Monday, October 10, 2005

Media Coverage of Katrina: More

The Washington Post has finally gotten around to setting the record straight on what was happening in New Orleans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.
Violent crimes with a weapon, such as aggravated battery, numbered only a few dozen, [Jim] Letten [U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Louisiana] said. Officials made arrests for a double homicide and two rapes in Jefferson Parish and one rape in Orleans Parish, said Pam Laborde of the Louisiana Department of Corrections. Federal agents arrested a man for shooting at a helicopter, on Sept. 5. But several officials, including Blanco, now believe that some of the gunfire people reported in the city was attempts to signal rescuers because residents have told them so.

Setting the Record Straight

Maj. Bush of the Louisiana National Guard said he is glad the record is being corrected.

“I certainly saw fights, but I saw worse fights at a Cubs game in Chicago,” he said. “The people never turned into these animals. They have been cheated out of being thought of as these tough people who looked out for each other. We had more babies born [in the Superdome] than we had deaths.”
This report following similar stories in the Los Angeles Times and the New Orleans Times-Picayune also showing the irresponsibility of media coverage.

The truth is that both liberals and conservatives tried to exploit the tragedy for partisan gain.

Conservatives were all too happy to paint the (supposedly) lawless mobs in New Orleans as the product of a welfare culture that encouraged dependency and eroded self-discipline. Liberals were all too happy to see a mostly black group of citizens as the victims of racism and government neglect. “We’ve got to start talking about issues of class and race” they said – all the while thinking that such a dialogue would somehow favor their pet policies.

The media image certainly was consistent with racial stereotypes, and in fact racial stereotypes that have a basis in reality.
The scenes of poor black people engaged in lawlessness after such events as the acquittal of the police officers who beat Rodney King or the 1977 New York City blackout are depressingly familiar, said writer and social critic Stanley Crouch. “The public is accustomed to riotous behavior from black people in lower-class neighborhoods,” he said. “Anybody who has looked at television over the last 40 years has seen black Americans tearing up places, looting places.”
But black people in New Orleans defied the stereotype. The reality provides little fodder for anybody’s partisan agenda. Both the (mostly black) citizens left in New Orleans and the (mostly white) outside relief workers acted honorably, and sometimes heroically.


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