from the philippines, another extremely impoverished country that has lived in the shadow of colonialism and neoliberalism for more than a century, and also knows all about natural disasters. media in the third world and even in europe are not so self-congratulatory as in the US. the US has a serious attitude problem–we are so frickin’ full of ourselves, as you clearly pointed out, it’s quite disgusting.

  5. PTCruiser says:

    Thanks so much for taking the time and energy to clarify these issues. The links you have provided are invaluable. Please don’t let these fools drive you to do too much drinking. We need you to remain sober and clear-eyed!

  6. karinova says:

    Lovely job; excellent links.
    I hope your liver recovers.

    As for: <i"Having to commoditize one’s religion for the entertainment of strangers. And I wonder if the Haitians will be able to afford the entry fees into that historical monuments and archeological digs that all these tourists will be visiting? To say nothing of that good old standby of exploitation, the sweatshop." as a Jamaican, I’ve seen all of this. And I can tell you what you already know: hell no they won’t be able to afford it. (I’ll never forget going to the beach one time and happily swimming along… until I got to a chain link fence extending out into the water dividing the “natives’ beach” from some fancy resort’s beach. Hundreds of Jamaicans on one side, and a few dozen white tourists on the other. I was like 8, and I remember thinking, “But…? How can they own the beach?”) And rest assured they’ll be expected to be eternally grateful for the “opportunity” to work like slaves in the tourist & textile industries.

    And as for the “looting” bullet-point, don’t even get me started. The coverage is making me sick. And I live in California, where you’d think they’re be some solidarity/empathy for earthquake victims. As I said elsewhere: instead, it’s basically the anchors excitedly gossiping about how isn’t it the most awfulwonderfulterrible thing you’ve ever seen!? They’re conjecturing all over the place and using the word “anarchy” a lot, with heavy overtones of (delighted?) pearl-clutching. As if that’s what the aftermath of a big earthquake looks like. It’s like they’re imagining that it’s just hoardes of wild-eyed bloodthirsty savages roaming the post-apocalyptic rubble, so crazed and feral that given half a chance (ie: food drops) they will definitely just riot and kill the aid workers and each other; in fact, they’ve probably all turned to cannibalism by now!! It’s anarchy down there! Pop some popcorn!

  7. Foxessa says:

    Yeeeesssssssss my precioussssssss, we wants our lootersssssss, yesssssss we doesssssssssss.

    Why No Aid Distribution in Haiti.

    In the meantime the local Haitian communities here are managing to get into Haiti, bringing supplies and assistence, while the nearly 2000 rescue and assistance groups crowding the airport — controlled by the U.S. military — have managed to rescue about 70 people ….

    A terrific grass roots organization is BSVAC, the Bedford-Stuyvesant Volunteer Ambulance Corps, is sent over a number of people.

    This is so much like what happened in New Orleans. Haiti has a lot of coast. You can get there, then, without an airport. Funny how nobody else thinks of this, except, um, Haitians ….

    Love, C.

  8. Tonya says:

    Thank you so much for this! This will keep me occupied with reading the links for a while and learning crucial info

  9. Léna says:

    Thanks a lot for the first link. I’m French, and this part of my country’s history is really, really not teached at school. The same kind of individualize French/undifferentiated Haitian mass is working here too. How lovely is “fivety thusands deads, 2 millions starving, twenty French missing” ?

  10. SA says:

    Haiti has a lot of coast. You can get there, then, without an airport.

    What are you suggesting here? Transporting supplies in canoes? Because you can’t just sail a cargo ship up onto a sandy beach…

  11. Foxessa says:

    There are other sizes of sea-going vessels than liners and container ships.

    Haitians have been fishing the waters around their country for a long time.

    Many Haitians here grew up either doing this themselves or know people who have and still do, and who travel between many a Caribbean island by sea. They are a sea-going people. Look at the central figures pof the Religion

    Have you noticed that the U.S. has brought many a military vessel to Haiti filled with U.S. troops — not to help Haitians, but to patrol the Haitian coasts — to keep the Haitians from leaving the island, and trying to get to the U.S.? Also, of course, to have the troops handy to quell any ‘larger social disturbance,’ I believe was the language used by the commander, beyond the ‘looting.’

    Love, C.

  12. bindicated says:

    Just noticed one little thing–your links for the Liberia and Bangladesh contributions both go to the Liberia story. :)

  13. Dong Caparelli says:

    What a remarkable post.

  14. Neal says:

    Okay, when I heard that there were 45,000 American citizens in Haiti, I thought, “huh?” Not that it’s not a respectable place to visit, but something tells me it’s not a tourist hot spot. To me, that’s a lot of Americans in one spot to be serving any other purpose than snooping on its closest non-Dominican neighbor: Cuba. Anyone with further insight or facts?

  15. Foxessa says:

    Graduate students (3 of ours alone were airlifted out of Haiti in the first two days, via the DR), musicians, artists, dancers, anthropologists, musicologists, enormous numbers of mormon and evangelical missionaries, medical personnel, writers like Madison Smartt Bell — who owns a house in the north of Haiti — musicians, filmmakers — Jonathan Demme owns a house in Haiti — agronimists and other ngo and as well govement agency people — quite a lot more than 45,000. As of today one of our very best friends is back, who lives there part time, and is an artist — he’s coming in through the DR to get his Haitian wife’s 6 year old daughter, who until now wasn’t allowed to be in the U.S. with her mother and stepfather. There are at least a million Haitian Americans, and they spend as much time in Haiti as possible.

    But yes, many of the individuals there are there to keep U.S. control of the country, and now, that the U.S. has again taken complete control of the state, surround Cuba with its military might, and have a good platform from which to launch an attack on Venezuela, if it so decides.

    Love, C.

  16. Westerly says:

    Thank you so much for this. I can’t say I’ve been innundated with coverage – I’ve been avoiding televised coverage precisely because I am NOT looking for a “Katrina – Round II” in terms of the media; but I have been reading about it on various blogs and sites. It’s refreshing to read something with a political dimension, that is actually historically interested and factual, and goes beyond the “Haitian babies garage salw” mentality that MSM is voraciously promoting.

    It’s a relief to read something intelligent.

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