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September 20, 2006

Hurricane Katrina Compares to Holocaust: Baltimore Sun

The claim makes one's jaw drop. Reviewing Spike Lee's HBO television documentary, "When the Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts," Baltimore Sun television critic David Zurawik wrote ("A Filmaker's Fury," Aug. 21, 2006):

"With violin and cello sounding a somber elegiac tone, the camera catalogs body after body -- many bloated, discolored, or distorted -- floating in the sewer-sickened water that covered parts of New Orleands after the storm [Hurricane Katrina]. Lee is visually comparing New Orleans to the Holocaust; sadly, a comparison can be made."

No it can't. The Holocaust encompassed a continent, not a just city or even a region. The Holocaust was history's most egregious act of mass murder; Hurricane Katrina was an act of nature, perhaps made worse unintentionally by human decisions. The Holocaust was part -- a seminal part -- of World War II; Hurricane Katrina was a storm -- a large one, but still a storm. The Holocaust was followed by, among other things, 40-plus years of political upheaval in Europe and creation of the United Nations. Hurricane Katrina was followed by a change in leadership of a government bureaucracy, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and BY the re-election of New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin.

It's been nearly two generations since Federal Communications Commissioner Newton Minow described television as a "vast wasteland" and he was talking about a medium with only a handful of networks. It's been observed since that the multiplication of networks and channels has fueled a virtually insatiable demand for "product," for something, anything, to fill the ever-expanding airwaves. Perhaps Zurawik's time in front of the tube has dulled his critical faculty. In any case, in the presence of what he describes as Lee's ambitious work -- "like a symphony ... structured in grand movements" -- he's plainly lost his sense of proportion.

Posted by ER at September 20, 2006 04:57 PM


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