Lahaina censorship

AP Photo/Jae C. Hong

Local government officials in Maui have been remarkably opaque when it comes to revealing information about what happened, what is happening now, and especially on the scale of the disaster in Lahaina.


After most disasters, we get nonstop coverage, and you would expect that after a disaster of this scale, the media would be hounding officials and digging up stories about the victims. The president wouldn’t have gotten away with a “no comment” or a two-week grace period and two vacations before visiting.

Lahaina, though, is different. There are the obvious reasons, of course. Everybody involved is a Democrat, and Democrats are nearly immune from criticism unless they have offended the Establishment somehow.

However, some of it is due to the fact that both the victims and the government officials are minorities. And in Hawaii “culturally appropriate” has come to mean covering for local officials regardless of whether they are doing right or wrong. John Hill, editor of the Hawaii Civil Beat, which has done a lot of good reporting on the Lahaina fire, reflected on how the “Aloha Spirit” of overt friendliness is often used to cover up things for authorities.

I have lived in Hawaii for more than seven years and even if I stay here the rest of my life, I would not presume to be an authority on aloha.

I do, however, believe that aloha is a real thing, and that it makes my life here far richer. Hawaii’s appeal is so much more than inviting beaches and glorious mountain trails.

But I am also a reporter, and in that role, I have seen the idea of aloha used, in essence, to block aggressive investigative reporting.

“Aloha, John, we unfortunately are unable to provide any information.” How many times have I received that email?

I have watched this tension play out rather dramatically in the aftermath of the Lahaina fire, which of course has drawn reporters from around the world, many of whom have probably not spent much time in the Aloha State.


There is, apparently, a long history of officials withholding information in the spirit of “aloha.” Often this means that reporters are expected to cover things up, and as a general matter, they do. We all think of Hawaii as an island paradise, but it is also quite corrupt and run by, as we have seen, a bunch of incompetents.

Hill describes his introduction to the “Aloha Spirit” when he first arrived in Hawaii.

One of my first stories at Civil Beat was critical of a state department. Soon after it was published, the head of that department called me and asked if she could meet with me. She came to our office, and in gentle tones, explained that since I had just arrived, I probably didn’t know how things were done in Hawaii. I had spoken harshly to the department’s spokeswoman. Not pono.

Not to worry, though, she said – this kind of thing happened all the time with newcomers. In general, in her experience, people like me tended not to last too long in Hawaii.

I found the meeting somewhat bizarre and disorienting. It took me an hour to realize that she had, very politely, just informed me that I was an ignorant haole who would soon be booted by general consensus off the islands.

Well FEMA has been taken in by this demand for appreciating the “Aloha Spirit,” and is now informing people helping in the effort to post no photos on social media. They have also been manipulating drones to keep them from photographing things that the local government officials don’t want revealed.


They ask this in the name of “cultural sensitivity.” Given that local officials are hiding the death toll from the public, I am pretty sure that this is actually government official sensitivity. They don’t want people to know how bad things are and how badly they did–and those residents getting the cold shoulder are supposed to simply take it.

The public has a right to know, but it seems that far too many people–authorities and the compliant MSM–are hiding basic facts and covering for corrupt and incompetent officials.

There are plenty of reports and videos of local residents crying out for information and getting no satisfaction. Nobody is being sensitive to their needs. The only people being protected are the people at the top of the power pyramid.

Allowing government officials to restrict the flow of information is the inverse of what should happen. They are, most often, the people whom we should listen to the least when they ask for our silence. They work for us and need to be held accountable.


Every step along the way government has failed the people of Lahaina. From top to bottom the powers that be failed. Now they are covering it up, and the MSM is complicit.

Every day I become more cynical, and if this keeps up I will be buying a lead-lined hat (not really).

It is dispiriting. I cannot imagine another situation in which hundreds of Americans died and the MSM decided to shrug. Do a few stories, downplay the scale, and call it a day. Bush was excoriated for flying over New Orleans two days after Katrina struck. Biden got a pass for taking vacations, withholding comment, and joking when he finally arrived in Maui.

Is the MSM really this far in the tank to the Democrats? It seems so.

It takes a hard heart to ignore a thousand people–many children–burning to death due to bureaucratic incompetence.

But our MSM are, apparently, made of sterner stuff than I.

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