September 4, 2005


A Perfect Storm of Lawlessness : New Orleans’ vicious looters aren’t the real face of the city’s poor—their victims are. (Nicole Gelinas, 1 September 2005, City Journal)

New Orleans hasn’t even been disarmed yet, but the story of those who looted, trashed, and terrorized the city this week is already being re-written. Al Sharpton went on MSNBC Thursday night to say that “looters are people who pay their taxes whose infrastructure caved in on them.” The final PC version of the story is likely to go like this: The desperate people left behind in New Orleans, nearly all black, had justification in brutally attacking their city because the help they frantically sought didn’t come.

In truth, the looters, rapists, and murderers who have terrorized New Orleans since Monday began their post-Katrina reign of terror a full day before the situation grew truly desperate—and it was their increasingly lawless behavior that kept willing but unarmed professional and volunteer rescue workers away from the city and from the poor people who needed saving.

Let’s go back to last Sunday morning—such a long time ago, it now seems. Most New Orleanians with means—the most resourceful poor, the middle class, and the affluent—left the city of nearly half-a-million residents that day, 24 hours before Katrina hit. They took planes, they drove, they hitchhiked, and some walked. Save for the home and business owners who valued their property more than their lives, most of the 100,000 or so who stayed behind were those not only poor in financial resources but in human capital as well.

Some who stayed behind are the New Orleanians who depend on the government on a good day—impoverished women, children, and elderly folks who went to the Superdome and to the Convention Center Sunday, expecting their government to take care of them. And those were the smart ones—those who moved rationally and proactively, despite a lack of transportation out of the city and a lack of government co-ordination, to secure their own physical safety. Thousands of others who stayed in their low-lying homes in the 9th Ward (which predictably flooded, as it flooded 40 years ago during Hurricane Betsy) drowned or now find themselves trapped—starved and dying of dehydration.

And the others who stayed behind, unfortunately, are those who terrorize New Orleans on a low-grade level on a good day—and have now taken over the stricken city. What’s happened is the predictable civil deterioration of a city whose fragile civil infrastructure can’t control or contain its core criminal class in peacetime.

Katrina didn’t turn innocent citizens into desperate criminals. This week’s looters (not those who took small supplies of food and water for sustenance, but those who have trashed, burned, and shot their way through the city since Monday) are the same depraved individuals who have pushed New Orleans’ murder rate to several multiples above the national average in normal times. (New Orleans, without Katrina, would have likely ended 2005 with 330 or so murders—compared to about 65 in Boston, a city roughly the same in size.) Today may not be the best day to get into New Orleans’ intractable crime problem, but it’s necessary, since it explains how this week’s communications and policing vacuum so quickly created a perfect storm for the vicious lawlessness that has broken out.

Somehow in the Left's memory the urban riots of the late 60s became an event that shamed white America into realizing how badly even Northern blacks were being treated. In fact, what they did was end the civil rights movement, because they filled whites with both fear and contempt for the very people they felt they'd gone pretty far to help at great cost to the cohesiveness of society.

The Left has made a rather tone-deaf decision to try and cast the aftermath of Katrina as a racial issue even though such a theme can only backfire. White America doesn't look at looting in New Orleans and say, "My goodness, what have we driven them to?" We look at it and say, "What kind of people are they?"

Posted by Orrin Judd at September 4, 2005 12:00 AM

oj, it's not only white America disgusted by what they see in New Orleans.

All Americans are disgusted by what they see. I think this may be a turning point even among non-moonbat liberals who must be able to see where decades of their social-engineering-gone-mad has lead to.

Posted by: erp [TypeKey Profile Page] at September 4, 2005 11:44 AM

Where are these "non-moonbat" liberals going to find out that the hurricane, the flood and the rape of NO wasn't Bush's fault? The MSM sees this as an opportunity to finally get Bush and already conservative and libertarian blogs are predicting a Republican defeat in '08 because of Katrina. I don't agree with that, but all this spin may hurt the RNC's push to recruit more blacks into the party. I think we'll have to be satisfied with our 51% of the vote for the next two election cycles.

Posted by: Patrick H at September 4, 2005 12:03 PM


Yes, but it's whites Democrats have lost.

Posted by: oj at September 4, 2005 12:22 PM


Liberals who haven't already drunk the koolaid can find the truth on talk radio, Fox News, the internet, books, magazines. The same way we all found the truth.

This mess is so big and messy and the LA Democratic machine so ingrained and so inept, I don't think the media will be able to pin it on Bush. No way he hasn't done everything by the book.

It's the Republicans in congress that I'm worried about. The old go along to get along bunch who may not understand that they must go on the offensive.

Posted by: erp [TypeKey Profile Page] at September 4, 2005 3:24 PM

Which means it might be the time for newer members to stage an internal GOP takeover/housecleaning from the "get along go along" bunch. (I'm thinking people like Don Young and all those other GOPers who are in power due to senority and who were there before '94. Let the Young Turks have their chance at screwing things up again.)

Posted by: Raoul Ortega at September 4, 2005 3:56 PM

We look at it and say, "What kind of people are they?"

Indeed. As I've said to some friends recently: I'll bet that nobody I know, and nobody you know, upon finding themselves in a disaster of this sort, would think: "Let's go loot the Children's Hospital!"

Posted by: PapayaSF at September 4, 2005 4:11 PM

Haley Barbour put it simply - "Looting will be dealt with ruthlessly". Kathleen Blanco never put it in any way, shape, or form. So New Orleans suffered even more.

Had the 82nd parachuted in on Tuesday morning, Bush would have been attacked even more for slaughtering helpless "citizens".

What he should have done was drop Reverends Al and Jesse, Alan Dershowitz, Barbara Lee, John Conyers, and Katrina Van den Heuval at the Superdome on Tuesday afternoon. They should have been instructed to hold the fort until the soldiers arrived. Other prominent leftists could have been dropped in the Ninth Ward, and elsewhere around the city.

Why didn't Mary Landrieu and Ray Nagin go out to effect the peace? I'll bet they left their bunkers only for photo shoots.

Posted by: jim hamlen at September 4, 2005 6:40 PM

It is interesting to compare New York during the blackouts of 1976 and 2003. the first (I was there) was a catastrophe. The more recent was a love-in.

Urban cultures can be changed.

Posted by: Robert Schwartz [TypeKey Profile Page] at September 4, 2005 11:44 PM