Monday, January 18, 2010

Shame on You Anderson Cooper

Anderson Cooper, the people of New Orleans taught you, in the days and weeks post-Katrina, about the plight of disaster victims and our desperate need to survive. You learned from us how important is water when you are left without shelter in a warm/tropical climate. You learned from us how desperate a parent becomes when she sits for days on end listening to her child cry out for food. And you learned from us the damage media and journalists can cause by exaggerating rumors of violence and chaos.

We taught you this.

Unfortunately, now some 4.5 years later, you lost these lessons on the way to Haiti, as evidenced by your live story today describing as ‘looters’ and ‘thieves’ the Haitian victims struggling to enter any and every grocery store accessible – to obtain food and water – to survive.

Unbelievably, your report was sympathetic of Tony Bennett, the Miami ‘businessman’ who has armed himself and two (2) Haitian police with glocks and automatic weapons, and barricaded a Port-au-Prince street in order to keep these starving earthquake victims from taking food and water from his store. (To see the report, click here)

What’s wrong with you Anderson?

A responsible journalist would have been questioning the sanity and humanity of Tony Bennett, this Spawn of Satan, for ever contemplating closing his business and denying basic survival means to these victims. Here are a few questions you might have asked him:

 “Why are you treating these victims this way? Is there some big market the rest of the world doesn’t know about for food recovered during a natural disaster? Where, exactly, are you going to sell this water?”
 “Sir, instead of arming what is now your own private militia, why don’t you ask these Haitian police officers to help you distribute these perishables so that these mothers won’t have to pay for water, and food, and baby formula?”
 “Excuse me, Mr. Bennett, I’m just curious. How are you going to sleep tonight, knowing you’ve denied food and water to hungry children?”

See Anderson, you know the difference between “looter/thief” and “survivor” and, most importantly, how to report accurately this distinction. We taught you that. You know how to identify and expose a disaster capitalist. We taught you that. You know how to report accurately from ground-zero of a major natural disaster. We taught you that.

Shame on you, Anderson Cooper, for forgetting your lessons and, in the process, re-victimizing the people of Haiti. You know better.

Tracie L. Washington is an attorney and Co-Director of Louisiana Justice Institute,


Anonymous said...

The people leading the raid on the store were armed guys and they were after boxes of candles. They were physically violent with innocent people.

I have been watching the coverge on CNN and Anderson Cooper has not been describing people who are only trying to get water or food as looters. He has been sympathetic and careful with his word choice.

Even when describing the riot today he went out of his way to say this was an isolated incident and to put it in context.

Anonymous said...

The guys were taking the candles and selling them on the street in view of the store owner. The store owner brought in some guys with guns to try to get rid of them. The guns were shot in the air and the guys started raining hunks of concrete and debris down on the crowd in response. Probably the guys were planning to use at least some of the money from the sales to buy food, but that still sounds more like looting and stealing rather than foraging and surviving.

Anonymous said...

I'm also from New Orleans, but I'm tired of seeing fellow New Orleanians relate Haiti to their own experience. In your post one can detect the exhilarating joy of mustering indignation and berating those one considers morally inferior; you obviously swell with self-satisfaction doing so. But you've absolutely no idea what Tony's store sold, what was being taken from him, what he did elsewhere to help. The reports strongly suggest that materialist looting was indeed taking place: not a fight for survival but an exploitation of a breakdown in civil society.

That happened in our hometown as well. People searching for water and food are foragers; people searching for televisions and bikes are looters, as deserving of scorn as 'disaster-capitalism' speculators who rush into such areas to get rich on contracts and real estate.

And bloggers intoxicated by their own judgmental rhetoric aren't much better. Shame on you for your blithe, specious, speculative vitriol and your surely-habitual relating of all things to yourself.

Anonymous said...

I agree with the last two posts. I have been glued to the internet and the tv screen, and both cnn and msnbc have been extrememly careful with the word looter. They have only recently begun to use it, and they used it in a context where it was apropriate and to describe isolated incidents. they have been saying all week how dicle, easy going, and friendly the haitian people are. they have been reporting that if aid doesnt get distributed properly and ASAP, that people will continue to get more and more desperate. And anderson has been very conscious to put it in that context all week. and now aid is being so mismanaged and slow, that people have become desperate, and yes some groups have been looting stores and reselling it to people on the street. if they really were taking for survival, they would organize each other to hand it out, and not resell it for money.

RE Ausetkmt said...

Excellent and Incisive. those who do not understand will throw a rock and hide their hands by posting responses as anonymous because they are cowards; not corageous enough to post what we are all feeling. Bravo, and I have subscribed to your excellent blog. stop by mine for similar sentiments.

Debbie Williams said...

No one should judge without walking a mile in the other person's shoes. There is a place for's not here. There is no room in Haiti for divisiveness. We have Pat Robertson and the Heritage Society for that. Keep your petty gripes to yourself and spend your energy and time to effect a change in Haiti, now.