At the time of the Los Angeles riots, I wrote a piece for the May 3, 1992 Los Angeles Times titled “When Television Throws a Riot.” It isn’t available in the online archives, but the thrust of it was that televsion coverage can and does communicate invitations to lawlessness which are acted on by people who realize that there is no threat of police arriving and arrest.
This same dynamic seems to be taking over in New Orleans right now, and even though very few folks are watching television with the power out, news still travels instantly, and television producers have got to discipline themselves to refuse to broadcast pictures of and locations of looting, especially in the areas outside of New Orleans. The government cannot enforce such a ban, but it is very much in the interest of the people in the devastated region these media outlets purport to serve to downplay civil unrest. The national shows also need to avoid throwing fuel on the fire. If you want more civil unrest, broadcast pictures of civil unrest and the cell phones and blackberries will do the rest.
I am also concerned that Senator Vitter is correct that media reports are adding to an overall sense of panic in New Orleans. Time for the media folks who have been up for 36 or 48 hours to go home and take a shift off, and let cooler, fresher heads make the news calls.
Similarly, moderators at bulletin boards have to be careful to avoid allowing fear mongers to post junk without any sources whatsoever. There’s enough dire news as it is. Rumors only add to the worry and fear of families that are out of communication.
I would appreciate any pointers to (1)coast guard bloggers, (2)civil engineering blogs that are discussing the levee breaks, and (3)word on whether the elevators in the many high rises in downtown New Orleans have been checked for trapped people.
I expect that the outpouring of generosity by Americans on behalf of Americans will surprise us all. See Insatpundit for a list of organizations, and N.Z. Bear for a list of bloggers participating in Thursday’s Blogs-across-America relief effort.
Bravo to You Big Mouth You for highlighting corporate generosity.
My e-mail is firstname.lastname@example.org.