Hype or Reality?
It’s hard to know what to make of this story, running on NOLA.com. Is it damage control, or reality? Here are some excerpts:
Rumors of deaths greatly exaggerated
The picture that emerged was one of the impoverished, masses of flood victims resorting to utter depravity, randomly attacking each other, as well as the police trying to protect them and the rescue workers trying to save them. Nagin told Winfrey the crowd has descended to an "almost animalistic state."
Four weeks after the storm, few of the widely reported atrocities have been backed with evidence. The piles of bodies never materialized, and soldiers, police officers and rescue personnel on the front lines say that although anarchy reigned at times and people suffered unimaginable indignities, most of the worst crimes reported at the time never happened.
Certainly the stories from the Superdome and the Convention Center are among the most horrifying I’ve ever heard. I absolutely believe there was looting, gunfire, and mayhem. The city definitely was burning and exploding, and people died. It wasn’t all a fantasy spurred by panic and hysteria.
BUT - another reality is that the media, too, fell victim to the panic. Furthermore, I believe they self-perpetuated their own hysteria.
The media have some really bad habits, not the least of which is “spinning” a story for the greatest dramatic effect. In their race against one another to report the most gruesome acts, the most depraved crimes, or the most heroic rescues, they intensify situations exponentially. A thousand reporters hearing the same incident, but describing different details to provide a unique story, create a thousand different events to a credulous audience.
The looting and violence were real. No two ways about it, and I don’t mean hungry people looking for food either. Folks – you just cannot eat a TV. Truly.
The gunfire in the streets was real. I don’t think anybody really doubts that.
What I do NOT believe is that the entire city of New Orleans went insane. Nor do I think that what happened there is in any way indicative of failed social programs throughout American society. The problems in New Orleans do not necessarily translate elsewhere, and some responsible party really needs to get in front of the confusion this tragedy has created.
A significant amount of what we were told was going on in New Orleans was true. Unfortunately, even had it all been made up, it wouldn’t matter, because people believed it then, and they believe it still.