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Hullabaloo


Tuesday, September 27, 2005

 
Rumors and Expectations

Pre$$titutes reports that righty bloggers are going all Claude Rains on us because they "just realized" that the media reported anarchy and violence in New Orleans that was unsubstantiated. Drudge is especially shocked that anyone would spread scurrilous rumors.

They are holding the media responsible for the Katrina aftermath and they are not entirely wrong. Of course the media should have been skeptical of these crazy rumors and should have wondered why they weren't seeing any evidence of the alleged mayhem as they waded through the city. All I ever saw was a few desultory looters hauling around some boxes of sneakers.

The media certainly need to ask themselves some probing questions about why they were so gullible. It didn't pass the smell test from the get as far as I was concerned. (But then as TBOGG pithily reminds us, it isn't exactly the first time the media have bought into rumor and speculation hook line and sinker, now is it?)

But blaming the media is missing the point. They, like many others, chose to believe something for which there was no evidence. The press saw and reported the wretched spectacle of the evacuees living in horrible conditions, waiting and begging for help, but by that time everything was seen within the prism of the earlier (and ongoing) reports of violence. They need to do some soul searching about that.

Even those who lived it, for many reasons, saw the situation as anarchic and dangerous for their own reasons.

Bud Hopes, of Brisbane, was praised for saving dozens of tourists as the supposed safe haven of the city's Superdome became a hellhole.

"I would have to say that Bud is solely responsible for our evacuation," Vanessa Cullington, 22, of Sydney, told the Sunday Herald Sun by mobile phone from a bus carrying 10 Australians to safety in Dallas, Texas.

"I dread to think what would have happened if we hadn't got out. It's so great to be free."

News of the group's escape came as reports said as many as 10,000 people might have been killed by the hurricane and its aftermath, and President George Bush ordered more troops and an increased aid effort for the stricken Gulf of Mexico states.

As the Australians left the Superdome, food and water were almost non-existent and the stiflingly hot arena was filled with 25,000 people and the stench of human waste. Gangs stalked the tourists and women were threatened with rape.

"Bud took control. He was calm and kept it together the whole time," Ms Cullington said.

Mr Hopes, 32, said: "That was the worst place in the universe. Ninety-eight per cent of the people around the world are good. In that place, 98 per cent of the people were bad.

"Everyone brought their drugs, they brought guns, they brought knives. Soldiers were shot.

"It was like a refugee camp within a prison.

"It was full on. It was the worst thing I have seen in my life. I have never been so frightened."

Realising that foreigners were a target, Mr Hopes and the other Aussies gathered tourists from Europe, South America and elsewhere into one part of the building.

"There were 65 of us, so we were able to look after each other -- especially the girls who were being grabbed and threatened." Mr Hopes said.

He said they had organised escorts for the women when they had gone for food or to the toilet, and rosters to keep guard while others slept.

"We sat through the night just watching each other, not knowing if we would be alive in the morning."

John McNeil, 20, of Brisbane, said the worst point had come after two days when soldiers had told them the power in the dome was failing and there was only 10 minutes worth of gas left.

"I looked at Bud and said, 'That will be the end of us'," Mr McNeil said.

"The gangs . . . knew where we were. If the lights had gone out we would have been in deep trouble. We prayed for a miracle and the lights stayed on."

[...]

Mrs McNeil broke down when she saw images of her son leaving New Orleans.

"There have been times during this past week when we didn't know if we would see him again," she said.

Mr McNeil said he could see a change in his son.

"They've been traumatised," he said. "I think they've witnessed several atrocities.".


They worked themselves into a frenzy, just as a whole lot of other people did.(98% were bad!!!) They may have been threatened. I have no way of knowing. But it was a long way from "atrocities." The reports of others -- many of whom were white -- at the Superdome don't bear out their story. These were people who were convinced that because they were the minority, they were going to be killed. But there are many other whites who didn't see themselves threatened this way at all. Perceptions were everything. Beliefs and prejudices about race and class were everything.

It was even as if some people expected it to happen, somewhere in their subconscious, even before the rumors started. Check out this post at 10:05 am on Monday, August 29th, when people still thought "a bullet had been dodged" in New Orleans, long before anyone realized that the cavalry was waiting for massive reinforcements before it would dare to enter the barbarous city:

ATTN: SUPERDOME RESIDENTS [Jonah Goldberg]
I think it's time to face facts. That place is going to be a Mad Max/thunderdome Waterworld/Lord of the Flies horror show within the next few hours. My advice is to prepare yourself now. Hoard weapons, grow gills and learn to communicate with serpents. While you're working on that, find the biggest guy you can and when he's not expecting it beat him senseless. Gather young fighters around you and tell the womenfolk you will feed and protect any female who agrees to participate without question in your plans to repopulate the earth with a race of gilled-supermen. It's never too soon to be prepared.
Posted at 10:05 AM


You can't blame the MSM for that. They hadn't even begun to report the mayhem that shortly caused Peggy Noonan (and her latest manly hero, Haley Barbour) to call for the looters (a useful euphemism) to be shot on sight.

At 10:45 on the morning after the hurricane, Jonah has already called forth the "Lord of the Flies" image that would be emblematic of New Orleans the next few days. (This google search shows just how many references there were.) Jonah made a few more peurile remarks about how the loss was worse for middle class families and the like before he finally settled down and realized that the disaster was of epic prooprtions. But he predicted the "anarchy" even before the rumors that turned out to be false began. It existed in his mind. I think it existed in a lot of people's minds.

(If you'd like some real fun, go to the Corner link and read Rich Lowry's comments as he breathlessly clips items and snippets of news reports about violence and mayhem.)

I'm not letting the media off the hook. They too took these ridiculous stories on faith and there were serious consequences to them being circulated. But the question that must be asked isn't why the media reported them --- the question is why so many people, including the media, were so willing to believe them in the absence of any real evidence.


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