Thomas Hobson, who died in 1631, was an English liveryman who required his customers to choose the horse that stood nearest the door.
Two offerings of news in today’s Los Angeles Times brings him to mind, startling in their juxtaposition.
On page 5 we are told that China is clamping down on internet news and blogs. They were created, they say, to foster “healthy and civilized” news. They may not disseminate anything that is deemed to endanger the constitution, state security, or the nation’s dignity, nor anything that threatens the social order. So, they require licenses from media sites, and as for their print media, their newspapers, they must be run by the state for full control, freedom to choose not being available in their system.
Turn to page 16, and we read about what WE have. Our trusted Western style media effort, as it applied to the Katrina saga, contained widely disseminated rumors and lies pertaining to the 5 days when people were cooped up at the Superdome and Convention Center in New Orleans. We were told by the media that sharks from Lake Pontchartrain were swimming around the streets of the business district, that a baby’s body was found stuffed in a trash can, that hundreds of bodies were stacked in the basement of the Convention Center and the Superdome.
The New Orleans Times-Picayune was bold enough to come out with some facts concerning what really went on at these places, during those days in the aftermath of the hurricane.
That paper informs us that the rapes were unverified, the body count was inflated (the actual count was just 6, plus 2 from elsewhere, at the Superdome, and 4 at the Convention Center), and the “sniper attacks” were unconfirmed.
Mayor C. Ray Nagin and his police chief went on the Oprah Winfrey Show, and told the nation that for 5 days his people were there, “watching dead bodies, watching hooligans killing people, and watching people raping people.”
Fox News went on the air to reiterate reports of robberies, rapes, carjackings, riots and murders. Violent gangs roamed the streets at night hidden under the cover of darkness.
The London Evening Standard, not to be outdone, likened the events to scenes from the movies “Mad Max” and “Lord of the Flies”.
We all remember the reports of looting, and how cops were out with “shoot to kill” orders, and in fact did just that. But I heard one announcer, returned to Los Angeles and overwhelmed by his experience in the waterlogged city, too overcome with the truth of what he saw to allow it to continue without comment, make the point that a person without food or water will steal not just food or water, but anything tangible that will convert to money to buy food and water, a completely different interpretation.
This is not a cry for the kind of centralized governmental control exercised in China, or in Cuba for that matter, which here would be unthinkable. But it is worth noting that under Castro, there is no such thing as the government ignoring the cries of its underprivileged, and that they long ago instituted an evacuation drill in the case of natural disasters, and that not a single life has been lost for the same reason that we lost lives in New Orleans and its environs. They also have free health-care.
Personal and corporate responsibility, within the freedom that we cherish. For we have no choice either.
Something to think about.