Statistics released by the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals suggest that fewer than half of the victims of Hurricane Katrina were black, and that whites died at the highest rate of all races in New Orleans.Read it here.
Liberals in the aftermath of the storm were quick to allege that the Bush administration delayed its response to the catastrophe because most of the victims were black.
Damu Smith, founder of the National Black Environmental Justice Network, in September said that the federal government "ignored us, they forgot about us ... because we look like we look."
Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan in October said that the Federal Emergency Management Agency wasn't fit to help the storm's victims because "there are not enough blacks high up in FEMA" and added that, "certainly the Red Cross is the same."
Rapper Kanye West used his time on NBC's telethon for the hurricane victims to charge that, "George Bush doesn't care about black people."
But the state's demographic information suggests that whites in
died at a higher rate than minorities. New Orleans
Well, well, now. What are we to make of this? It now appears that nearly all of the on-the-spot reporting was erroneous. What is more, the errors were not random but systematic. They formed a pattern, one that revealed a view of the world very much at odds with reality. In the reporters world racism is rampant and deadly; Republicans don't care about the poor and are particularly uninterested in the fate of blacks and other minorities; Bush is an incompetent fool; left unsupervised and unsupported blacks quickly descend into a Hobbsean world of universal strife and suffering. You know those tunes. You hear them played every night on the evening news.
Is this, as many conservatives suppose, a conscious conspiracy to keep blacks dependent on the state and to demonize Republicans? Probably not. Bernie Goldberg, is closer to the truth when he asserts that the major news sources exist in a bubble -- a self-contained informational feedback loop -- in which certain "truths," learned in the age of the Civil Rights struggle, Vietnam, and the Watergate scandals, are perpetuated and promulgated long after they have ceased to have much correspondence with the contours of the real world. New York reporters looked at Katrina and saw, not New Orleans, but Selma and Birmingham, they look at Baghdad and see Hanoi, they look at Bush and see Nixon.
It is a bizarre counter reality, but it has had remarkable staying power, and has real political consequences. As such, it is a subject that should be of interest to historians, but sadly the media myth has not attracted much attention.
What a wonderful dissertation subject it would make.