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Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Who needs Rush Limbaugh when you've got ProPublica?

Posted By on Wed, Apr 13, 2011 at 9:46 PM

That ProPublica article published earlier today about the new Gulf Coast "spillionaires"you know, all of the Grand Isle and Plaquemines people who are now living like Thurston Howell III due to BP oil payouts — is, not surprisingly, jerking the knees of all the knee-jerk jerks looking for a reason to make Gulf Coast residents the villains and BP a victim.

The story, which focused on government corruption and waste in St. Bernard Parish, largely to the exclusion of the tens of thousands of coastal people whose claims haven't been processed and are now bankrupt-aires and broke-aires, was probably the biggest blame-the-victim bilge since the UK Daily Mail's classic hatchet job "The Spillionaires: Shrimp boat owners in 'Forrest Gump' town make a fortune from BP payouts":

It was the home town of Forrest Gump’s shrimp-loving friend Bubba Blue in the famous movie.

But since the huge oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, Bayou La Batre in Alabama has become home to a new breed of men known as the ‘Spillionaires’.

They are the shrimp boat owners who have prospered hugely from the millions of pounds handed out by BP.

While many British pensioners have seen the value of their pension funds fall because of the extraordinary decline of one of Britain’s biggest companies, boat owners in the coastal hamlet have struck it rich.

But who needs the UK Daily Mail when you've got an American nonprofit journalism outfit to write stories about "spillionaires" with an opener like "The oil spill that was once expected to bring economic ruin to the Gulf Coast appears to have delivered something entirely different: a gusher of money"?

The story, which was written by Kim Barker and co-produced with The Washington Post, has already engendered the sort of vitriol you'd expect in the comments section:

These people are scum of the Earth...may karma in the form of a hurricane flatten their homes and destroy them.

Duped by our hicks and hillbillies. Tsk-tsk.

The US taxpayer probably kicked in big bucks too. How many of these "poor, downtrodden" people got money from BP, unemployment compensation, and other tax relief?

Oh, yeah, there's more ...

A lot of this on the backs of British old age pensioners that had their pension funds cut because of this event. The extent of this fraud has made me for one to have zero sympathy for any community in the future that may experience the same event.

The gulf coast loves their disasters. They get rich off of them.

Katrina's a distant memory. The BP spill was last year's news. It is time for Louisiana to get over itself, Bobby Jindal to return to obscurity and the country to move on. Frankly, it seems clear that much of the Gulf Coast has chosen the oil industry over the environment so if there are more spills in the future, they have only themselves to blame. I am now officially tired of their whining.

And yet one brave person manages to ask:

Why does ProPublica write like a conservative blog?

Maybe because their senior personnel are breathing some pretty lofty financial air?

If we're going to talk ridiculous compensation, we can go back to 2009, when the journalism world was buzzing about the top salaries at the nonprofit ProPublica, where the top editor made $570K a year and senior reporters were pulling down more than $200K in salary and compensation. Their prerogative, of course, but I'd wager that's a bit more than the average fisherman or boat owner in Plaquemines has ever pulled down — before or after the oil disaster. I wonder if Barker's reporting took her to Grand Isle to see the For Sale signs on every other house, or if she talked to any of the Raceland "spillionaires" Alex Woodward met last weekend, ailing "spillionaires" who can't work or get medical treatment despite some pretty scary chemical exposure symptoms. Would you call them "spillionaires" to their faces?

Probably not. But if we're going for cutesy, dismissive titles, what shall we call the ProPublica hit-and-runners? How about "ink-spillionaires"?

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