Limbaugh has apparently been talking about this, and, predictably, Matt Drudge is wallowing in it, too: the comparison between the “savage” behavior that prevailed at the Superdome during Katrina and the “civilized” behavior that we’ve seen at Qualcomm here in San Diego during the fires.
First off, you don’t have to be very good at unraveling conservative code to see that the comparison they’re drawing is between black people, the primary affected population at the Superdome, and white people, the majority (though even this point is up for debate) at Qualcomm. The argument seems to be that white people are more civilized and handle emergencies better than blacks.
This is a ridiculous comparison for at least three reasons:
1. The wild fires are a disaster, no question, but to equate the overall magnitude of their effect to Katrina is ridiculous. If the wildfires had destroyed all of downtown, midtown, and hit the populated areas along the coast, then we might have a direct basis for comparison. Perhaps 1500 homes have been lost in the fires; 275,000 homes were destroyed by Katrina (source: Congressional testimony, US Homebuilder’s Association).
2. Qualcomm has been completely out of harm’s way, and thus accessible to caregivers, THE ENTIRE TIME. I can drive right down, right now, and hand out deodorant if I want to. Yes, we are doing our best to live up to the most positive of California stereotypes: the evacuee centers have yoga an tai chi classes, as well as clowns and balloon animal makers for the kids, and all sorts of different kinds of food. That’s because, for all the fire-related insanity going on, things here are completely different–sure, lots of people are displaced, but many of us aren’t affected in the slightest. Restaurants are still open, grocery stores–hell, I could go see a movie. Yoga instructors can wrap up their last class and head down to the evacuation center to help out, and be back home, safe, for dinner an hour later.
In contrast, the Superdome was completely cut off from all supply lines and from anyone wanting to help for days on end, due to the massive inundation of roadways in the area.
3. Many of the evacuees in San Diego are from the most wealthy parts of town; you don’t have to be a genius to recognize this fact when looking at aerial shots of the fires, which show many homes that line golf courses and have multiple structures on the property. In contrast, the people trapped at the Superdome were those that lacked the means to leave New Orleans even under an (and late) evacuation order. These were people of very limited means. To the extent that there’s a kernel of truth to the comparison, it’s not race–it’s economic class.