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Reports of violence in New Orleans greatle exaggerated - Journal of Omnifarious

Sep. 27th, 2005

06:58 am - Reports of violence in New Orleans greatle exaggerated

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Rumors of deaths greatly exaggerated

Now, I sort of wonder why this happened. Something in me wants to believe that somehow people think (wrongly IMHO) that without an obvious massive authority, we'll all devolve into savages. But that explanation really isn't very satisfying. Were people reporting massive violence in order to get attention from authorities in the hopes they'd hand out water or food? And the media picked it up and ran with it because it was sensational?

I don't know. Hmmm...

Current Mood: [mood icon] curious

Comments:

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From:ladon13
Date:September 27th, 2005 02:01 pm (UTC)
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Whatever it takes to keep the people alive. I'm sorry, but the situation was poorly handled by the local and federal governments. If it took the press going in to show how bad things were, then good for them.
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From:omnifarious
Date:September 27th, 2005 02:19 pm (UTC)
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But, if you read the article, it largely didn't help at all. It brought SWAT teams, but no food or water.

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From:scottscidmore
Date:September 27th, 2005 06:22 pm (UTC)
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A lot of the reports seemed to have rumor, this from reading a number of sources. It's not uncommon when there's a lot of disorganization and stress to have both completely untrue events reported and to have an event inflated into multiple occurrences. Plus 'bad stuff happening' makes exciting news, if verification is difficult then rumors get reported and taken as fact. You see the 'telephone relay' effect happening - as news of something gets passed from person to person it mutates. With large groups it takes multiple paths, the differing changes soon make it seem to be multiple events; someone can hear each version and think them unrelated.

The roots of such don't even have to be something real. "I haven't seen Jane in hours" "Oh God, do you supposed something happened to her?" can turn into a rape and murder report as it passes from person to person.

This sort of thing happens most anytime you have crowds, confusion, and stress. I've seen it during the WTO in Seattle, during large protests in the `60s/`70s, several earthquakes and assassinations. I've read reports of similar things throughout history.

You're more or less correct on the media. People like to hear stories of bad events, just as they like to stare at car wreaks and fires. Report it, people listen to your station to hear more. Combine that with the multiplicative effects of crowds, and what starts as a rumor soon appears to be real events collaborated by multiple witnesses.
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From:omnifarious
Date:September 27th, 2005 07:19 pm (UTC)
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Yes, that does explain it perfectly. I should've thought of that myself.

I suspect one reason also is that many people wanted Bush to fall down on this, and so evidence of it happening was all the more juicy to report. Which is sort of sad really. :-/

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From:bansheewail
Date:September 28th, 2005 01:03 am (UTC)
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Considering the well-known media bias, and the right-wing propaganda that has dominated almost all the news sources...and my usual formula for inferring guilt when evidence is insubstantial (who saw any benefit from the action in question)...I'm going to go with: It was in the government's best interest to portray the situation as volatile, out of control, the evacuees as lawless and dangerous, because then they had a better perceived excuse for not taking care of them with greater efficiency. QED?
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From:omnifarious
Date:September 28th, 2005 04:30 am (UTC)
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I do think that accounts for some of it. For example, it was in the New Orleans police's best interest to distract from their own rampant corruption, and a good way to do that is to make people think that they're outgunned and direly needed to maintain some vague sort of order.

But I think the telephone game explains most of it better. It relies on stupidity and a known tendency for people to exaggerate in order to make a better story rather than malice. I seriously don't think any of the government agencies had things together well enough to think about spinning that way at the time these things were being reported.

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