FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Trump and Tone-Deaf Elitism Knows No Bounds in Hurricane Harvey Response

Donald Trump’s first response in addressing Hurricane Harley victims in Corpus Christi, Texas was a self adulating gloat on the crowd size. “What a crowd, what a turnout,” he said in the context of a natural disaster that has claimed the lives of nine people so far and is expected to temporarily displace at least 30,000 people. This unrelenting egotism was on full display right before the hurricane made landfall in Texas, when Trump pardoned former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio and later claimed he did so in coinciding with the hurricane because he “assumed the ratings would be far higher than they would be normally.

Trump’s elitist, out of touch attitude toward Hurricane Harley and its victims weren’t isolated to just him, as several other prominent figures displayed callous attitude toward the natural disaster.

Joel Osteen, a prominent Texas Pastor whose estimated net worth is $40 million, offered nothing but prayers to the hurricane victims, inciting immense backlash for refusing to open the doors of his megachurch in the Houston area to flood victims seeking shelter. He eventually caved to the criticism and opened his church doors once his lie that the church was inaccessible due to the flooding was exposed.

The mainstream media have exhibited similar attitudes. On August 29, ABC News National Correspondent Tom Llamas tweeted, “We’re witnessing looting right now at a large supermarket in the NE part of Houston & police have just discovered a body nearby.” He added in another tweet, “we informed police of the looting and Coast Guard is flying overhead. Multiple officers now on the scene,” in regards to a scene he witnessed while reporting on Hurricane Harley Disaster relief efforts in the Houston, Texas area.

“Great to hear you informed police,” Jillian Angeline, a local NBC News reporter tweeted in response to Llamas.

Llamas was heavily criticized for the tweet, prompting him to eventually delete it due to the tone deafness it exhibited in snitching out hurricane victims taking food.

“So gross to call it looting,” Intercept reporter Glenn Greenwald tweeted in response, adding that the real “looting” occurring in the Houston, Texas region has been egregious cases of price gouging by businesses for local necessities. Journalist Ken Klippenstein tweeted a photo of a Best Buy selling water bottles for $29 and $42 a pack, noting the Texas Attorney General is being inundated with hundreds of complaints about price gouging.

Some Twitter users compared Llamas to the Les Miserables character Javert, who arrestsJean Valjean for stealing a loaf of bread. Llamas’ tweet was a prime example of poor shaming that is frequently done in reporting by elite mainstream media reporters. As Jamed Baldwin said in a 1965 interview with Esquire, “I object to the term ‘looters’ because I wonder who is looting whom, baby.”

The mass media has used words like “looters” and , concluding that these victims already in poverty are wrongdoers trying to steal everything, capitalizing on unrest for their personal gain. Llamas made an inflammatory accusation toward a captive population robbed of everything by Hurricane Harley of looting.

One Twitter user cited that the law in Texas permits scavenging food in a natural disaster or in the event of “necessity, duress, and public duty,” as circumstances that punishment is withheld in circumstances such as these, or at the very least mitigated. The thefts Llamas complained to officers about was food, not immaterial objects for hurricane victims to exploit by seizing the opportunity to steal for profit.

The reactions toward Hurricane Harley and the victims from a few prominent people, from Trump to some journalists and public figures like Joel Osteen, is illuminating to how callous and cold the common attitudes toward struggling and marginalized people are from elites. Even in the face of a natural disaster that has uprooted thousands of people from their homes that they no longer have, a situation that demands empathy and compassion has provoked self absorption and indignation toward the people most affected by the hurricane.

More articles by:

Michael Sainato’s writing has appeared in the Guardian, Miami Herald, Baltimore Sun, Denver Post, Buffalo News, the Hill, Alternet, and several other publications . Follow him on twitter: @MSainat1

August 15, 2018
Jason Hirthler
Russiagate and the Men with Glass Eyes
Paul Street
Omaorosa’s Book Tour vs. Forty More Murdered Yemeni Children
Charles Pierson
Is Bankruptcy in Your Future?
George Ochenski
The Absolute Futility of ‘Global Dominance’ in the 21st Century
Gary Olson
Are We Governed by Secondary Psychopaths
Fred Guerin
On News, Fake News and Donald Trump
Arshad Khan
A Rip Van Winkle President Sleeps as Proof of Man’s Hand in Climate Change Multiplies and Disasters Strike
P. Sainath
The Unsung Heroism of Hausabai
Georgina Downs
Landmark Glyphosate Cancer Ruling Sets a Precedent for All Those Affected by Crop Poisons
Rev. William Alberts
United We Kneel, Divided We Stand
Chris Gilbert
How to Reactivate Chavismo
Kim C. Domenico
A Coffeehouse Hallucination: The Anti-American Dream Dream
August 14, 2018
Daniel Falcone
On Taking on the Mobilized Capitalist Class in Elections: an Interview With Noam Chomsky
Karl Grossman
Turning Space Into a War Zone
Jonah Raskin
“Fuck Wine Grapes, Fuck Wines”: the Coming Napafication of the World
Manuel García, Jr.
Climate Change Bites Big Business
Alberto Zuppi - Cesar Chelala
Argentina at a Crossroads
Chris Wright
On “Bullshit Jobs”
Rosita A. Sweetman
Dear Jorge: On the Pope’s Visit to Ireland
Binoy Kampmark
Authoritarian Revocations: Australia, Terrorism and Citizenship
Sara Johnson
The Incredible Benefits of Sagebrush and Juniper in the West
Martin Billheimer
White & Red Aunts, Capital Gains and Anarchy
Walter Clemens
Enough Already! Donald J. Trump Resignation Speech
August 13, 2018
Michael Colby
Migrant Injustice: Ben & Jerry’s Farmworker Exploitation
John Davis
California: Waging War on Wildfire
Alex Strauss
Chasing Shadows: Socialism Won’t Go Away Because It is Capitalism’s Antithesis 
Kathy Kelly
U.S. is Complicit in Child Slaughter in Yemen
Fran Shor
The Distemper of White Spite
Chad Hanson
We Know How to Protect Homes From Wildfires. Logging Isn’t the Way to Do It
Faisal Khan
Nawaz Sharif: Has Pakistan’s Houdini Finally Met his End?
Binoy Kampmark
Trump Versus Journalism: the Travails of Fourth Estate
Wim Laven
Honestly Looking at Family Values
Fred Gardner
Exploiting Styron’s Ghost
Dean Baker
Fact-Checking the Fact-Checker on Medicare-for-All
Weekend Edition
August 10, 2018
Friday - Sunday
David Price
Militarizing Space: Starship Troopers, Same As It Ever Was
Andrew Levine
No Attack on Iran, Yet
Melvin Goodman
The CIA’s Double Standard Revisited
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: The Grifter’s Lament
Aidan O'Brien
In Italy, There are 12,000 American Soldiers and 500,000 African Refugees: Connect the Dots 
Robert Fantina
Pity the Democrats and Republicans
Ishmael Reed
Am I More Nordic Than Members of the Alt Right?
Kristine Mattis
Dying of Consumption While Guzzling Snake Oil: a Realist’s Perspective on the Environmental Crisis
James Munson
The Upside of Defeat
Brian Cloughley
Pentagon Spending Funds the Politicians
Pavel Kozhevnikov
Cold War in the Sauna: Notes From a Russian American
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail