Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Surprised? You Shouldn't Be.

UPDATE: Jonah Goldberg jumps all over it. And much better than I.

From today's Guardian

Murder and rape - fact or fiction?

There were two babies who had their throats slit. The seven-year-old girl who was raped and murdered in the Superdome. And the corpses laid out amid the excrement in the convention centre. In a week filled with dreadful scenes of desperation and anger from New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina some stories stood out.

But as time goes on many remain unsubstantiated and may yet prove to be apocryphal.

During a week when communications were difficult, rumours have acquired a particular currency. They acquired through repetition the status of established facts.

One French journalist from the daily newspaper Libération was given precise information that 1,200 people had drowned at Marion Abramson school on 5552 Read Boulevard. Nobody at the Federal Emergency Management Agency or the New Orleans police force has been able to verify that.

But then Fema could not confirm there were thousands of people at the convention centre until they were told by the press for the simple reason that they did not know.

"Katrina's winds have left behind an information vacuum. And that vacuum has been filled by rumour.

"There is nothing to correct wild reports that armed gangs have taken over the convention centre," wrote Associated Press writer, Allen Breed.

"You can report them but you at least have to say they are unsubstantiated and not pass them off as fact," said one Baltimore-based journalist.

"But nobody is doing that."

Well, I'm not so sure about that. Look at the courageous retraction issued by Randall Robinson. It turns out, afterall, that "black hurricane victims in New Orleans" were NOT eating corpses to survive," as Mr. Robinson reported last week. Seems the reports were *cough* "unsubstantiated." No shit? You mean that black Americans don't immediately resort to canablism when confronted with a hungry tummy? Wow. You mean that black Americans don't immediately starting murdering and raping other black Americans just as soon as the cops aren't around? Amazing.

But I never thought those kinds of reports credible in the first place. You see, I have more faith in humanity than you.

But do you knuckleheads realize what your reporting of such "unsubstantiated" rumors has done to the reputation of black Americans both at home and abroad? Do you realize that "armed gangs roving the city" prompted one tsunami victim to quip that "now we know where the civilized peoples live." (STFU, asshole.) Don't believe me? Here's some more from the Guardian piece:

Reports of the complete degradation and violent criminals running rampant in the Superdome suggested a crisis that both hastened the relief effort and demonised those who were stranded. By the end of last week the media in Baton Rouge reported that evacuees from New Orleans were carjacking and that guns and knives were being seized in local shelters where riots were erupting.
The local mayor responded accordingly. "We do not want to inherit the looting and all the other foolishness that went on in New Orleans," Kip Holden was told the Baton Rouge Advocate. "We do not want to inherit that breed that seeks to
prey on other people."

The trouble, wrote Howard Witt of the Chicago Tribune
is that "scarcely any of it was true - the police confiscated a single knife from a refugee in one Baton Rouge shelter". "There were no riots in Baton Rouge. There were no armed hordes."


Ashamed of yourselves, yet? Thanks for nothing.


Cassandra said...

The 'logic' I still cannot get my mind around is this: the feds are being blamed for not foreseeing and preventing the looting.

But to have "foreseen it", they'd have had to have had federal troops on hand before mid-afternoon on MONDAY when the first looting started. Which means they'd have had to assume that the 'mostly poor and black' refugees would riot and loot back on Saturday in order to mobilize the troops in time and get them into position.

Which would have been racist.

Cassandra said...

I also note Mr. Robinson has not retracted his "no one has shown up to help".

I guess those 50,000 people in Houston got out on their own. Amazing.