Day By Day

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Katrina -- The Anatomy of a Myth

Gateway Pundit has a useful item by item comparison of the rumors reported in the MSM during the Katrina disaster and the facts as determined afterward. Read it here.

What is interesting is not that the MSM got almost everything wrong, but to ask why there should have been so much misreporting. A few thoughts:

Part of it is obviously racism. The refugee population was overwhelmingly black and that colored the perceptions of the media. White media folk [overwhemingly liberal in their orientation] were willing to believe that poor blacks were prone to the most despicable behaviors and reported rumors of cannibalism, rape [of babies], widespread assaults and murders, etc. as fact.

But there is far more than simple racism working here. Middle-class and elite blacks in positions of power also accepted and even embellished these rumors. Here we see a profound antipathy, even fear, being expressed by affluent and powerful blacks toward the black under-class.

A common point of reference for everyone involved seems to have been the LA riots that were characterized by widespread looting and violence. The Katrina situation was interpreted as a replay of those earlier atrocities. The assumption (which seems to be widespread and deeply engrained in American liberal culture) was that once controls were lifted urban blacks would immediately descend into savagry. This speaks to a profound insecurity and guilt at the heart of affluent, liberal America, both black and white.

Foreign commentators seized on and reported as fact the most extreme of the rumors floating around because these confirmed their belief that America is an oppressive, racist, brutally uncaring society [as opposed to their loving, caring, socialist collectives]. Cracked political theory thus shaped coverage to a certain amount, especially when left-leaning American media and academic types allowed this foreign disdain to bleed back into their own coverage and commentary.

Black racist ideologues in the US gladly embraced tales of horror and mayhem as a means of validating their broader indictment of American society -- I'm talkin' bout you..., Rev. Al, and Rev. Jesse, and especially Rev. Louis and all you cynical crackpot "Revs." out there. Their message in this, as in other cases, seemed to be -- "if you don't throw some Danegeld our way and fast these outraged and dangerous people will destroy everything."

Many Cconservative commentators and reporters [yes there are some] joined in the mess either because the worst case scenario confirmed a Hobbesean vision of society or because it confirmed their indictment of a welfare state that engenders depravity and irresponsibility.

Many cynical politicians saw in Katrina an opportunity to attack the current administration and its policies -- the extravagent myths simply made their case seem more convincing and pertinent so they embraced and spread them.

And, there is no denying that there was disorder and hysteria outside the Convention center. NBC cameras caught it all and replayed it over and over and over and over, lending credence to the belief that anarchy had been loosed upon the world.

Finally, there is the last refuge of the media cynic -- pervasive and extravagent disorder is a dramatic story to tell and the MSM is in the business of telling dramatic stories, not informing people.

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