Amid the post-Katrina political blame-gaming, it was—as usual these days—a lone, brave blogger who ferreted out the true culprits. Responsibility for the worst disaster in U.S. history, it turns out, lies not with George W. Bush or FEMA, but with Japanese mobsters and their ex-KGB allies—as of course you’d know if you’ve been keeping up with Weather Wars, where Idaho TV weatherman Scott Stevens explains at mind-numbing length how the Yakuza got its hands on top-secret Soviet radio technology and gained the power to remote-control the weather like a Barcalounging demi-god. “There is absolutely zero chance that this is natural, zero,” wrote Stevens after Katrina’s landfall, pointing out suspiciously rectilinear shapes in the satellite-photoed hurricane clouds and proving, as if proof were needed, that the only public voices capable of speaking truth to power anymore are the blogosphere’s.
Back in reality, of course, consensus has it that Katrina proved the opposite: That despite years of increasingly abject willingness to cut the power structure every break it has felt entitled to, the mainstream media (or MSM, in blogspeak) still have it in them to rattle the cages of the comfortable. From an exasperated Anderson Cooper, of CNN, blowtorching Louisiana Senator Mary Landrieu via satellite to Fox (Fox!) anchor Shepard Smith haranguing cops on the streets of New Orleans, the episode’s most refreshingly confrontational moments all belonged to the MSM. Even the best online-only coverage came courtesy of a media dinosaur—the 168-year-old Times-Picayune, its finely reported rage blogging forth from a borrowed website while its printing presses languished in the flood zone. It was almost like old times: The established media with its sure grip on public truth and meaning; the Internet a sideshow of hobbyists and kooks. To its credit, the MSM seemed too shaken to enjoy the moment while it lasts.