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King Banaian at SCSU Scholars points out one humorous story to come from the Hurricane Katrina story, assuming it doesn't turn out to be apocryphal. According to Agence France-Presse, Sean Penn took a boat to New Orleans to "rescue children", but found out that heroics require a minimum of preparation:
Efforts by Hollywood actor Sean Penn to aid New Orleans victims stranded by Hurricane Katrina foundered badly yesterday, when the boat he was piloting to launch a rescue attempt sprang a leak.
Penn had planned to rescue children waylaid by Katrina's flood waters, but apparently forgot to plug a hole in the bottom of the vessel, which began taking water within seconds of its launch. ...
When the boat's motor failed to start, those aboard were forced to use paddles to propel themselves down the flooded New Orleans street.
People will tend to give Penn credit for trying to help, but as King points out, when we find out that Penn took his personal photographer on board, his motivation becomes quite clear. Not only does that person take up space that could be used to board more victims, but photographing victims as Penn rescues them turns the entire effort into yet another tiresome Sean Penn publicity stunt, just like his visits to Iran and Iraq over the past two years. Penn has transformed himself from a celebrity who punches photographers to someone rather desperate for their attention of late, an odd development for a recent Ocar winner (Mystic River).
This demonstrates another more important point about disaster relief, which is that it isn't nearly as easy as it looks. Penn must have thought that he could simply rent a boat and show up the government efforts to get people out of the city. However, part of providing effective relief means to make sure the heroes don't wind up needing rescue themselves. Professionals check their equipment before taking to toxic waters. They make sure that their engines work properly and that the hull doesn't have leaks, because when they get stranded, they complicate matters for the other rescuers.
Real heroes don't grandstand for photographers either, for that matter.
Penn wanted to show up the government response by claiming that performing a rescue was not a difficult task, and that while FEMA and the National Guard took too long to get it done, a Hollywood celebrity could just rent a boat and tool around at will, picking up children and taking pictures for the Exempt Media to publish. Instead, he just proved that second-guessing the experts is as silly as bailing raw sewage with a plastic cup because the captain never checked the seaworthiness of his ship before sailing into it.
PS: You can be a hero without becoming a casualty -- donate to Catholic Charities or another of the fine organizations sending relief efforts and flood aid to Hurricane Katrina victims. I can't promise that Sean Penn's photographer will record the moment for posterity, but I can promise that it will keep your posterior safe while ensuring the survival of our brothers and sisters in the devastated areas of Mississippi and Louisiana. So far, we've raised almost $900,000 in the blogosphere this weekend (h/t: The Anchoress).
UPDATE: Pictures here. Three in a dinghy doesn't leave a lot of room for rescuing people, as a bystander noted in the AFP story.Sphere It View blog reactions
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Tracked on September 5, 2005 2:43 PM
» Sean Penn - Rescue Hero? from The Recovering Democrat
It was good that Sean Penn could find time out of his busy schedule of visiting American enemies, playing journalist and attempting to legitimize third world dictatorships to attempt to help out those hurt by Hurricane Katrina. Now, hopefully, someon... [Read More]
Tracked on September 5, 2005 4:58 PM
» Moron #1 from The Crazy Rants of Samantha Burns
Why is Sean Penn our moron of the week? Perhaps because he brought his photographer along to save victims of the N'Orleans hurricane. Or, perhaps it's because he looks like a 'tard bailing water out of his boat with a... [Read More]
Tracked on September 23, 2005 2:10 AM
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