Monday, September 05, 2005

CNN, Katrina and the Rhetoric of the War Zone

Hi everyone,

Has anyone else noticed how CNN has mobilized its best war correspondents - Christiane Amanpour, Nic Robertson and Jeff Koinange, most notably - to cover Katrina? I've watched reports from Amanpour and Robertson, and heard some of Koinange's reportage; for all intents and purposes, they're covering it as if they're embedded in a war zone. Robertson patrols a neighborhood, describing harrowing accounts of Hurricane victims fighting for survival; Ananpour wears a khaki vest that feels as if it's one fashion step away from a flak jacket.

News anchors like Paula Zahn have described reporters trailing national guard troops as "embedded" - a term that previously was reserved for reporters caught in the thick of it in Afghanistan and Iraq. Meanwhile, we hear of police going out "on patrol," with lead members "on point." First responders go out on "recon" missions, not just search and rescue. Citizens and law enforcement have been killed by "friendly fire." And perhaps most ubiquitous, survivors of the storm now exist as "refugees."

The rhetoric of Katrina is that of a war zone, not a natural diaster. We may not want to frame it using the language of war, but we lack the language to frame a disaster of this magnitude otherswise. -andy