Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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September 26, 2005
By: Kevin Drum

URBAN LEGEND UPDATE....Orleans Parish District Attorney Eddie Jordan tells the New Orleans Times-Picayune that the conventional wisdom about the Superdome and the Convention Center was wrong:

"I had the impression that at least 40 or 50 murders had occurred at the two sites," he said. "It's unfortunate we saw these kinds of stories saying crime had taken place on a massive scale when that wasn't the case. And they (national media outlets) have done nothing to follow up on any of these cases, they just accepted what people (on the street) told them....It's not consistent with the highest standards of journalism."

....The picture that emerged was one of the impoverished, masses of flood victims resorting to utter depravity, randomly attacking each other, as well as the police trying to protect them and the rescue workers trying to save them. [Mayor Ray] Nagin told [Oprah] Winfrey the crowd has descended to an "almost animalistic state."

It's hard to get a handle on what really happened. It's clear from the Times-Picayune account that there were a small number of deaths at the Superdome and the Convention Center but mostly from natural causes and none from foul play. There was only one verified account of gunfire. One verified account of attempted rape but the perpetrator was "beaten up" by civilians and apprehended by police.

"I think 99 percent of it is bulls---," said Sgt. 1st Class Jason Lachney, who played a key role in security and humanitarian work inside the Dome. "Don't get me wrong, bad things happened, but I didn't see any killing and raping and cutting of throats or anything....Ninety-nine percent of the people in the Dome were very well-behaved."

....Jimmie Fore, vice president of the state authority that runs the Convention Center, stayed in the building with a core group of 35 employees until Sept. 1, the Thursday after Katrina. He was appalled by what he saw. Thugs hotwired 75 forklifts and electric carts and looted food and booze from every room in the building, but he said he never saw any violent crimes committed, and neither did any of his employees.

As you might expect, the truth is hard to nail down with certainty. Rapes can go unreported, and assault is hard to verify. By now, the witnesses have all scattered and it's almost impossible to reconstruct what really happened.

Still, although it's clear that conditions were horrific, and there was a pervasive sense of fear and dread in both places during the week following Katrina, the evidence indicates that neither the Superdome nor the Convention Center was overrun by gangs, besieged by crime, or reduced to Lord of the Flies savagery. The national press could do everyone a favor by weighing in on this.

Kevin Drum 1:36 PM Permalink | Trackbacks

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