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MSM-Induced Hysteria

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Christianity Today does a Q&A with New Orleans’ Canal Street Presbyterian Church’s Pastor Mike Hogg. In the aftermath of Katrina, MarkDRoberts discovered that Hogg, an old friend of Roberts, had become pastor of Canal Street Pres, and Roberts’ church quickly decided to partner with Canal Street in the latter’s long term recovery and outreach to the city. It is a partnership with many parallels in many denominations, and a model that is replicating as more and more impacted churches find a way to telegraph (or blog) their need. NZ Bear’s new portal –due this weekend of Monday– will facilitate such matching of like institutions.

Here’s the Katrina Help Wiki. (HT: Matt Jones)

Not satisfied with Michael Brown’s recall, the Washington Post today tries to widen the political impact of Katrina —on Republicans, of course. In this report on the alleged “jarring notes” hit by GOP electeds, the Post could not find the space to quote Rep. Cynthia McKinney: “As I saw the mostly African American families ripped apart, I could only think of slavery. Families ripped apart, herded into what looked like concentration camps.”

Talk about your jarring notes.

Now I’d like to ask for a little reader help.

We all saw story after story about the atrocities being committed in New Orleans in the four days following the hurricane’s fury.

The headlines were familiar: “New Orleans thugs rape, loot and shoot,” topped a typical Detroit News report. Here’s one of the most lurid of the reports, which includes many quotes from Arkansas National Guardsman Mikel Brooks, allegedly taken from a walk through in the NO Convention Center:

Arkansas National Guardsman Mikel Brooks stepped through the food service entrance of the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center Monday, flipped on the light at the end of his machine gun, and started pointing out bodies.

“Don’t step in that blood – it’s contaminated,” he said. “That one with his arm sticking up in the air, he’s an old man.”
Then he shined the light on the smaller human figure under the white sheet next to the elderly man.

“That’s a kid,” he said. “There’s another one in the freezer, a 7-year-old with her throat cut.”

He moved on, walking quickly through the darkness, pulling his camouflage shirt to his face to screen out the overwhelming odor.
“There’s an old woman,” he said, pointing to a wheelchair covered by a sheet. “I escorted her in myself. And that old man got bludgeoned to death,” he said of the body lying on the floor next to the wheelchair.

The headline on this Brian Thevenot article for the Times Picayune: “Mayor says Katrina may have claimed more than 10,000 lives
Bodies found piled in freezer at Convention Center”

Then there was this “report” fron “NBC photojournalist” Tony Zumbado, in which Zumbado tells MSNBC anchor Alison Stewart that at the Convention Center that

“[t]hese people are very desperate. I saw two gentlemen die in front of me because of dehydration. I saw a baby near death….The sanitation was unbelievable. The stench in there… was unbelievable. Dead people around the walls of the convention center, laying in the middle of the street in their dying chairs. … They were just covered up … Babies, two babies dehydrated and died. I’m telling you, I couldn’t take it.”

At the time I read that exchange I found it odd that a photojournalist hadn’t brought back picture of the two dead babies or the dying man, but didn’t post on the subject.

Now we get a report that the NO Police Chief Compass “denied reports that dead children have been found in the city’s convention center, where more than 20,000 evacuees were held until last weekend.”

And as for the estimates of 10,000 dead: “‘There’s nothing at all in the magnitude we anticipated,” said Maj. Gen. Bill Caldwell, commander of the Army’s 82nd Airborne Division.”

On Thursday, the New York Times carried a story of Chief Compass:

While he acknowledged that murders and rapes had occurred at both the convention center and the Superdome, Mr. Compass said the mayhem at the unlighted convention center would have been worse if the police had not created a plan to capture the armed thugs who were terrorizing others. Because his officers could not risk harming innocent evacuees by returning fire in the dark, he said, they watched instead for muzzle fire and moved toward it, patting people down and yelling “gun” when they felt a weapon. Then officers converged and tackled the gunman.

Yesterday the Chief said that not only had no bodies of children been found at the Convention Center, there was “no evidence of sexual assaults” either. So the Chief “acknowledged” that rapes had occured at the Convention Center and Dome on Thursday, but denied it on Friday. There’s something wrong with either the Times’ report or the Chief’s accounts. Whichever it is, it is newsworthy: What happened at both locations, in both categories, to the best of the authorities knowledge? Can at least one reporter from MSM write a straight story covering those facts? Or are those numbers so elusive as to render such reporting meaningless now, though it was no so earlier in the crisis?

What is the real story of what was going on in New Orleans for the four days after the storm? How many murders –total– occured in the city, if any, and what was going on in MSM when it allowed “photojournalist” Zumbado to talk on national television about, among other things, two dead babies at the convention center, or when the crucial paper reports a national guardsman reporting a seven year old with a slit throat and a five year old gang raped?

I’d like your help in compiling other examples of MSM hysteria from the disaster zone last week. The state and local authorities failed miserably in maintaining order, yes, just as has happened in many places and at many times in the country’s history. More than 40 people died in the violence of the 1992 Los Angeles riots, for example, and none of those can be put down to a natural disaster. The looting and human-made ddestruction was far, far worse than that brought about in the aftermath of Katrina.

But MSM took the shock of the storm and the abjectness of the misery of the people evacuated into the Dome and the Convention Center, combined them with pictures of folks on overpasses and roofs, and then injected a deeply troubling note of rampant violence directed at children to stoke hystreia (and ratings).

There are many failures to be investigated in the aftermath of Katrina, including why the evacuation left as many as 100,000 in the city, why the prepositioning of law enforcement and national guard in the Dome and Convention Center was inadequate, why relief supplies from the Red Cross and Salvation Army were blocked, and why FEMA seemed so slow to take control from the locals obviously overwhelmed by the size of the storm and its devastation.

But there’s at least a day of hearings on MSM’s role in this fiasco as well, from the question of the responsibility of flooding the area with reporters who, while they encourage people to “take cover” or evacuate, are in fact doing neither, to the relentless peddling of the most sensational of stories and estimates.

It would be good to call “photojournalist” Zumbado, Guardsman Brooks, and Times Picayune reporter Brian Thevenot to ask them what exactly were they talking about?

The temptation for MSM will be to change the subject from their accuracy over the past two weeks to the latest round of Bush bashing, this one telegraphed by the lead story in this morning’s New York Times with its report on a “second wave of frustration” with FEMA:

The decision to remove Mr. Brown came as the entire federal government continued to have widespread and persistent trouble with its efforts to provide aid to evacuees and begin the cleanup in earnest. Hundreds of thousands of evacuees, now safe from immediate danger, faced a second wave of frustration over prolonged delays in finding assistance and navigating a maze of federal and local programs.

In Houston, local officials complained that FEMA’s computer system kept crashing. In Ocean Springs, Miss., officials started turning people away from a FEMA disaster recovery center three hours before closing time, saying they were overwhelmed.

“There is so much chaos and dysfunction going on with the federal government that Dallas can’t wait any longer for federal help,” said Mayor Laura Miller of Dallas.

There is going to be an enormous amount of “frustration,” and it won’t be because the computers crashed.

It is because the epic amount of destruction brought about by this storm is on a scale the country has never seen, and for which it cannot in any sensible way prepare beyond the actually very efficient rescue-from-life-threatening-circumstances response carried out across the region by numerous agencies after the storm passed.

The compilation of hysteria-tinged stories/reports would make a great stand alone blog for any new blogger interested in getting some traction. In the interim, if you find one for the files, please send the link to “News” reports are the priority, but examples of pundit hysteria are also welcome.


At least this Swede gets it.

Ed Driscoll has a tough question for CNN’s suits.

CheatSeekingMissiles has background the MSM might be able to use.

And RightMom asks whether people are considering the opportunity for a new start along very different paths.

And from The Informed Christian, who got it from Mudville Gazette, a guided tour in pictures from the New orleans during the crisis.

Finally, Professor of the Vines suggests that it was enviros who flooded New Orleans. And he hasn’t been drinking. Well, he wasn’t drinking when he wrote it. He might be drinkingnow given that it is his second blogoversary. I take a little pride in the launch of the well-oiled effort (and I do mean well-oiled), so congrats to Professor B., who I assume is also toasted Notre Dame, which unlike Professor B.’s employer’s cross town rival, does actually play a real schedule.

Go Irish. Go Bucks. What will I do when they meet in the Rose Bowl for all the marbles?

UPDATE 2: Did Brian Williams really say people were starving in the Superdome? Starving? Did Williams cover the Schiavo starvation, where someone really was starving, and being dehydrated to death? People in the Superdome were hungry and very uncomfortable (bcause Lousiana state officials blocked the Red Cross and Salvation Army from delivering ample supplies of water and food.) Accounts also confirm near panic and some violence, yes. But are we beginning to see that maybe a great number of pampered MSM types saw a little suffering up close –Anderson Cooper and the house that smelled of dead bodies comes to mind, Campbell Brown comes to mind, etc, etc–and freaked out?


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