Why does it matter if the Louisiana flooding goes viral?

If the purpose of the news is to inform, then the news has done an adequate if not spectacular job. Broadcast media have reported that the floods are happening, and plenty of additional information is available online. NPR has covered the story with reasonable thoroughness. If you want to be informed, you will be. Meanwhile, if the purpose of the news is to mobilize a response, then again it’s hard to fault the news, since the response has been swift and appropriate.

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Another major function of the media is to expose the truth. But the Louisiana floods are not a scandal. This is not a story about foolish construction in a flood plain, nor a story about an incompetent government response to catastrophe. There’s no cover-up, neither by the authorities nor by a community that doesn’t want its own dirty laundry aired. There’s no villain in this story — not even a natural one like a tsunami or a hurricane, bearing down on an unsuspecting community like divine wrath.

At the end of the day, the Louisiana floods are a human interest story. Which is undoubtedly why the national indifference hurts. It doesn’t feel good to think that your suffering, your struggles, and your triumph over adversity are boring — especially when everyone seems to agree that a celebrity Twitter war requires ’round-the-clock coverage.

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But if that’s the case, then whose values are to be faulted here? The national media and political class for ignoring the floods? Or people whose own measure of the worth of their suffering and their heroism depends on whether it has gone viral?

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