Saturday, September 03, 2005


NBC's glittering telethon to help those hit by Katrina got thrown a little off course when Kanye West forgot these occasions are meant to allow CEOs of large corporations to parade about holding big cheques, and decided to comment on the pisspoor response to the disaster. NBC cut his remarks from the West Coast broadcast, and tried to cut away from his unscripted attack on George Bush, but by then it was a little too late:

"George Bush doesn't care about black people... I hate the way they portray us in the media. If you see a black family, it says they're looting. See a white family, it says they're looking for food."

NBC was so paniced about this they dragged Chris Tucker back onscreen instead (and it says a lot when he's seen as being the safe pair of hands) and then issued a even more panicky statement:

"It would be most unfortunate if the efforts of the artists and the generosity of millions of Americans are overshadowed by one person's opinion."

On the other hand, wouldn't it be scandalous if all the good work that needs to be done is allowed to drown out a debate that really needs to be had? For what it's worth, we half agree with West - the US media we've seen certainly did portray black people as borderline criminal when most were just doing what they needed to do as survive, and the focus of the likes of Fox on looting and "lawlessness" seemed to persuade the few authorities left in New Orleans that they should put more effort into protecting buildings than rescuing people. But we don't think that Bush doesn't care about the people in the Superdome because they're black - he doesn't care about the poor regardless of what colour they are.

(To be fair, in a less-well reported segment of his statement, West did suggest there was an economic element here, too:

[He] said America is set up "to help the poor, the black people, the less well-off as slow as possible.")

Of course, the blogpile is buzzing - the sort of people who treat Matt Drudge as an unimpeachable news source are fuming with pooly-spelled rage - like the aptly-named Living In The Past (they don't say how far in the past, but we're guessing back before that nasty Rosa Parks spoiled everything):

Hey Kanye West, You are nothing but a USER………The IDIOT just had to use the Funding Raising effort to sneak in comments about The Irag War. Kanye, your a LOSER………

That post is exactly as we found it - we presume The Irag war is the one that Bush has planned once he's finished with Iraq and Iran. It's true, Kanye does make an oblique reference to Iraq - although he doesn't actually sound critical, saying something along the lines of "we understand the people who could help are elsewhere, fighting another war..." - to us, that would seem to be an accurate summation of part of the problem of logistics rather than a condemnation of George's Middle East adventurism. But then there is currently an enormous rawness amongst the illiberal blogs at any attempt to even suggest that there might be something worthwhile in considering the current events on the Gulf Coast in the context of the massive financial and human commitment made in that other Gulf (and, incidently, in the context of global warming at all.)

The Crossfader saw West's remarks as a vital part of, erm, "keeping it gangsta":

Let’s face it. You ain’t gangsta unless you can slap the President on network television.

We'd say less gangsta, more "first step in 2016 presidential campaign."

RickSpeak isn't thinking of Presidents - this is little more than the first scent of a coming revolution:

[America] is being preyed upon by opportunists who strike with both subtlety and bluntness. Once the subtlety is gone, the revolution will have begun. We are close to the end of subtlety.

You'll note that it's West who is considered to be displaying the lack of subtelty here, and not Bush, with his gurning, grinning press conferences while people are dying. We're still not sure why Bush felt his "enjoyed myself a little too much" comments last night were appropriate; certainly, Kanye has done Bush a favour by giving this for people to latch onto rather than Bush's bizzare claim on live TV yesterday evening that "I am satisified with the response."

Getting a little confused is Everything Between, which can't see the difference between criticising a politician and taking a stand against homophobia:

Kanye says “Bush doesn’t care about black people” aside Mike Meyers in this segment on NBC’s Katrina fundraising extravaganza. But they censored him on the later West Coast broadcasts! And he’s the one who just last week called for all rappers to stop criticizing gays.

Er... yes, he did... and...?

Resurrection Song is upset that someone allowed the real world to intrude on the telethon world:

In a moment when he should have been thanking people for their generosity, asking people to do even more, and, in general, being appreciative of the fact that people from around the world are rising to the task that hurricane Katrina left us, Kanye West instead chose to say some seriously nasty, unfounded things

Yes, dammit - have we learned nothing from years of fundraisers? People aren't meant to be angry, and demanding decent treatment as right on a telethon - they're meant to restrict themselves to slots on preshot videos, and perhaps the odd tearful spot of gratitude. Heaven forbid that the authentic voice of the people who are supposed to be at the centre of the event actually makes to air.

You can download the moment for yourself.


The Humanity Critic said...

great post.

Anonymous said...

The amazing thing about the blogs posted is that everyone is ignoring what is the real issue. There were people in what is supposed to be the richest country starving and not your ordinary starving. I mean bodies just on the street uncovered and not from drowning. These were not people starving because they are poor, it was because the powers that be didn't even care. Bush is always grinning like some sort of snake and we are supposed to trust this man?

Anonymous said...

Kanye was emotional and distraught. The important thing is he and a large number of the same community feel cheated and not valued by this country. It is notable that poor people regardless of race get the other end of the stick. He did strike at the core of this tragedy. The people didnt just die because of a hurricane, they died in monstrous numbers because the levees werent improved, budgets were slashed, the Guard was somwhere else etc. etc. This has deeper roots than Katrina and cannot be simply argued away. I guess its time to find out what the American dream means to very poor people in the midst of plenty.

Anonymous said...

Why is it when a "rapper" makes a comment that everyone is thinking..he gets critized. He was only speaking what every American with a heart was thinking when no aide was sent after many days. When the Tsuanmi hit, America was rushing to their aide without anyone having to ask. It is a shame that we have more time/money/ and energy to put into the affairs of other countries, but lack the same drive here in America. THis should be a wake-up call to everyone in this country...we have real issues that we need to attend to,before attempting to liberate other countries. The Government needs work...FAST.

Anonymous said...

I agreee with Kayne West!! I dont like how he stated the comment but I get what he is saying. Bush for a while now has been pushing black issues to the side and that is not right at all. Had New Orleans been upper white class, he would have immediately sent help to them. But sinec it was lower income blacks he felt as though he could wait to see how many people had died and then sent in reinforcement. What kind of mentality is that? He rushes to save his daughters in court for the underage drinking but blacks have to wait for help. That does not equate. Even though Bush may say that he has us in mind and that he is fighting for us, it does not feel that way.There are so many other issues that need to be taken care of but he just completely ignores them. His wife made an ignorant comment to!! She just needs to stay in the background along with the drunken daughters. Thank Gpd he can no longer run for the presidency!! It has been time for him to leave office!!!

Anonymous said...

None of these comments hold any slight of truth to what is taking place here. I live in south La. and get a birds eye view of these unfortunate events. As Mayor Nagin said once, this is not a race issue but a class issue. When people loot stores for playstations, jewlery, and expensive clothing, and try to sell them to evacuees left for dead on the side of an interstate ramp, it is no longer viewed by onlookers as "survival mode" but yet looting, as it should be viewed. And yes, it is what it is, mostly African Americans. The black communities are shouting "racist" when the bottom line is---take a look at the t.v set, it doesn't discriminate. I am a nurse and was baffled that people have so many judgemental comments to make, yet haven't experienced any of this tragedy up close. I guess they want us to keep quiet that the "looters" who were mostly black gangs in N.O. were shooting at helicopters trying to rescue medical personell and critically ill patients off the roof of hospitals, not to mention looting the employees vehicles in the parking lot of the very same roof these patients were located on--- will I be viewed as a "racist" for speaking the truth??? The productive, law abiding African Americans of N.O that experienced the breakdown of all civiliazation and feared these looters, will be the first to tell you the stories of thuggery that took place in the city. And as far the ignorant comment by Kanye West, Pres. Bush wasn't looking at skin color. It was a TOTAL breakdown in communication from the federal govt. on down the ladder to the state. Words of advice to all of you who think the delay in rescue efforts was racially malicious-- DO YOUR HOMEWORK BEFORE YOU SPEAK!

Simon Hayes Budgen said...

Disgruntled Nurse...

Are you sure about this helicopter coming under fire story? It's interesting that a lot of places reported it, but only ever at one or two step's remove. Did it actually happen?

You seem to have mislaid the point of the flow of commentary here: that the urban poor of New Orleans were left behind to fend for themselves. Yes, most of the looters would have been black, because most of the people left behind in the city were black, because most of those living in poverty in New Orleans were black. They weren't looting because they were black, they were looting because they were hungry, and they were hungry because they were left behind, and they were left behind because they were poor. And, in his little speech from New Orleans, even Bush suggested they were poor because they were black.

And you're right - "Pres. Bush wasn't looking at skin color" - he wasn't looking at all.

Anonymous said...

Whether Kanye was right or wrong is not the point. The point is hundreds people have died because no one cared enough to help them. When something tragic happens in another country, the U.S. always want to step in and help. But how can you help another country when we have our own problems here? We have people that need help right here in the U.S.A. So while Bush is running to other countries helping them, who the hell is going to help us? As a black woman, I think there is some truth in waht Kanye West said because if N.O. was mostly white upper class it would have happened that way. So it's a matter of class and race. It's a shame.

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