Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Flame Wars

Careful readers of yesterday's story, "Public Image Spotlighted in Aides' E-mails," in the Los Angeles Times about embarrassing e-mails from Governor Kathleen Blanco that involve her media savvy fashion sensibility during the Hurricane Katrina fiasco may remember similar relevations from a similar release of documents a few weeks ago that appeared in several stories in the New York Times, such as "Panel Still Waiting for Hurricane Katrina Papers," about former FEMA chief Michael Brown in which he describes himself as a "fashion god" thanks to his "Nordstroms" shopping habits. It is interesting that Blanco's office was careful to point out that many of these damaging e-mails were actually unsolicited.

I have been working on an essay about the rhetorical function of e-mail before and during disasters and scandals. I contend that even though e-mail is a perfect medium for the preventative whistleblower, by virtue of its speed and provision of a channel that enables access to policymakers, it is rarely used for that purpose. Instead a backlog of incriminating e-mails is "leaked" to unintended addressees after the fact.

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