Harry Shearer, best known for his voices on The Simpsons especially the evil industrialist Mr. Burns as well as appearances in mockumentaries such as Best in Show, is a resident of New Orleans. Last year he produced The Big Uneasy a real honest-to-goodness documentary setting the record straight about the misconceptions promulgated by the national and international news media concerning the flooding of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina.
Most people around the world believe that the destruction and flooding of New Orleans was a natural disaster. Still today after six years the news media still puts forth this tired old saw.
What most people don’t realize is the the inundation of New Orleans by a storm surge could have been prevented. Most folks here believed and trusted that the US Army Corps of Engineers knew what they were doing and had built our levee system to be strong and impermeable and had built it up to standards.
The disaster that occurred in New Orleans in 2005 was unprecedented and a big black eye for the Corps because it was their engineering and organizational incompetence that flooded the city. We were all living under the notion that the levee systems were built well and the protecting us. They weren’t.
Shearer’s The Big Uneasy exposes the Corps and the coverup and delves into the misconceptions of the news media and their agenda to post stories that appealed to the emotional side of their audience rather than putting forth the truth.
The emotional side was all the poor blacks who lost their homes from the flooding. The truth is that just as many if not more whites lost their homes in the flooding. The truth is that the Corps of Engineers with their shoddy designs and construction and incompetent management flooded the city.
Billions of taxpayer dollars were wasted on this levee system. And after the flood it took months and months of investigations and constant pounding by independent scientists and investigators to finally get the Corps to admit any culpability.
So after all that and all the obfuscation, misdirection and cover up, which to many New Orleanians was criminal, the Corps doubled down and went right ahead and spent billions on the repair of the levee system using the same outmoded engineering ideas and construction design that flooded the city in the first place.
They put in a temporary control structure at the 17 Street Canal using million dollar pumps that kept destroying themselves in the testing phase. Yet, they still installed them. Why? Well, as related by the on site project manager standing in front of these pumps said, “If they only have a 1% chance of working then it’s worth it.”
It’s telling that no one in the Corps was reprimanded or lost their jobs over this disaster. Compare this to a whistle blower within the Corps in charge of pump construction oversight who was essentially fired, a scientist in charge of the hurricane center at LSU who was terminated because he and his colleagues spoke out against the Corps and their negligence, and a renowned engineer who was ostracized and called an enemy of the United States by his colleagues.
Every American should see this film. It’s a cautionary tale because there are hundreds of flood control structures in the United States built and maintained by the Corps of Engineers. It’s also important that people realize that the flooding of a great American city with the loss of hundreds of lives and the near destruction of entire neighborhoods need not have happened.
Do we in New Orleans feel any safer now? Maybe a little but not much. It is our duty as citizens to take our government agencies to task and make sure they are living up to their “mission statements” and doing the jobs they have been created to do, that of protecting citizens and making sure we can live our lives free of endemic organizational bureaucratic corruption that was on full display in the unnatural disaster of the flooding following Hurricane Katrina.
- Hurricane Katrina Six Years Later: The Truth Behind the Hype. Part 1 (notesonneworleans.net)
- Hurricane Katrina Six Years Later: The Truth Behind the Hype. Part 2 (notesonneworleans.net)
- Video: A Panel Discussion with Harry Shearer About His New Movie, The Big Uneasy (pogoblog.typepad.com)
- Release the Hounds! (pogoblog.typepad.com)
- Harry Shearer: “Katrina” Plus Six (huffingtonpost.com)