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Location: Montgomery Area, Alabama, United States

Former BUFF driver; self-styled military historian; paid (a lot) to write about beating plowshares into swords; NOT Foamy the Squirrel, contrary to all appearances. Wesleyan Jihadi Name: Sibling Railgun of Reasoned Discourse

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Newsmen

If you haven't seen this account of the mainstream media's rampant panic-mongering and carnography during coverage of Hurricane Katrina yet, you should:

"It just morphed into this mythical place where the most unthinkable deeds were being done," [LANG Maj Ed] Bush said Monday of the Superdome.

His assessment is one of several in recent days to conclude that newspapers and television exaggerated criminal behavior in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, particularly at the overcrowded Superdome and Convention Center.

The New Orleans Times-Picayune on Monday described inflated body counts, unverified "rapes," and unconfirmed sniper attacks as among examples of "scores of myths about the dome and Convention Center treated as fact by evacuees, the media and even some of New Orleans' top officials."

Indeed, Mayor C. Ray Nagin told a national television audience on "Oprah" three weeks ago of people "in that frickin' Superdome for five days watching dead bodies, watching hooligans killing people, raping people."

Journalists and officials who have reviewed the Katrina disaster blamed the inaccurate reporting in large measure on the breakdown of telephone service, which prevented dissemination of accurate reports to those most in need of the information. Race may have also played a factor.

The wild rumors filled the vacuum and seemed to gain credence with each retelling — that an infant's body had been found in a trash can, that sharks from Lake Pontchartrain were swimming through the business district, that hundreds of bodies had been stacked in the Superdome basement

All are punish'd, too: Fox was one of the worst offenders (as I can personally attest, since I watch much of their coverage). The Europinks, of course, had an absolute field day with the "Lord of the Flies" meme. I must admit, the "thin veneer" argument resonated with a born Calvinist like me as well. I'm all-too-ready to believe the worst about human nature. I'm glad, however, that the truth wasn't as messy.


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