September 11, 2005


Up for grabs: Sociologists question how much looting and mayhem really took place in New Orleans (Christopher Shea, September 11, 2005, Boston Globe)

BY NOW THE IMAGES and stories of looting and mayhem in New Orleans--the residents ''shopping" for nonessentials in an abandoned Wal-Mart, alleged rapes in the Superdome, a shot fired at a rescue helicopter--have been burned into the brain of every television watcher and newspaper reader in America. But do they give us an accurate picture of the aftermath of the flood?

In fact, if criminal violence were indeed rampant in New Orleans after Katrina hit (setting aside the taking of food, water, bandages, and other necessities of survival), that would contradict much of what sociologists have learned in a half century of research about such situations. ''The evidence is overwhelming," says Enrico Quarantelli, an emeritus professor of sociology and the founding director of the Disaster Research Center at the University of Delaware, ''that in the standard natural disaster or technological disaster"--like a chemical spill--''you're not going to get looting."

Many observers have found the footage of looting and reports of crime to be, in the words of New York Times columnist Nicholas D. Kristof, ''one of the most dispiriting" aspect of the tragedy. Slate's William Saletan went so far as to call it ''a second-wave destructive force" that must be anticipated in future disaster planning. Yet Quarantelli and a half-dozen other experts on disaster aftermaths and crowd behavior contacted last week insisted that follow-up investigations will reveal that the impression of Hobbesian violence in New Orleans over the past two weeks was created in large part by rumor and amplified by sometimes credulous reporters. The scholars' suspicions are fueled by what they say is a well-documented history of misinformation during disasters--and a general human tendency to misread crowds, even violent ones, as more malevolent than they really are.

Don't bother folks while they're constructing a storyline that lets them blame the government for not responding as they'd have liked.

Governor Defends Louisiana's 'Exit Plan' (JIM VERTUNO, September 11, 2005, The Associated Press)

Louisiana had a "well thought-out exit plan" in the days before Hurricane Katrina, and many more lives would have been lost without it, Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco said Sunday. [...]

"We did a massive evacuation, and if we hadn't we would have had thousands of deaths. Right now, the numbers are minimal when you consider the amount of damage."

As she has before, Blanco, a Democrat, refused to blame President Bush, a Republican.

"Help in those critical moments was slow in coming, not through any fault of the president," she said.

Posted by Orrin Judd at September 11, 2005 9:31 AM

No! No! There really must have been mass rapes! Even though the police haven't corroborated any! Orrin's airy abstractions about human nature are a better guide than eyewitnesses and police on the ground.

Read the whole Boston Globe article, folks. Every American should.

Posted by: Rick Perlstein at September 11, 2005 8:41 PM


Of course they should--it's a great corrective to the hysteria the Left and MSM whipped up.

Posted by: oj at September 11, 2005 8:45 PM

Blanco and the Red Cross have clarified their earlier statements. It seems the governor didn't want the Red Cross at the Convention Center or the Superdome because they would, a. get in the way of the evacuation, and b. might make people unwilling to evacuate because their needs would have been met. I looked for the source, but couldn't find it. The Red Cross fits right in with the Democratic machine in LA. They have no credibility.

The Salvation Army didn't get in on this mutual back scratching and I doubt they will change their story to fit the new reality.

Posted by: erp [TypeKey Profile Page] at September 11, 2005 10:05 PM

New Orleans before the flood, New Orleans during the flood. Who can tell the difference? It was a cesspool of crime and corruption before, only the scale may have differed.

I wonder why Rick thinks all Americans should read this? Makes the President's decision not to send in the 82nd Airborne on Tuesday look proper.

Posted by: Bob at September 12, 2005 10:00 AM