Monday Night Football returns to the New Orleans for the Superdome’s first appearance in primetime since Hurricane Katrina. You can expect a lot of talk about this being a symbolic victory for the city, and a lot of references to the things that occurred in the Dome in the days after the hurricane passed and the levees gave way. I think it will be interesting to see how many references will reflect the common perception of horrors that occurred versus the reality.
Will we hear about the supposed murders, rapes, atrocities and bodies stacked up in the facility’s freezer, presented as common knowledge, or will we hear about how outrageously the media hyped what they couldn’t see and couldn’t bother to verify yet presented as breathless fact? In case you’re scoring at home, here are some excerpts and interesting links (emphasis mine).
The LA Times: Rumors supplanted accurate information and media magnified the problem. Rapes, violence and estimates of the dead were wrong.
… Nagin and Police Chief Eddie Compass appeared on “Oprah” a few days after trouble at the Superdome had peaked.
Compass told of “the little babies getting raped” at the Superdome. And Nagin made his claim about hooligans raping and killing.
State officials this week said their counts of the dead at the city’s two largest evacuation points fell far short of early rumors and news reports. Ten bodies were recovered from the Superdome and four from the Convention Center, said Bob Johannessen, spokesman for the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals.
(National Guard officials put the body count at the Superdome at six, saying the other four bodies came from the area around the stadium.)
Of the 841 recorded hurricane-related deaths in Louisiana, four are identified as gunshot victims, Johannessen said. One victim was found in the Superdome but was believed to have been brought there, and one was found at the Convention Center, he added …
From Real Clear Politics, “What the Media Missed” (for one thing, no babies raped, but seven delivered!):
… Do you remember the dramatic TV footage of National Guard helicopters landing at the Superdome as soon as Katrina passed, dropping off tens of thousands saved from certain death? The corpsmen running with stretchers, in an echo of M*A*S*H, carrying the survivors to ambulances and the medical center? About how the operation, which also included the Coast Guard, regular military units, and local first responders, continued for more than a week?
Me neither. Except that it did happen, and got at best an occasional, parenthetical mention in the national media. The National Guard had its headquarters for Katrina, not just a few peacekeeping troops, in what the media portrayed as the pit of Hell. Hell was one of the safest places to be in New Orleans, smelly as it was. The situation was always under control, not surprisingly because the people in control were always there.
From the Dome, the Louisiana Guard’s main command ran at least 2,500 troops who rode out the storm inside the city, a dozen emergency shelters, 200-plus boats, dozens of high-water vehicles, 150 helicopters, and a triage and medical center that handled up to 5,000 patients (and delivered 7 babies). The Guard command headquarters also coordinated efforts of the police, firefighters and scores of volunteers after the storm knocked out local radio, as well as other regular military and other state Guard units.
Jack Harrison, a spokesman for the National Guard Bureau in Arlington, Virginia, cited “10,244 sorties flown, 88,181 passengers moved, 18,834 cargo tons hauled, 17,411 saves” by air. Unlike the politicians, they had a working chain of command that commandeered more relief aid from other Guard units outside the state. From day one.
There were problems, true: FEMA melted down. Political leaders, from the Mayor to Governor to the White House, showed “A Failure of Initiative”, as a recent House report put it. That report, along with sharply critical studies by the White House and the Senate, delve into the myriad of breakdowns, shortages and miscommunications that hampered relief efforts.
Still, by focusing on the part of the glass that was half-empty, the national media imposed a near total blackout on the nerve center of what may have been the largest, most successful aerial search and rescue operation in history…
Pencils ready? Hit it, Hank!