An earthquake registering a magnitude of seven or more on the Richter scale is severe, even for countries whose prosperity enables them to plan and construct buildings that can withstand tremors. For the pitifully poor state of Haiti, ravaged by years of despotism, infighting and neglect, it was always going to be catastrophic, and so it has proved.
Barack Obama, telling that this moment “cries out for US leadership”, has committed a hundred million dollars in aid: troops are being sent to assist, as the population struggle just to dig out and bury the dead, a toll now estimated to be at least 50,000. This was the worst earthquake to strike Haiti in 200 years.
Much in the media response has been positive and factual: this report by Time is comprehensive and gives a feel of the terror unleashed by the ‘quake. Unfortunately, as always with such events, though, some seek to use the suffering of the Haitians for self promotion: “televangelist” Pat Robertson has declared that the country had been cursed by swearing a “pact to the devil”.
And the deeply unpleasant Rush Limbaugh has sunk to trying to put folks off donating to the relief effort, saying “We already gave to Haiti. It’s called the US income tax”. Just to rub it in, he declared that the country produced “zilch, zero, nada”, and that Obama would use the disaster “to boost his credibility with the light skinned and dark skinned black community in this country”.
I’m sure that those fans of Rush in the UK will be comfortable with the way in which he makes the fullest use of the First Amendment.