Posts Tagged ‘Earthquake

01
Mar
10

You and No One Else Pt. 2

I couldn’t help but notice as I researched figures and facts for my last post that, once again, I was at a loss in finding pictures of any of the approximately 700 bodies that have been dug from the Chilean rubble. I have no real desire to see what I already knew to be the most tragic cost of the disaster on either the television screen or the front page of news sites, but I must say that I was somewhat confused when, even after performing an image search for “Chile+Earthquake+Bodies” in Google, not a single picture emerged.

Is it that news stations have found another focus in the aftermath of this disaster? I have already seen several interviews from survivors which provide an even more gripping tale of terror than an image of the dead– which, of course, is accompanied by the obvious tale of triumph pointing to the person being interviewed as a survivor.

It is possible that the difference in coverage is meant to draw the viewers attention to the weighty factor of death in the case of Haiti over that of the deaths in Chile. It is also possible that the Chilean government’s speedy attempts at recovery made shots like the one below of Haiti harder to obtain while walking down the streets of its capital city.

However, regardless of the circumstances which made for great photo opportunities in either case, my point remains that media outlets ultimately decide what they will publish/broadcast to represent the type of coverage they intend to offer.

Is the difference in what the networks have thus far decided to capture within these two cases of widespread natural disaster governed by the socioeconomic status of the victims? Is it easier for American people to digest pictures of death from a country full of individuals far-removed from the levels of everyday comfort that we enjoy? Far-removed in the complexion of their skin as well?

Chile, on the other hand, is one of South America’s most prosperous nations.

And yeah, they have tall buildings like we do….they wear nice clothes….. and have big, naval warships like the U.S. They’re also pretty fair-skinned.

Chile's President-Elect, Sebastian Pinera

There’s something fishy going on here. What do you think?

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01
Mar
10

The After-Math

It has been a day since an 8.8 magnitude earthquake tore through the coastal country of Chile, leaving over 700 dead and 2 million people displaced. Numbers are still on the rise as rescuers dig through rubble in an attempt to save as many lives as possible. The Chilean government has reported that over one million structures across the country have suffered damage, as well as many roadways and bridges which continued to crumble today in the thirty-plus ripple of aftershocks which kept the country’s inhabitants on edge.

Courtesy of CNN.com

The disaster struck while international support is still largely occupied with Haiti and the wake of its recent earthquake. Chile’s quake, which was a mind-blowing 600 times stronger, has, however, caused a drastically fewer number of deaths. Haiti’s death toll, which ABC recently reported as topping 150,000 in the capital alone, is still rising from a disaster that occurred over a month ago.

The logical question here is why– and the logical answer is poverty. Many analysts have focused on monitoring the movement of tectonic plates and their as ways to predict earthquakes. While this has been a scientific indicator ever since the 1960’s when extensive research first went into discovering the source of tremors within the Earth’s crust, it still does little to remedy the utter destruction that these quakes cause.

Poverty, however, prevents a country’s governments and its citizens from taking the appropriate steps to bolster its structures against earthquakes. The pure impracticality of using a more durable and expensive material on the thousands of homes which had been sprouting for decades among the hillsides surrounding the nation’s capital, Port-au-Prince, led to a death-trap for its many residents. The proximity and interconnectedness of these small and fragile home resulted in a near-domino effect of destruction which a wealthier nation may have prohibited by outlining a strict city plan.

Of course, an equally crippling disadvantage that a country like Haiti has which is also brought upon by poverty is an inability to provide fast and effective disaster relief for its citizens. President-Elect Sebastian Pinera of Chile has even issued a statement to reporters in which he claimed that foreign support will only total around 2 percent of the country’s relief efforts. This, compared to the global response that Hait’s disaster inspired is a sign of a country suffering the weight of many years of poverty.

In the reconstruction of Haiti, I can only hope that an equal amount of attention is given towards ensuring that its government is offered the tools and methods to better-protect its citizens from the indiscriminate wraths of nature.

20
Jan
10

You and No one else

So when I posted on Haiti earlier today, I was doing my best not to make it sound like i was implying that I’d like to see more American bodies on the front page of newspapers.

But as I wrote, something peculiar struck me. There have been some people who are comparing last week’s carnage in Haiti to the hurricane Katrina disaster in 2005. I would have to disagree on most fronts. I mean, this country was overwhelmingly independent during the recovery stage of the hurricane. I think I even read reports somewhere that George Bush had declined financial aid from another country at the time. I also feel as though America had a very thorough understanding and control over the stability of New Orleans. The city had been segregated, neglected, and left to fend for itself for years, until it finally met an overwhelming foe. Though nobody could have predicted Katrina being as devastating as it was, meteorologists and government officials could also literally see the hurricane it coming. Haiti was hit in the blink of an eye, and no man or structure was safe.

But either way, the point I’m trying to make is that after hurricane Katrina, there were also pictures of bodies in the street. Dark ones. In Haiti? Dark bodies. When the tsunami hit India in 2004? Dark bodies on the news.

Hurricane Katrina

Tsunami in India

It could very well be that because another majority race here in the U.S. hasn’t been hit in mass by any sort of tragedy since 9/11, there would be no source of such a photograph. But there weren’t any publicized from 9/11. Or from the Ft. Hood shooting last year. Or from the CIA suicide-bomb attack. Or from the Va Tech shooting. Or from any natural disaster that has occurred in the United States since 2001.

I don’t want to see the bodies of dead dark-skinned people any more than I want to see the bodies of dead light-skinned people, but it just makes me curious as to what makes showing a human corpse on television acceptable in some cases and unacceptable in others. I’m not calling a double-standard yet… but I’d like to see some evidence of balanced news coverage.

And thank you, Radiohead, but this excellent video doesn’t count.

20
Jan
10

Haiti.

Its been a week since a magnitude 7.0 earthquake ravaged the heart of Haiti, leaving the capital city of Port-Au-Prince and its surrounding areas in ruins. There isn’t much to say that hasn’t already been said by news networks across the globe. CNN, among others, has set up shop amidst the crumbling capital and broadcasts 24-hour reports from the frantic sweat pool of relief and excavation efforts. While the global community has swiftly come to Haiti’s aide, the island’s inhabitants mourn the loss of over 72,000 friends and family to the disaster. The now-lopsided presidential palace, amongy man other major landmarks that suffered heavy damage, symbolize a state of infrastructural despair country-wide. For the past week, headlines have seemed to tell a story of a country with no foreseeable foothold beneath the fissured cement and piled rocks. Before the quake hit, eighty percent of Haiti’s 9 million residents lived under the poverty line. 54 percent lived in abject poverty, according to the CIA Factbook.

In other words, according to the experts, things in Haiti have gone from shaky to rubble. The earthquake, which was the worst the country had seen in 200 years, may have changed its national course forever.

I’m taking these things in just like any of you are. With a gulp, a sigh, a donation, and a “I’m sure glad I don’t live in Haiti.” And let’s be honest, not too many people had any desire to travel there before the earthquake hit anyway. But while that doesn’t mean I don’t feel for the great loss of humanity, I think that part of my senses have been numbed by the American media coverage. I also feel a little cynical.

American news networks have not been shy in bringing the devastation to our living rooms. They’ve run out of headlines to describe the state of victims and survivors alike. Pictures have spoken a thousands words and a thousand words after have been spoken about the true nature of such scenes. It’s the media’s job to grip the viewer with a good story. Sometimes these stories arise out of necessity. And other times they arise from the apparent need to feed some sensational appetite that drives ratings.

Basically, what I want to know is why its been so easy for these networks to display the images of dead bodies piled high in the streets, in the steel cradles of bulldozers, and tumbling like crash dummies into mass graves. I just don’t see the point. The tragedy will never truly “hit home” for most Americans… because their home is safely located hundreds of miles away. I think that a lack of hesitation in presenting dead bodies as proof of tragedy is a sad sign. Sure, I bet there were a few good arguments during news meetings before reporters entered the streets of Port-Au-Prince over what to capture, but I think there are questionable motives behind whoever made the final decision to release photographs like the ones below.


I just don’t see the point. I feel like some networks are dangerously close to making a spectacle of the Haitian people’s plight. Why is it so much easier to broadcast these images than say, the bodies of Americans killed during the 9/11 attacks?




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