As those in the path of Hurricane Harvey’s destruction continue to be rescue andbegin to recover, some media coverage of the record-breaking storm is causing its own storm online.
First, Pulitzer-winning cartoonist Matt Wuerker brought controversy to Politico when the political journalism’s primary Twitter account tweeted his Hurricane Harvey cartoon. The toon depicts a Harvey victim in a Confederate flag shirt in a rescue basket being lifted by a rescue helicopter proclaiming: “Angels! Sent by God!” A Coast Guard rescuer near him, offering a life jacket to a blonde girl responds: “Er, Actually Coast Guard…Sent by the government.” A “Don’t Tread on Me” flag sinks into the rising flood waters below them and a “Secede” sign floats just above the water on top of the flood-victim’s roof.
The Washington Post called it “tone-deaf” and “unhelpful” stating: “Politicis is part of everything, up to and including disaster response, and ignoring it is to pretend otherwise and forfeit your role as a watchdog. The problem is that you can get it very wrong.”
The Post denounces the cartoon as crass, predictable, and for missing the mark, as a majority of the devastation has affected areas like Houston. Houston is a part of Harris County which “went for Hillary Clinton by double-digits, and neighboring Fort bend County was blue as well. The population of both combined is more than 5 million – about one-fifth of the entire state of Texas.”
The Post concludes: “the cartoon is a needlessly vast oversimplification of a very complex issue at a very sensitive time…certainly, there is hypocrisy among some conservatives who may rely upon the government for their livelihoods while decrying big government…but the cartoon suggests that normal people who believe in small government should essentially forfeit government help in their time of need.”
On Thursday, French satire magazine Charlie Hebdo met with similar controversy by depicting drowning Harvey victims as neo-Nazis. The caption with the cartoon read: “God exists. He drowned all the neo-Nazis of Texas.”
In the cartoon, swastika flags sink beneath the water near white hands raised in the infamous Hitler Nazi salute.
According to Business Insider, “the French publication has long courted and embraced controversy over its topical cartoons. After publishing images that some Muslims found offensive, the publication was the target of a terrorist attack at its Paris office in 2015 that left 12 people dead.”
Politico’s dismissal of Christian beliefs and the complexity of the Christian identity echoes the C Charlie Hebdo cover which depicted an image of the prophet Mohammed which preceeded the Paris terror attack. Both cartoons represent that heartless and small-minded image that Conservative politicians paint of liberals and lack the humanitarian understanding that is necessary when people are still dying and displaced from their homes and families at this very moment in Texas.
Both also show a lack of consideration for the fact that many of the most affected in such natural disasters are the poor and people of color.
Mocking the victims of any disaster is tasteless, especially when the President of the United States perpetually offers mockable actions and statements that would be much better suited for satirical efforts—which are generally supposed to be aimed at calling out world and social issues with the aim of correcting them.
Trump has used Hurricane Harvey to overshadow controversial decisions, like signing a ban of transgender soldiers in the US military, pardoning concentration-camp sheriff Joe Arpaio, and announcing his tax plan efforts. When visiting affected areas, Melania Trump showed her disconnect with the disaster and the people her husband is supposed to represent by wearing tall stiletto heels and Trump himself was more focused on the size of the crowd that showed up to hear him speak than on the actual disaster still going on around him. On Twitter, he performed like a weather pundit, marveling at the size and historic nature of the storm and not sharing any actual helpful information to his millions of followers.
Even mega-church pastor Joel Osteen would be a more worthy satire subject as he refused to open his massive Texas church and only shared a link to his own non-profit as a place for donating toward disaster relief until Internet pressure forced him to act upon his apparent Christian beliefs and share a bit of his exploitation-earned wealth with those suffering around him.
Trump has similarly succumbed to the criticism of his storm response as it was announced Thursday that he would allegedly donate $1 million of his personal money to disaster relief.
These cartoons were not satire; they were just blind cruelty.