Politics & Policy

Katrina Claptrap

Marines coming in with gunships to take out starving blacks?

This Jeremy Clarkson chap sounds familiar. As some British-press-watcher friends I polled this morning see it, Clarkson, although a somewhat “lightheaded” columnist for The Sun, tends to be “one of the sensible ones.” He’s in American homes, too, with his British TV series on cars, Top Gear, currently running on the Discovery Channel.

#ad#I don’t watch his cable show, nor do I bump into him all that much in print. But he does sound so familiar–perhaps because, as a member of the foreign press, his hatred for the United States pervades his every fiber.

Clarkson’s latest column, entitled “Flood that released America’s demons,” ran this past Saturday. His topic, of course, is Katrina, and the blade of his hatred is honed to a superfine edge. We–we Americans that is–are pricked initially as Clarkson wonders how the “most powerful nation on earth could be so crippled by a bit of wind and rain.” Only a few words later we are slashed: “America may have given the world the space shuttle and, er, condensed milk, but behind the veneer of civilization most Americans barely have the brains to walk on their back legs.”

Now, the consensus around these here parts is clear: Public authorities are certainly deserving of criticism in the wake of Katrina. This goes for the seemingly ineffective local government in New Orleans as well as FEMA and the federal government in general. Both Americans on the Left and Right are making this case, and they’re doing so often with facts to back them up.

But Clarkson is intent on building a fictional picture–not only of the aftermath of Katrina but of America, that evil, militaristic, suppressive society across the pond where the “default setting” of public “authorities” is “violence”:

I’m not talking about the armed gangs now. I’m talking about the authorities who, rather than try to feed the poor and needy, summoned the Marines and started acting like they were in a Hollywood film.

“They’ve got M16s which are locked and loaded,” said one official. And I bet she hadn’t the first idea what “locked and loaded” meant. She’d just heard Bruce Willis say it at some point and figured it sounded good.

Hollywood has taught America that the military can solve anything. It’s full of chisel-jawed heroes who never leave a man on the field and never fail to get the job done. So they’d have New Orleans sorted out in a jiffy.

Unfortunately, on the street you’ve got some poor, starving souls helping themselves to a packet of food from a ruined, deserted supermarket. And as a result, finding themselves being blown to pieces by a helicopter gunship. With the none-too-bright soldiers urged on by their illiterate political masters, the poor and needy never stood a chance. It’s easier and much more fun to shoot someone than make them a cup of tea. Especially if they’re black.

You’ve probably watched more Shep Smith and Geraldo Rivera than you care to admit in the past two weeks. And you most likely have heard a lot of horrible stories. But Marines coming in with gunships to take out starving blacks? Sure, even Oprah fanned the flames of Katrina was racist! We are racist! But this is a bit much. The host of a show on the Discovery Channel thinks you’re a moron, and he’s over in England perpetuating an awful fiction that he insists you’re stupid enough to swallow.

As it happens, Clarkson is getting grief from another front today. As he receives an honorary degree from Oxford Brookes University, students and environmentalists are protesting. Apparently, Clarkson has questioned the conventional wisdom on global warming, which is endearing, but it’s not going to get him off the hook.

In the embattled Gulf Coast, these are days foremost for action. Fact, as it usually does, will follow along, competing with the many fictions of the day. But Clarkson’s fiction slanders a nation, and a military that is once again answering the call of those in need. He owes this country an apology. It’s one thing to hate America, but it’s another thing to lie about us.

It’s entirely possible Clarkson was hoping for outraged Americans to give him free publicity–and I just took the bait. And The Sun might just view The Outraged American as a moron wanting to censor free-speech-minded Brits. But the Discovery Channel? The Discovery Channel may very well care that a car guy they’ve got on is biting their hand as it feeds his supplementary income.

You can ask The Sun to insist on a Clarkson mea culpa by e-mailing the paper here. And you can let the Discovery Channel know that they might not want to be associated with someone who writes such things by contacting the network here.

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