Media Blog

“When the Levees Broke,” Ctd.

Parts three and four of Spike Lee’s four-part Katrina documentary “When the Levees Broke” aired last night (here’s my take on parts one and two). Lee at least gets around to addressing the primary cause for the disaster, which was the failure of the poorly engineered levee system constructed and maintained by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. As I have argued in the print NR, this is partly because for decades members of Congress have treated the USACE as a means to funnel pork into their districts, so funds are allocated based on political clout rather than actual need. The New Orleans levee system was consistently underfunded in favor of unnecessary dredging and construction in the home states of powerful appropriators.
For more commentary on the race-baiting and paranoia that permeates Lee’s film, check out blogger Brendan Loy, who was featured in the documentary and wrote this after watching parts one and two:

If Spike Lee had wanted to really add something valuable to the public discourse on Katrina, he could have asked probing questions that would have challenged Nagin on that point. Instead, he uncritically quoted Nagin’s rant and never once mentioned the school buses. (And don’t even get me started on the outageous, and completely unchallenged, claim that rapidly evacuating people out of the airport — which necessitated, for the sake of efficiency, a somewhat inprecise process of shipping them off wholesale to far-flung cities — is equivalent to “slavery.” Cripes.)

There’s no arguing that Lee’s documentary is compelling to watch. But there’s also no arguing that it is terribly compromised by Lee’s agenda.

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