« A moral question | Main | Maybe I oughta reconsider moving to Massachusetts after all... »

Rewriting History - Katrina Media Myths Exposed

Remember the good 'ol days (last month), when TV and print media were slapping each others back - congratulating each other on what great work they'd done in reporting on Hurricane Katrina?

What if everything you thought you knew about life in New Orleans immediately after Katrina turned out not to be true?

Brian Thevenot and Gordon Russell of The Times-Picayune report that sensational reports of anarchy, murder, and rape at Superdome and convention center have been grossly overstated.

...That the nation's front-line emergency management believed the body count would resemble that of a bloody battle in a war is but one of scores of examples of myths about the Dome and the Convention Center treated as fact by evacuees, the media and even some of New Orleans' top officials, including the mayor and police superintendent. As the fog of warlike conditions in Hurricane Katrina's aftermath has cleared, the vast majority of reported atrocities committed by evacuees have turned out to be false, or at least unsupported by any evidence, according to key military, law enforcement, medical and civilian officials in positions to know.

"I think 99 percent of it is bulls---," said Sgt. 1st Class Jason Lachney, who played a key role in security and humanitarian work inside the Dome. "Don't get me wrong, bad things happened, but I didn't see any killing and raping and cutting of throats or anything. ... Ninety-nine percent of the people in the Dome were very well-behaved."

Dr. Louis Cataldie, the state Health and Human Services Department administrator overseeing the body recovery operation, said his teams were inundated with false reports about the Dome and Convention Center.

"We swept both buildings several times, because we kept getting reports of more bodies there," Cataldie said. "But it just wasn't the case."

Orleans Parish District Attorney Eddie Jordan said authorities had confirmed only four murders in New Orleans in the aftermath of Katrina - making it a typical week in a city that anticipated more than 200 homicides this year. Jordan expressed outrage at reports from many national media outlets that suffering flood victims had turned into mobs of unchecked savages.

"I had the impression that at least 40 or 50 murders had occurred at the two sites," he said. "It's unfortunate we saw these kinds of stories saying crime had taken place on a massive scale when that wasn't the case. And they (national media outlets) have done nothing to follow up on any of these cases, they just accepted what people (on the street) told them. ... It's not consistent with the highest standards of journalism."

The reporting that CNN, Fox, NBC, ABC, CBS, etc. were all so jacked up about? They actually contributed to the response problems. Police Chief Eddie Compass said rumors (especially those reported as fact by the 24/7 cable outlets) had often crippled authorities' response to reported lawlessness, sending badly needed resources to respond to situations that turned out not to exist.

The Seattle Times (which owns the Times-Picayune) published a shorter version of the story yesterday.


TrackBack

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Rewriting History - Katrina Media Myths Exposed:

» Reaganites Unite! linked with Media May Be a Big Casualty in Katrina's Wake

» A CERTAIN SLANT OF LIGHT linked with KATRINA AND THE APOCRYPHAL MSM REPORTING THAT WAS ITS STAPLE

» Caerdroia linked with Everything You Know is Wrong

» baldilocks linked with Katrina: Maybe Not Racism

» Oblogatory Anecdotes linked with Where Are All The Bodies, Mayor Nagin?

Comments (35)

And I will be waiting with ... (Below threshold)
sabrina:

And I will be waiting with bated breath for the forthcoming apologies and mea culpa's from all the chicken littles (from the left to the right) who've been running around crying "the sky is falling, the sky is falling".
Yeah, like that's gonna happen.

While we're on this subject of "the media lies, so what's new" - I still have not heard one single person who has been able to describe exactly how it is the Feds screwed up.
I doubt I ever will, since most poeple seem to have gladly latched onto that paradigm without any amount of critical thinking.

Instead of the inquisition ... (Below threshold)

Instead of the inquisition of Michael Brown, there oughtta be an inquiry into how badly the media did in this situation.

And there's a wonderful lit... (Below threshold)

And there's a wonderful little part way down at the bottom of an LA Times article on this same subject that suggests that the rumors got their start and were spread because of who was involved at the Superdome and Convention Center - poor blacks.

Times-Picayune Editor Jim Amoss cited telephone breakdowns as a primary cause of reporting errors, but said the fact that most evacuees were poor African Americans also played a part.

"If the dome and Convention Center had harbored large numbers of middle class white people," Amoss said, "it would not have been a fertile ground for this kind of rumor-mongering."
As if race really has anything to do with playing the game of telephone?
Don't forget that Thevenot ... (Below threshold)

Don't forget that Thevenot was part of the problem of falsehoods being spread around. Eric Scheie at Classical Values found an older piece written by Thevenot that referenced stacked bodies, etc.

http://www.classicalvalues.com/archives/002846.html

So call me a cynic when I see Thevenot talking about the falsehoods and rumors being spread in the media when he and his editors were a part of the problem.

Hmmmm."Never mind ... (Below threshold)
ed:

Hmmmm.

"Never mind ... "

Your Litella moment brought to you by ... the MSM!

And concern for the 'Securi... (Below threshold)

And concern for the 'Security Situation' were the EXACT reasons given by Lt. General Steven Blum on Sept 3, 2005 (see this DOD transcript and/or Looking for holes in this thesis on the so-called lack of federal response in New Orleans ) for the so called 'slow response':

From Lt. Gen Blum's statement:


The most contentious issues were lawlessness in the streets, and particularly a potentially very dangerous volatile situation in the convention center where tens of thousands of people literally occupied that on their own. We had people that were evacuated from hotels, and tourists that were lumped together with some street thugs and some gang members that -- it was a potentially very dangerous situation.

We waited until we had enough force in place to do an overwhelming force. Went in with police powers, 1,000 National Guard military policemen under the command and control of the adjutant general of the State of Louisiana, Major General Landreneau, yesterday shortly after noon stormed the convention center, for lack of a better term, and there was absolutely no opposition, complete cooperation, and we attribute that to an excellent plan, superbly executed with great military precision...

Q: One quick follow-up. Is it fair to say, using the convention center as an example, that one reason it took until Friday to get aid in is the National Guard needed time to build up a response team with military police to ensure law and order because the New Orleans Police Department had degraded so much?

GEN. BLUM: That is not only fair, it is accurate. You've concisely stated exactly what was needed, and I told you why. We took the time to build the right force. The outcome was superb. No lives hurt, nobody injured. It was done almost invisibly.

Fools! There were no bodie... (Below threshold)
kev:

Fools! There were no bodies to found because they had been eaten! Didn't you read Randall Robinson about all the cannibalism that was going on?

I recall watching news cove... (Below threshold)
Mary:

I recall watching news coverage of the Super Dome. Many people were gathered outside. They all started chanting "we need help" or something like that. The camera focused on a young black girl who after the third time she chanted "we need help" she smiled a crafty, clever smile. I remember thinking This cannot be the unending nightmare I have been hearing about if she can smile like that. I saw that video clip replayed several times but low and behold the clip had been edited to end just before she smiled. I felt so manipulated, so duped and of course distrustful of all other coverage of the New Orleans event.
I understand that the media is biased, but to observe a small portion of the spin the media does to project their truth is truly eye opening.

The MSM reaction has alread... (Below threshold)
jim:

The MSM reaction has already been made clear. Captains Quarters captured it in their piece called "Broussard's Holy Grail Moment" -

http://www.captainsquartersblog.com/mt/

(just scroll down)

Other sites document the libs own reaction to the same facts. Generally, by my reading, they seem to be of the mind that they are off on bigger conclusions now and that disproving "minor" details (what difference is it that the poor guy got a date wrong by a day or three?) did nothing to derail the larger "fact" that it was all the feds' fault?

IOW, it's too late now, don't confuse them with facts, their minds are [happily] made up. See:

http://www.buzzmachine.com/index.php/2005/09/26/correcting-the-facts-and-missing-the-truth/

and

http://www.hyperorg.com/blogger/mtarchive/004507.html

I particularly liked the last one's

"Yes, you caught some high-profile folks screwing up. Good on you. We're frying bigger fish now, ...."

I translated the above as, "Since we've already jumped to the conclusion we wanted, we don't want to hear that we were probably wrong all along."

Yeah that media is biased. ... (Below threshold)
frank:

Yeah that media is biased. It's owned by Corporations who decide what goes on and they contribute to the republican party! Wow and they turn out White House sound bites, catch phrases, and cover-ups. Gee wiz, they're all as corrupt as FOX!

Unfortunately, some of what... (Below threshold)

Unfortunately, some of what's in this article seems to conflict with what a mortician who spent 2 weeks there says.

(BTW, I don't think this site used to use the idiotic nofollow tag on links. Could you please remove that plugin? It's not exactly an incentive to leave comments here.)

Frank,...nevermind... (Below threshold)
mesablue:

Frank,

...nevermind, that is too stupid to bother responding too.

Wacko,

I'm sure the overall homicide rate for the week will go up as they have a chance to file all of the medical examiner's reports. But, those will be from bodies found out in the city -- not in the Superdome or convention center. There was lawlessness and looting, lots of it, they were also shooting at each other and being shot at by people trying to protect themselves. Those are the bodies that are mentioned in that article.

This post was about how the media blew up the story at the Superdome. Your link has nothing to do with that.

It's pretty funny that this... (Below threshold)
Jason:

It's pretty funny that this article is from the Times-Picayune. Weren't they the ones who first called for a FEMA house-cleaning based on the very inaccurate information that they're currently debunking? Didn't they print the same BS in their paper? (Did this article make it into the print edition? I don't think so. They tried to hide it on the web.)

I heard an interview on NPR with one of the T-P editors. He bragged that their reporters soldiered on through the disaster on bicycles and kayaks to report the truth. A truth which they now deny. Notice that there is NO RETRACTION of their paper's mistakes in reporting these exaggerations.

Al this hogwash about globa... (Below threshold)
spurwing plover:

Al this hogwash about global warming being responible for the two hurricanes what a load of bull kaka i mean whats with these eco-freak nit-wits the biggist amount of HOT AIR come from the mian-stream media itself

Btw a "spurwing plover" is ... (Below threshold)
mantis:

Btw a "spurwing plover" is in fact a type of bird

The New Orleans Police chie... (Below threshold)
mesablue:

The New Orleans Police chief just quit.

Nagin likened him to Jim Brown -- "going out on top".

Btw a "spurwing plover" ... (Below threshold)

Btw a "spurwing plover" is in fact a type of bird

Thank you, John James Audubon. ;-)

I was extremely disappointe... (Below threshold)
TheEnigma:

I was extremely disappointed in the reporting by shepard smith of Fox. I began to wonder if he was auditioning for a position with one of the "elitist media" channels.

Thank you, John James Au... (Below threshold)
mantis:

Thank you, John James Audubon. ;-)

Sorry for the non sequitur, that was meant for another thread. Doh.

How does this fit in with W... (Below threshold)
chad:

How does this fit in with Wolf Blitzer (I think) attacking the FEMA Director on air about conditions in the convention center. When Director Brown siad he had just found out about them he was told that the news had been reporting on them non-stop, or words to that effect. Does this mean director Brown was unfairly criticized for that portion of the federal response? If so will an apology be forthcoming?

"Unfortunately, some... (Below threshold)
B Moe:


"Unfortunately, some of what's in this article seems to conflict with what a mortician who spent 2 weeks there says."

The mortician spent two weeks in St. Gabriel, that is outside Baton Rouge, 60 miles from New Orleans.

MapQuest is your friend.


Please dont ruffle my feath... (Below threshold)
spurwing plover:

Please dont ruffle my feathers

Let me guess, the mutilated... (Below threshold)

Let me guess, the mutilated bodies and dead people in wheel chairs were props planted by the media?

The babies and old people e... (Below threshold)
::

The babies and old people either drowned or died later from starvation or dehydration.

But they weren't shot.

So it's the media's fault.

Well, its interesting that ... (Below threshold)

Well, its interesting that this story was linked at Drudge yesterday AM (26th) and it is being picked up at some other MSM slowly already. Though I thought JT would have posted on it last night (he he he), glad to se ya'll picked up on it.

We nailed the #2 bad guy in Iraq Sunday, you'd think that would be bigger news, but somehow an article about how the media distorted and aggravated a situation got more type.

I can't tell if that's ironic or moronic.

"This post was about how th... (Below threshold)

"This post was about how the media blew up the story at the Superdome. Your link has nothing to do with that." "The mortician spent two weeks in St. Gabriel, that is outside Baton Rouge, 60 miles from New Orleans."

Both of you might want to read all the links in case it wasn't clear. He was working on NO bodies, and the linked article claims only four confirmed murders in NO after the storm. That calls into question what we're now being told, and some of us are believing.

In view of the truer revela... (Below threshold)
AnonymousDrivel:

In view of the truer revelations of history regarding events around the Superdome/Convention Center and the concomitant histrionics based on that house of cards of erroneous reporting, you think maybe some should reconsider Michael Brown's (of FEMA) original comment about being unaware of the "catastrophe" happening in clear view in the 24-hour newscycle? It would appear that Brown was more correct in his perception than the caterwauling media vying both for ratings and the demonization of the Bush administration. It would also seem that ignoring the press coverage, whether intentionally or accidentally, was the more productive of the options.

But don't worry, legacy media (and cable news) - you've got your first skin in spite of the whole truth and you'll assuredly break some arms patting each other on the back. Meanwhile, other, more deserving skins will follow and a growing populace will know that it wasn't the mass media's coverage that supplied good data for the continued hunt. Garbage-In-Garbage-Out applies both to the old information machine as well as to the media award shows. Ratings will reflect this burgeoning revelation across the information exchange spectrum.

Sadly, traditional media is proving to be less and less valuable as a primary source of information in this hypercompetitive world of information exchange. The silver lining is that the internet is evolving to become the check on the Fourth Estate, long overdue but refreshingly enlightening. Let's hope that the blogging world does not adopt the bad habits of the MSM so broadly displayed during these "crises".

You all keep saying the wor... (Below threshold)
Jason:

You all keep saying the word "bias" but it's not bias, it's sensationalism.

Stories of rape and people shooting at rescuers are much more sensational than people just suffering in a shelter waiting to be removed.

I don't know who it would benefit for there to be stories about raping children and armed gangs murdering people, except the media.

So if the media is biased, it's toward themselves.

It's plain old sensationalism and it sells.

The camera focused on a ... (Below threshold)
Dave G.:

The camera focused on a young black girl who after the third time she chanted "we need help" she smiled a crafty, clever smile. I remember thinking This cannot be the unending nightmare I have been hearing about if she can smile like that.

Ok, so the arbiter of media bias is...your own bias? That's how you explain it? "A crafty, clever smile." Oh, yeah, of course. Since you were there, and you know what she was thinking.

Seriously now. Remember that Brown and Chertoff weren't denying the "mass murder" talk that was going on but the existence of people at the Convention Center in the first place -- they couldn't somehow "verify" that there were people there, even though the cameras were trained on those people. Were there the mass murders/rapes going on? Apparently not. And that should give people pause on what was being reported (although I seem to remember the Washington Post did a good article that talked about conditions at the Superdome, mostly about old people who had died - (true) and shit all over the floor with the toilets backed up for days (nobody is denying this). Those conditions that we saw were appalling, awful.

So it appears that some of the reports -- particularly the reports of A) mass gang shootings in the city that were unverified, and the B) mass rapes and such in the Superdome - was what is turning out to be unverified. That indicts all media, then -- from the Times-Picayune to Bill O'Reilly and everyone else. But this "blame the media" meme is getting old when there's more people who failed, more egregiously.

There were still thousands of people at the Superdome for days, without adequate food, water, shelter or toilets. That's appalling. And you're telling me that the exaggerations that I've mentioned above somehow what, vindicates Brown and Chertoff? Gimme a break, please. Even their own information wasn't good enough to find out anything about anything!

Weren't they the ones who first called for a FEMA house-cleaning based on the very inaccurate information that they're currently debunking? Didn't they print the same BS in their paper?

Um, at the time, they weren't publishing a paper, because the press was underwater. It was all on-line. And in addition, the FEMA housecleaning call wasn't based on the mass murders. It was the situation in general -- lack of logistical support, communication and coordination on the part of all levels of government, but particularly the people who are supposed to do the hard work in disaster management. It's one thing if you think the media sucks. It's another to say it vindicates that moron who is still on the FEMA payroll as a "consultant."

The silver lining is that the internet is evolving to become the check on the Fourth Estate, long overdue but refreshingly enlightening.

And who is your check? Who watches you? Or are you just yelling like me and everyone else on this thread?

We nailed the #2 bad guy... (Below threshold)
mantis:

We nailed the #2 bad guy in Iraq Sunday, you'd think that would be bigger news,

Yeah, if we hadn't nailed the "#2 bad guy" half a dozen times already it might be. Here's a good roundup of articles detailing many of the Al-Qaida leaders and deputies we've caught or captured in Iraq.

RE: Dave G.'s post (Septemb... (Below threshold)
AnonymousDrivel:

RE: Dave G.'s post (September 28, 2005 01:35 PM)
And who is your check? Who watches you? Or are you just yelling like me and everyone else on this thread?

Yelling? I wouldn't call it yelling as much as I would call it commentary with the readily available tools of hyperlinks and search engines to find data. With forums where debate is more bidirectional, interactive, and dynamic, a better understanding of events can evolve with some mechanism of self-correction. Mainstream media has been more of an oligopoly where that "better understanding" is corralled by a limited few who would choose when and how the story and its errors would be presented (or not). The internet affords a much better check on facts to a much wider audience who will present those checks practically realtime.

Who is my check? You are. As is every other reader who comes across my opinion or fact. Who watches me? You do. And you are obligated to present a different vision to challenge my views or to present the same vision to support them. And guess what? Neither of us has to ask for permission or pay exhorbitant fees to present such views to a potentially wide audience. I'd call such exchanges entirely enlightening, self-correcting, and genuinly productive if used responsibly.

Of course, you can "yell" and waste the forum and the valuable commodity of time, but I gather serious people would keep that to a minimum. My hope is that the blogosphere's yells will provide the appropriate checks, balances, and context to avoid evolving into the next oligopoly. Who knows. Get good enough at it and you'll likely get a wide audience with all of the power, prestige, and profit befitting an oracle. Well, two out of three ain't bad.

Anonymous, you make good po... (Below threshold)
Dave G.:

Anonymous, you make good points.

Just a few noted exceptions:
Of course, you can "yell" and waste the forum and the valuable commodity of time, but I gather serious people would keep that to a minimum.

First, forgive the word "yell." Instead, substitute "speak," or "discuss" if you will. Anyway, "serious people" indeed would keep to a minimum. The Internet has shown, however, that it is full of unserious people, or rather, people who don't strip out their emotion in favor of merely yelling (as you might say) or ranting and raving about this and that. While I agree with your notion of "not having to pay the privilege" et al., sometimes there's a merit to a self-correcting internal filter, one that strips out the noise before it's presented to begin with. That's not meant as an insult to intelligence to people to say they don't know what to believe or not -- but fact is, people sometimes only hear what they want, instead of what is verifiable. While much can be verified through the Internet, which constitutes the greatest document dump in the history of, well, the world, being on the ground in a certain situation - a war scene, a hurricane - does carry a legitimacy that watching from the computer screen does not. And that's something we're reacting to. That of course has to be used responsibly -- something that falls short in lots of media outlets these days (tho which ones, we may disagree on) -- but first-hand info carries more weight than second-hand, and then third-hand, and the like. One would hope most people, when, say, looking at a story like the DeLay indictment would click through to the PDF and read the indictment, but I suspect many people don't. That's ostensibly what purpose the media is supposed to serve. Are they always serving it? Well, no, of course not.

Who is my check? You are. As is every other reader who comes across my opinion or fact. Who watches me? You do.

True, indeed. the thing is, this universe (and by this, I mean blogs in general) are populated by people who are pretty headstrong and mostly just want to prove they're right about something -- or just ramble or scream in general. Ostensibly that's where the media comes in, by filtering through that through the use of editors prior to going to print/production/on-air broadcast. Now, the examples of Dan Rather and the Bush National Guard documents, Jayson Blair, Judith Miller and the WMD and Swift Boat liars prove that this isn't adhered to closely enough -- particularly in the last few years when it's been abysmal. That's some of the reason for the blogging avenue, anyway. Unfortunately, I feel a lot of what's out there is more bluster than anything else. That is all. Excuse my rambling.

sTILL THE WORSE HURICANE IN... (Below threshold)
spurwing plover:

sTILL THE WORSE HURICANE IN THIS NATIONS HISTORY WAS ON SEPT 8TH 1900 WITH 6000 DEAD and i suppose they will blame it on horse farts and coal fires

RE: Dave G.'s post (Septemb... (Below threshold)
AnonymousDrivel:

RE: Dave G.'s post (September 28, 2005 06:21 PM)

Thanks for the elaboration. By and large, I concur. The one sticking point for me was the media and its supposed filters to disseminate facts. You mentioned some spectacularly egregious examples (though we'd disagree on which were properly parsed) and every one of them were well fisked by the blogging world. Quickly. Thoroughly. Pre-internet, or more precisely, pre-blog, those revelations would not have happened. I wonder how many other stories have not received the proper filtering by the diligently trained media hordes of yore.

It would appear we are becoming increasingly aware of their failings - failings we have ignorantly overlooked for decades while granting them an undeserved clean bill of health. Quite liberating, despite the pitfalls, that we can correct the record or present a new one, and the likes of Rather cannot mute the message. Both amateur, professional, and expert of every stripe may freely challenge all points of view and present a vast archive of supportive evidence heretofore unavailable without vast priviledge and resource.

Nothing more powerfully democratic has occurred in our lifetimes. In the noise the message will come out and an army of anxious personnel chomp at the bit to analyze every angle at both liesurely and panicked paces. That is the tonic the mass media has needed but lacked forever and was loath to take. Now it must or its audience will dwindle to nothing.

It would appear we are b... (Below threshold)
Dave G.:

It would appear we are becoming increasingly aware of their failings - failings we have ignorantly overlooked for decades while granting them an undeserved clean bill of health.

Well, decades, I don't agree. The media's reputation was pretty lousy for most of this country's history, and only really improved in the 50s, and reached a zenith at Watergate, and basked in the glow of that for several years after. But the reputation has been flagging for many years now, pre-blogger years, in fact. Clean bill of health? I'm not sure I agree.

every one of them were well fisked by the blogging world. Quickly. Thoroughly.

Yes and no. One of the failings of the blogs remains that many come from highly ideological points of view -- and so the exaggerated stories of murders in the Superdome are used as a jumping off point to somehow vindicate FEMA. Does not compute.

Both amateur, professional, and expert of every stripe may freely challenge all points of view and present a vast archive of supportive evidence heretofore unavailable without vast priviledge and resource.

With this I concur. Hopefully it means the media will be more careful. But there's a line here - discerning the fine lines and details of the story better knowing there are going to be more eyes on it, and trying to satisfy the ideology or politics of one side or another through pathetic attempts to be "balanced." Lately balance has descended to essentially letting one harridan from each wing of the political spectrum spout off. It serves nobody well except to make pundits and other idiots feel they've been "represented." The true journalist would challenge all sides. It's not easy. But it's what has to be done.

Somebody said the blogs have become sort of the recall board (?) or the "second opinion" of the media, in a sense, if a story is ignored, the blogs will get it out there. Or perhaps re-focus lost attention on it. I hope that's the filter that it becomes - that's not a bad purpose. The rest is just opinion-mongering, an echo chamber of people alternately yelling about the hysterical statements or non-statements of Howard Dean, George Bush and the like.

Forgive my rambles again.




Advertisements









rightads.gif

beltwaybloggers.gif

insiderslogo.jpg

mba_blue.gif

Follow Wizbang

Follow Wizbang on FacebookFollow Wizbang on TwitterSubscribe to Wizbang feedWizbang Mobile

Contact

Send e-mail tips to us:

[email protected]

Fresh Links

Credits

Section Editor: Maggie Whitton

Editors: Jay Tea, Lorie Byrd, Kim Priestap, DJ Drummond, Michael Laprarie, Baron Von Ottomatic, Shawn Mallow, Rick, Dan Karipides, Michael Avitablile, Charlie Quidnunc, Steve Schippert

Emeritus: Paul, Mary Katherine Ham, Jim Addison, Alexander K. McClure, Cassy Fiano, Bill Jempty, John Stansbury, Rob Port

In Memorium: HughS

All original content copyright © 2003-2010 by Wizbang®, LLC. All rights reserved. Wizbang® is a registered service mark.

Powered by Movable Type Pro 4.361

Hosting by ServInt

Ratings on this site are powered by the Ajax Ratings Pro plugin for Movable Type.

Search on this site is powered by the FastSearch plugin for Movable Type.

Blogrolls on this site are powered by the MT-Blogroll.

Temporary site design is based on Cutline and Cutline for MT. Graphics by Apothegm Designs.

Author Login



Terms Of Service

DCMA Compliance Notice

Privacy Policy