The Media’s Three Most Despicable Takes on Harvey

Press reactions that took rancor and divisiveness to a new level in the wake of a natural disaster

Welcome to the presentation of the first annual Harvey Award for Sociopathic Rancor During a Natural Disaster!

When faced with a natural disaster like Hurricane Harvey, and the catastrophic flooding that followed, Americans always rise to the occasion and come together to help those afflicted. At times like these, our shared humanity has a way of transcending our petty differences, and beautiful stories of love and heroism bloom among the weeds of devastation — the “redneck army” using a monster truck to pull the National Guard out of the water, J.J. Watt raising $17 million for relief, or a long line of boat-towing Texans driving toward the flood to help. Heroes like these are absolutely not what the Harvey Award is all about.

The Harvey Award for Sociopathic Rancor During a Natural Disaster is about recognizing those special few who were able to stay partisan, keep focused on pushing their political agenda, and exploit a tragedy.

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Anheuser-Busch paused its beer production to can drinking water for the victims of Hurricane Harvey. For this act of kindness and goodwill, Anheuser-Busch has been disqualified from consideration for a Harvey Award. Also disqualified from consideration was David Fitzsimmons of the Arizona Daily Star, who drew a cartoon of Texans — white, black, Hispanic, male, female, working-class, and cosmopolitan working together to raise a Texas flag. It is reminiscent of the Marine Corps War Memorial depicting six Marines raising the U.S. flag during the Battle of Iwo Jima.

This beautiful cartoon sends the opposite message of the Harvey Award. The cartoon lacks tone-deafness, it doesn’t demonstrate the superiority of any political agenda, and — most disqualifying of all — it completely fails to capture a spirit of divisiveness.

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So, let’s not waste any more time on people whose good-heartedness was exposed last week — people like Ellen DeGeneres, who used her celebrity platform to exude positivity, champion togetherness, and inspire millions in donations. Or people like the first responders who risked their own lives to rescue their neighbors. This award has nothing to do with those people!

With no further ado, here are the Harvey Award finalists:

Honorable Mention: The Fashion Police. The nonsense peddlers at The Washington Post, Vanity Fair, Slate, and other news outlets attacked first lady Melania Trump for wearing high heels — not in Texas — but on her way from the White House to Marine One to fly to the airport to board Air Force One to go to Texas.

Kenzie Bryant, writing for Vanity Fair, snarkily wondered if Mrs. Trump has a “five-inch steal [sic] rod in her heel.” The story was later updated to reflect that Mrs. Trump changed shoes en route to Texas, so I guess that answered Bryant’s question.
The fact FLOTUS was wearing tennis shoes when she actually got off Air Force One in Texas was too little, too late for some. Robin Givhan of the Washington Post — a publication that understands Democracy Dies in Stilettos — was mega-triggered and wrote that by the time Melania changed into more sensible shoes, it was too late. The damage was done, according to Givhan.

“The chance to tell an uninterrupted narrative of care and concern had already been missed. This was just a costume change for another fashion moment,” she wrote.

Daily Show host Trevor Noah responded to Stiletto-gate by saying, “I don’t know why anyone should care what anyone wears when they’re on their way to help people. Who cares?”

By recognizing and calling out the pettiness of the shoe criticisms, Trevor Noah talked himself right out of a Harvey award. Disqualified! Those who did care receive a Harvey Award Honorable Mention.

First Runner-Up: Matt Wuerker. Politico cartoonist Matt Wuerker kicked off the politicization of the storm with a cartoon showing the U.S. Coast Guard rescuing a couple of backwoods, government-hating, secession-happy Texas rednecks. Wuerker thinks the cartoon outraged people because they don’t understand the nuance of his satirical genius. He’s been trying to explain the cartoon on Twitter, with responses like “Guess I should have made that big secede sign on the house bigger still.” In his mind, he’s the victim of everyone else’s stupidity.

But, it’s really Wuerker who’s doing all the misunderstanding. People are dying. People’s homes are being destroyed. He said it doesn’t represent all Texans. Okay, but it represents someone, right? So if you’re safe and dry, why are you ridiculing anyone who is drowning? Because they disagree with you? Because their political beliefs aren’t as good as you see yours?

Does Matt Wuerker lack the ability to empathize with people who don’t share his worldview? Can he not scrape up just enough empathy to refrain from kicking them while they’re down and finding humor in their suffering? I think Politico got that pretty quick, and that’s why it deleted the tweet of his cartoon — a factor in the decision not to award it the Harvey Award.

The Harvey Award goes to: Charlie Hebdo! Je ne suis pas Charlie. In fact, nobody was Charlie this week except Charlie Hebdo, which ran a cover showing Nazi flags emerging from the Houston deluge. The cover was so ignorant, so completely devoid of factual basis, so wrought with utter stupidity that it was hard to even be mad. I’m just pleased for the reminder that free speech still exists somewhere in Europe.

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According to the Texas State Historical Association, 22,000 Texans died in World War II to ensure — among other things —  that future generations of attention-seeking, French provocateurs would have the freedom to voice ignorant and idiotic opinions in tiny-circulation birdcage liners like Charlie Hebdo.

So, Charlie, let your vile, ignorant hate go viral as a reminder of the American exceptionalism that saved you from the actual Nazis.

Here’s your Harvey Award. And — as a Houston native myself — guess where I suggest you put it.

Eddie Zipperer is an assistant professor of political science at Georgia Military College and a regular LifeZette contributor.

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