Self-delusion

One of the trends I've seen in the years I've been out in the workforce is the one that has employees do self-evaluations.  You know the kind of thing:  "My strengths are….  My weaknesses are…."  I've never been a fan of this approach.  I don't mean this an insult (although it will sound that way), but most of us are woefully lacking in self-insight, especially regarding our failings.  As a matter of day-to-day life, this is a good thing.  Without this psychological self-defense, I suspect most of us would lapse into deeply depressed dysfunctionality.  

Of course, some people are more far afield than others when it comes to self-insight.  I vividly recall, in our small community, being insulted left, right and center by another Mom.  She wasn't picking a fight with me or even intending to insult me.  It was just that every word that poured out of her mouth was offensive.  I didn't take it personally, although I was certainly surprised.  I just wrote it off.  What makes the story memorable in my mind is what happened about a month later.  A group of us, including this Mom, were asked about our strengths.  She proudly announced that her strength is being personally intuitive — understanding people, and giving them what they need.  Clearly she discerned my hidden masochist (hidden even to me), and decided I needed a series of good insults.

I was reminded of both this business trend, and of the unusual cluelessness of this particular Mom, when I read Jonah Goldberg's slashing article regarding media myths about Hurricane Katrina.  The single biggest myth is the media's belief that it did a spectacularly good job.  Goldberg begs to differ.  After detailing all the hideous rumors the media blithely promulgated, Goldberg has this to say:

This barely captures how badly the press bungled Katrina coverage. Keep in mind that the most horrifying tales of woe that captivated the press and prompted news anchors to scream—quite literally—at federal officials occurred within the safe zone around the Superdome where the press was operating. Shame on local officials for fomenting fear and passing along newly minted urban legends, but double shame on the press for recycling this stuff uncritically. Members of the press had access to the Superdome. Why not just run in and look for the bodies? Interview the rape victims? Couldn’t be bothered? The major networks had hundreds of people in New Orleans. Was there not a single intern available to fact-check? The coverage actually cost lives. Helicopters were grounded for 24 hours in response to media reports of sniper attacks. At least two patients died waiting to be evacuated.

And yet, an ubiquitous media chorus claims simultaneously that Katrina was Bush’s worst hour and the press’s best. That faultless paragon of media scrupulousness Dan Rather proclaimed it one of the “quintessential great moments in television news.” Christiane Amanpour explained, “I think what’s interesting is that it took a Katrina, you know, to bring us back to where we belong. In other words, real journalists, real journalism, and I think that’s a good thing.”

The flip side of this appalling lack of self-awareness is that, in order to make itself look good, the media has had to make something or someone else look bad.  In this case, this has been the usual reflexive Bush Derangement Syndrome, with Bush as a demented storm maker who then sat laughing in his office as people died.  In attention, as fallout from BDS, the media has steadfastly ignored the enormous accomplishments of people on the ground:

But in the race to prove the federal response incompetent, the “real journalists” missed some important details. As Lou Dolinar exhaustively documents, the National Guard did amazing work in New Orleans. From the Superdome, the Guard managed some 2,500 troops, a dozen emergency shelters, more than 200 boats, 150 helicopters (which flew more than 10,000 sorties moving 88,181 passengers, 18,834 tons of cargo, and saved 17,411 survivors), and an enormous M*A*S*H operation that, among other things, delivered seven babies.

The media would do better to be a wee bit less self-congratulatory and a little more self-critical.  In a just world, their hubris should see them riding for an imminent fall.  The fact is, though, that whenever one media member or outlet falls down, someone in that same media is standing there to erase any visible signs of sin.  One wonders how long they can maintain this cycle of failure and coverage before the whole rotten media edifice collapses.

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Comments

  1. ralph says

    Where to begin.

    (1) No one claims that Katrina represents a highpoint in the press coverage of a national disaster (although asserting such makes for a darn good conservative talking point — one that they’ve have been bashing us with since just after landfall).

    (2) No one claims that the National Guard — those who were on the ground – performed anything other than an excellent job. The problem was that there weren’t enough of them.

    (3) But enough about the “myths” and tiresome conservative blowback. Here’s the Inspector General’s report on FEMA’s Katrina response, which lays things out for all to see:

    http://www.npr.org/documents/2006/apr/katrina/dhsreport.pdf

    (4) Now, about self-criticism. It’s no wonder that conservatives — who daily in the blogs demonstrate their inability to manage critical thought — it’s no wonder they don’t have a clue, when it comes to assessing their own strengths and weaknesses. Based on the evidence, I have no doubt the exercise is beyond them.

  2. says

    What is it with the insults from non-conservatives who visit my website? If you’re going to disagree with me, give me facts, not name-calling. And to the extent there are a few facts, get them right. The fact is that, as Goldberg points out, many in the media are, in fact, claiming that Katrina represents a high point in press coverage. That’s why he wrote his column — to call them on that “fact.” The numbers in Goldberg’s column, as well as the Popular Mechanic’s debunk that came out a few months ago, as well as other debunks demonstrate that there were enough National Guardsmen available. Also, as Goldberg points out, many were not put to good use because of the rumors flying due to the MSM’s “stellar” coverage (not to mention the sensitivity training courses the Guardsmen had to attend their first day on the ground).

    As for the last, I’m utterly unclear what the facts are to support the sweeping conclusion that conservative blogs can’t manage critical thought. What evidence has Ralph seen? He hasn’t shared it with me. Just another insult. Insults don’t change people’s minds, they just make them defensive. If you have a point to make, make it with facts and logical argument. And if you don’t have facts and logical argument, maybe you don’t have a point to make.

  3. ralph says

    Where to begin. Let’s take it one step at a time.

    To quote from Goldberg: “But it is worth reminding people that the Katrina they think they remember wasn’t the Katrina that actually took place.”

    What exactly is Goldberg talking about? The. City. Was. Destroyed. That’s what I remember. Vast parts of the city remain only barely habitable. At this late date, it couldn’t matter less, whether or not reporters had access to the Superdome.

    Goldberg fails to comprehend the magnitude of the disaster and thus focuses on trivialities. Which is a pretty good example of a conservative exposing their inability to critically filter information. But, as I said before, it does make for darn good polemics, which is one area where conservatives typically excel.

  4. says

    But, Ralph, it wasn’t George Bush’s fault that the levies, due to decades of corruption and apathy, failed. In any event, you’re being nonresponsive, because the specific problem that is the focus of Goldberg’s article and my post is that, to the extent the MSM crawled all over N.O., their reportage, in major points, was wrong, wrong, wrong. They were like screaming tabloids — except that the National Enquirer, after some painful lawsuits, at least takes time to get its facts right, no matter how sordid.

    Also, you misread me if you think I’m trying to say that government, at any level (local, state federal) conducted itself in an exemplary way. I’m just agreeing with Jonah Goldberg that the press has little to celebrate about its own performance, and would do well to examine its biases — biases that include the kneejerk liberal belief that America’s blacks, left without government help for a day or two, would resort to cannibalism, rape and murder, all of which are stories the MSM eagerly and unquestioningly embraced.

  5. ralph says

    Actually the Pulitzer Prize committee found much to celebrate in the *local* print media’s response to the disaster. Sorry don’t have time to look up site — Also, I’m hardly being non-resonsive, inasmuch as I quoted Goldberg directly from his starting point in analyzing why a particular Republican should not criticize the President on Katrina.

    Do not have time to type at lenght on this, only in chucks. Am at work and will soon go home, where I will check in later.

  6. says

    Well, if Ralph’s “responses” so far are any indication of what is to come…..I can wait!

    Afraid it’s typical, though, BW…..don’t be holding your breath. The central holding of Jonah’s piece is absolutely solid, and Ralph will not be able to engage you on that, unless he is the rare liberal guy who can say “oooooops!” with reasonable ease.

    Let’s just wait and see.

  7. isirota1965 says

    “most of us are woefully lacking in self-insight, especially regarding our failings”

    Then it’s a darned good thing that I don’t have any failing! :-)

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