Plain speaking on Katrina by New Orleans mayor

It’s a very clear and simple message: "Get off your asses and let’s do something and let’s fix the biggest goddam crisis in the history of this country."

Powerful, emotional plain-speaking from Ray Nagin, the mayor of New Orleans, in a 13-minute interview yesterday with New Orleans radio station WWL-AM.

This is a very angry man, a politician who through extraordinary circumstances has driven a wedge through PR spin and meaningless press conferences to make an impassioned and very public plea to his country’s leadership to, well, get off their arses and help people.

Towards the end of the interview, mayor Nagin says that he’ll probably get into trouble because of what he’s saying. I think he’s untouchable precisely because of what he’s saying, a truthful reality that anyone can clearly see and especially those poor souls in New Orleans itself.

How to listen:

Mainstream media worldwide has copious coverage on the human aspect of this tragedy – the BBC in-depth Katrina coverage has to be the best out there.

Other news that I’ve spotted this morning, linked to below, include a great initiative by IABC to offer free job postings for communicators in the IABC Job Bank, a worldwide network of volunteers connected by Skype, estimates of the economic cost of this disaster, a warning about Katrina email scams, and much more.


10 thoughts on “Plain speaking on Katrina by New Orleans mayor

  1. The mayor of NO was just blustering, trying to draw attention away from the fact that he failed to prepare properly for the predicted hurricane. Two days notice and he didn’t evacutate the city.

  2. Unfortunately Mayor Nagin did not back up his words with his own actions. Several hundred tourists who had been well fed and taken care of at the Hyatt hotel in New Orleans were pushed to the head of the line at the Superdome yesterday on Mayor Nagin’s orders. This created long delays for New Orleans citizens who had been living in squalor for days. Whatever the Mayor’s motivations I can’t see justification for pushing the well taken care of in front of the sick and destitute masses of his own city.
    Speaking of the mainstream media, they’ve been MIA in this time of crisis. Here in the U.S., Fox News was the only network with reporters inside New Orleans at the convention center, the Superdome and on the streets of the city. The rest of the U.S. networks reported the New Orleans story via stock footage and anchors in cushy studios. I also take issue with the BBC America reports that I saw last night which only portrayed the problems, portraying the police and national guard as trigger happy maniacs. The BBC America story I saw also did not feature the amazing helicopter rescues or any information about the larger disaster.
    This is the biggest natural disaster in the modern history of the U.S. with over half a million people put out of their homes across three states and an entire city under water. And while the rescue and relief effort has had problems (for a wide variety of reasons) this is a herculean task that displays the kindness, courage and ingeneuity of the American people. The real story is out there. People just have to take the time and effort to find it.

  3. Neville, there are many possibilities as to the rationale for this outburst.
    One is that it is genuine.
    Another may be that “all politics is local” and he’s playing to constituencies, so for the next election he can say that he was out there railing against the unfairness and racism against New Orleans.
    The fact is that he’s the mayor, and the buck should stop there on the local level. The city did know that if they got hit by a category 4 hurricane, the city could be lost.
    When all is said and done, and the inevitable investigations are over, there will be enough blame to go around from the President of the US down to the local cop on the beat – and everyone inbetween.
    To me, the radio interview falls somewhere between passion and damage control/spin, leaning heavily toward the spin side. I would not be surprised if the radio interview is used for the next campaign.

  4. Wally, did you actually listen to what he said during the 13 minute interview?
    Rob, the coverage I’ve been watching on BBC World during the past three days has been comprehensive and certainly didn’t focus on portraying only the problems, etc, you mention. For instance, one news story I saw on BBC World late yesterday was about the successful evacuation of a lot of elderly ladies in a fleet of buses. Maybe the BBC America relay broadcasters in the US only showed the really bad news.
    Jeremy, there are indeed many possibilities. I believe he is genuine (if not, a terrific actor). Everything I’ve seen on TV, read in mainstream media and online about the awful situation in New Orleans during past days fits with what Mr Nagin had to say in the interview (which I think was done yesterday morning, Friday). He has the courage to speak about things that no other politican has done.
    But you know your country’s political system better than I do, so maybe everything anyone says there is pure spin.
    Octavio, you said it. Now’s the time to act (as Mr Nagin said); blame and finger-pointing will come soon enough.

  5. Neville,
    Thanks for the great resources. Glad to see that folks far removed from the problem are taking it upon themselves to help with disseminating information.
    I concur with your take on the mayor’s impassioned plea.
    The Federal response was, and is, opprobrious. From top to bottom. State and local responses fare no better.
    Were this in Kennebunkport, help would have been immediate and overwhelming. Not so when it comes to African-Americans and the poor.
    I personally cannot think of a single good thing to come out of this administration, so I’m not surprised.
    Regarding again the mayor’s speech…I am reminded of a time when I yelled “Don’t do that, Stupid!” when a friend was about to do something that might well cause great harm. She knew I was serious because of my unusual ejaculation, as weird as that surely sounds.
    Had I spoke in the usual moderated tones, she would probably have continued in her daft direction, and hurt herself.
    It is useful to use strange and harsh language when done sparingly. Many waste their abilities by using strange and harsh language all the time.
    Kind regards from High Gas Country.

  6. I have been watching hurricane news for days now. My roommate’s sister actually had an apartment on the Mississippi River in New Orleans, so she’s been watching in hopes of seeing the building.
    I totally agree with what the mayor is saying. It is ridiculous for people to sit of the roofs of their homes for days and not get rescued. I don’t understand why it took so long for the National Guard to move into NO.
    There is also going to be big problems in other city’s when the refugees begin moving in. For example, I heard that Baton Rouge is expected to double in size within the next few months. And, some people are going to be living in hotel rooms for the next six months or so.
    I just saw some pictures of the sand bags that were being dropped on the levy system. They didn’t look like they were doing much to help, it was a huge hole.
    Unfortunately, the people who were unable to evacuate from NO were the people who couldn’t afford to. Those people had very little to begin with and now they have nothing. I am glad to say that companies and people across the U.S. have started chipping in and are doing the best they can to make a bad situation and little better.
    Millions of people have been affected by this and it’s going to take a long time before things come close to being normal again.

  7. Dave, I really do wonder whether anyone outside New Orleans could really have imagined the scale of the devastation of the city, and which happened so quickly. I’m not talking about pre-knowledge of the risks facing the city from a hurricane. No, imagined, perhaps, in the sense of realizing that what had developed in such a short time was on a scale that really couldn’t be imagined as happening in the US.
    Could that be part of an explanation as to why it took the best part of a week before the massive military and other resources we’ve seen on TV during this weekend were effectively deployed? And the city descended into a true Dante’s Inferno? From listening to mayor Nagin’s interview, maybe that might go some way towards explaining why officials and bureaucrats in the state and federal governments didn’t act quicker. Maybe they just couldn’t comprehend what was happening so quickly. Or am I just with a very charitable view here?
    Sara, from what the TV has been showing – I’ve mostly been watching BBC World and CNN – it certainly looks as though this is the first stage of an enormous nightmare, obviously for the people of New Orleans who have lost just about everything but also for the people in the places the displaced people are being taken to. And not to forget everyone else in the areas affected by Katrina, not only in New Orleans.
    I would imagine that as search and rescue efforts really get underway in the coming days, we’ll be seeing and hearing awful stories on TV of what they find.
    I agree, millions have been affected by this tragedy. I’m not sure whether anything will be normal again, anytime soon at least (soon = some years), and certainly not in New Orleans.
    I just hope that everyone focuses on helping people no matter where they are or their circumstances, and not get started with the finger-pointing and the blame. Not yet. Help the people first. Time enough for blame.

  8. I was genuinely startled by Nagin’s comments. His foul-mouthed rantings were my first encounter with a statement from him. It was not at all what I was expecting to hear from the mayor of a large city that had just suffered an enormous disaster.
    Nagin is in stark contrast with Giuliani and how he dealt with the 9/11 attack in New York. Giuliani handled it with graceful strength — stepping up and leading the city with a calm and comforting voice. I have seen no sign of Nagin conveying any of those sentiments. Certainly, he’s expressed he wants the government to get it in gear with the relief efforts, but I haven’t really seen a good show of leadership from him. Even without the precedent of 9/11 for comparison, however, I still feel Nagin’s attitude about the whole situation is definitely NOT helping to distinguish the widespread anarchy.

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