From the publisher… Regarding the bridge collapse

by Joe Courter

This story resonates with me on a number of levels. Back in May 1980, I was on the last Greyhound bus to make it all the way across the Sunshine Skyway bridge. The next bus in the morning made it halfway, and then into the drink, killing 35 people. Watching the news the next morning was kind of eerie. A bit personal.

But this event, and the videos. Wow. You see the cargo ship Dali under power, then its lights go out. Then they get it started, smoke belching from the engines. Cars and trucks are still going by. Its lights come back up, but it is too late to prevent what’s coming, they’ve lost control of the massive ship. Amazingly, you can also see traffic has disappeared. Then, the impact splash and down it comes. A tragic fluke, but overall, the infrastructure worked well, especially getting traffic stopped after the quick Mayday call. 

So then the media coverage and commentary begins. It’s interesting, but not unexpected, that the maintenance crew consisted of migrants, willing to do the hard work, because many of them are good, hard-working people who have gone through real pain and trauma to get here. That they did not get notified in time, or at all, is tragic, and it shows a need to do better, even thinking ahead to a freak thing like this. It is right that their lives and sacrifice were acknowledged. It is profound to me that the one survivor refused a trip to hospital, due to his undocumented status.

Then the right-wing chattering class got going, spinning false narratives, and at times, wild racist speculation, designed to be channel and keyboard clickbait. This from the March 30 Media Matters:

“In the days after the bridge collapse, many in right-wing media quickly embraced absurd conspiracy theories to explain what happened, blaming a ‘probable’ cyberattack, the beginning of World War III, terrorism, the ‘New World Order,’ and the ‘wide-open border.’ Other conservative commentators morphed the tragedy into another casualty of corporate diversity, equity, and inclusion training, or ‘DEI’ — the latest byword, following ‘woke’ and ‘critical race theory,’ for right-wing anger at people of color.

“‘They should’ve hired a more diverse workforce,’ mocked one right-wing pundit, while others called the disaster ‘DEITANIC,’ or claimed it was an inevitable consequence of immigration: ‘Invite the Third World, become the Third World.’

“‘DEI equals die, that’s what people need to understand,’ announced Trump ally Laura Loomer, while Newsmax guest Victor Davis Hanson claimed, ‘We’re not hiring necessarily the best people.’ DEI came up in the comments of several Republican politicians discussing the disaster, as well.”

We are in an age of fake news, false theories, craven leaders with no qualms about lying, and worse, a media all too quick to repeat and amplify, or even create, stories for their own benefit.

In the bigger picture, horrible ideas get promoted across the board and ill thoughts are posed, which can have real-world consequences if implemented. Even if not, they gain credence among true believers. Look no further than Tallahassee this session: anti-LBGTQ policies, xenophobic attacks on academics, attacks on education, attacks on free speech. There are media sources and influencers pushing these agendas. It is overwhelming even to thoughtful people, exposed to the narrow agendas being pushed. 

How to bridge across the divides between us is daunting. The good parts that are working get shouted down by the noisy “things are bad” blaring of those with an anti-progressive, anti-democracy agenda. Good people need to realize we are approaching an emergency moment. We need to feel our own recognition that this is a “Mayday” situation, and attention is required. The authoritarian ship is looming, and the bridge of Democratic ideals may be weaker than it looks. Either way, it’s gonna be on us.

PS: There was no mention of voting or elections here this time, enough of that to come in the June/July and August editions (and page 17 of this issue). Thank you for the positive feedback on these Publisher Notes. Reader and advertiser financial support, and the work and commitment of the Iguana team listed to the right, keep this little paper going. Again, thanks.

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