Retired Newsday reporter Lou Dolinar offers this look-on-the-bright-side look at the response to Katrina.
Admittedly strongly influenced by the fact that it was linked to by Insty, I'm putting this article in the "explain away" rather than "explain" column.
For instance, he says that "fewer than 1,000 bodies have been found in all of Louisiana".
The passive construction of that phrase is certainly interesting. They're still finding bodies, there are a large number of people missing for whatever reason, and no one is reporting on the large number of gunshot victims that a mortician who worked at St. Gabriel claimed to have seen. In fact, we're told that there were only seven gunshot victims in total.
Then, it says, "local communication was wiped out by the storm". Why is that? What was the status of federal communication systems? Did the feds have the proper comm equipment? I don't think so:
Art Bell: Hams weren't invited to help with hurricane
National Guard says obsolete equipment hurt relief effort
Legislators support first responders communication equipment
I don't necessarily believe any of the 9/11 conspiracy theories, but at the same time they need to be given a fair hearing. Last year, Popular Mechanics offered a 9/11 debunking article that received a lot of attention. Unfortunately, it was written by Ben Chertoff. And, he might just be the cousin of one Michael Chertoff. So, I'm already predisposed to doubt PM offering a debunking of Katrina myths.
Especially since I've already read several articles that are very similar, and all of which have a vague tinge of propaganda.
One of the more gruesome tales coming in the aftermath of the storm was the claim that 22 dead people tied to a rope had been spotted in Violet, which is in St. Bernard Parish. It wasn't a case of just a really long rope: it was a tall tale. "Officials debunk one of the most disturbing Katrina stories" has the details, and they appear to have found the injection point:
[St. Bernard Parish Fire Chief Tom Stone] said that a resident of the affluent Jumonville subdivision, near Violet, who evacuated during the height of the storm surge told a rescuer that he saw people roped together.
Another story of mass death in the parish around the same time was quickly defused after a local congressman retracted his statement that 100 rescued people had died in a warehouse awaiting evacuation.
While I'm inclined to think some of the horror stories were actually true and conflicted parties are now trying to fool us twice, I'll put these in the "fully debunked" category.
...The colonel in charge of the National Guard at the Louisiana Superdome in the days after Katrina said the shelter of last resort was a miserable place to be but that the behavior of the residents was misrepresented.
Colonel Thomas Beron said there were no murders and that the people were receiving food and water.
"There were no homicides," he stressed. "There were six fatalities. I'll tell you, I helped load every single body onto the FEMA trucks after the superdome was cleared."
Beron told members of the New Orleans City Council that he wants to set the record straight. He says there were some deaths in the dome, but they resulted from natural causes, an apparent suicide and a drug overdose.
Beron also said that most of the 35,000 evacuees were orderly, and though it wasn't gourmet, they weren't starving.
"The facts were we were fed twice a day, an MRE and a bottle of water, and after Wednesday, when we got more water, an MRE and two bottles of water in the morning and in the evening..."
As for me, I'm still quite a bit skeptical. Feeding that skepticism is the fact that everyone involved would like things to be as he describes, yet there were many early reports from different people appearing in different sources, and it doesn't seem possible that all of those could be so wrong...
Michael Fumento has an essay discussing the various stories he alleges the media got wrong. Could someone look through the archives here and providing supporting or contrary links to his various points?
Are hurricane evacuees spreading crime to the cities to which they've been evacuated, including committing felonies, bringing drugs, and forming gangs? Snopes examines a chain letter, and says it's not so.
Please put other examples relating to both the claim and attempts to downplay it in the comments.
This interview downplays the charges of violence at the Superdome.
[nofollow policy in effect]
Getting a late start, Reuters downplays the reports of violence in "Accounts of N.Orleans violence questioned". It's a very standard article in the genre, concentrating on Maj. Ed Bush of the Louisiana National Guard and including:
Bush, who spent eight days in the Superdome, said New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin and former Police Chief Eddie Compass had not helped matters by repeating reports of killings and rape to national media.
"There were people who made statements to the press representing New Orleans and Louisiana who really didn't know what the facts were. I think they were trying to paint a very very grim picture to get help here," said Bush.
The NYT joins the re-writing fray with "Fear Exceeded Crime's Reality in New Orleans".
Before reading that article, you might want to take a look at "FBI investigating NOPD corruption, phantom cops; $5k bonus" and "Mortician contradicts reports downplaying crime, Part 2". Both of those, er, "amplify" the NYT's reporting:
...It is still impossible to say if the city experienced a wave of murder because autopsies have been performed on slightly more than 10 percent of the 885 dead.
[On Wednesday, however, Dr. Louis Cataldie, the state's medical incident commander for Hurricane Katrina victims, said that only six or seven deaths appear to have been the result of homicides. He also said that people returning to homes in the damaged region have begun finding the bodies of relatives.
[Superintendent Compass, one of the few seemingly authoritative sources during the days after the storm, resigned Tuesday for reasons that remain unclear. His departure came just as he was coming under criticism from The New Orleans Times-Picayune, which had questioned many of his public accounts of extreme violence.]
In an interview last week with The New York Times, Superintendent Compass said that some of his most shocking statements turned out to be untrue. Asked about reports of rapes and murders, he said: "We have no official reports to document any murder. Not one official report of rape or sexual assault."
On Sept. 4, however, he was quoted in The Times about conditions at the convention center, saying: "The tourists are walking around there, and as soon as these individuals see them, they're being preyed upon. They are beating, they are raping them in the streets.
"Those comments, Superintendent Compass now says, were based on secondhand reports. The tourists "were walking with their suitcases, and they would have their clothes and things taken," he said last week. "No rapes that we can quantify."
...During six days when the Superdome was used as a shelter, the head of the New Orleans Police Department's sex crimes unit, Lt. David Benelli, said he and his officers lived inside the dome and ran down every rumor of rape or atrocity. In the end, they made two arrests for attempted sexual assault, and concluded that the other attacks had not happened.
"I think it was urban myth," said Lieutenant Benelli, who also heads the police union. "Any time you put 25,000 people under one roof, with no running water, no electricity and no information, stories get told."
...The Sixth District - like most of New Orleans, a checkerboard of wealth and poverty - was the scene of heavy looting, with much of the stealing confined to the lower-income neighborhoods. A particular target was a Wal-Mart store on Tchoupitoulas Street, bordering the city's elegant Garden District and built on the site of a housing project that had been torn down.
The looters told a reporter from The Times that they followed police officers into the store after they broke it open, and police commanders said their officers had been given permission to take what they needed from the store to survive. A reporter from The Times-Picayune said he saw police officers grabbing DVD's...
...The convention center, without water, air-conditioning, light or any authority figures, was recalled by many as a place of great suffering. Many heard rumors of crime, and saw sinister behavior, but few had firsthand knowledge of violence, which they often said they believed had taken place in another part of the half-mile-long center.
"I saw Coke machines being torn up - each and every one of them was busted on the second floor," said Percy McCormick, a security guard who spent four nights in the convention center and was interviewed in Austin, Tex.
Capt. Jeffrey Winn, the commander of the SWAT team, said its members rushed into the convention center to chase muzzle flashes from weapons to root out groups of men who had taken over some of the halls. No guns were recovered.
State officials have said that 10 people died at the Superdome and 24 died around the convention center - 4 inside and 20 nearby. While autopsies have not been completed, so far only one person appears to have died from gunshot wounds at each facility.
In another incident, Captain Winn and Lt. Dwayne Scheuermann, the assistant SWAT commander, said they both shot and wounded a man brandishing a gun near people who had taken refuge on an Interstate highway. Captain Winn said the SWAT team also exchanged gunfire with looters on Tchoupitoulas Street...
... Cellphone repair workers had to abandon work after shots from the Fischer housing project in Algiers, Captain Winn said. His team swept the area three times. On one sweep, federal agents found an AK-47 semiautomatic rifle, Captain Winn said.
For military officials, who flew rescue missions around the city, the reports that people were shooting at helicopters turned out to be mistaken. "We investigated one incident and it turned out to have been shooting on the ground, not at the helicopter," said Maj. Mike Young of the Air Force...
The NYT tries to downplay the reports of murders, rapes, carjackings, and assorted violence in "More Horrible Than Truth: News Reports". Somehow I don't think the story is going to stand the test of time as various reports are confirmed.
...And many of the urban legends that sprang up - the systematic rape of children, the slitting of a 7-year-old's throat - so far seem to be just that. The fact that some of these rumors were repeated by overwhelmed local officials does not completely get the news media off the hook. A survey of news reports in the LexisNexis database shows that on Sept. 1, the news media's narrative of the hurricane shifted...
The NYT's David Carr finds that it shifted with - surprise - Fox News! Then, Tucker Carlson shifted it even more. Then:
Some journalists did find sources. About 10 p.m. that same evening, Greta Van Susteren of Fox interviewed Dr. Charles Burnell, an emergency room physician who was providing medical care in the Superdome.
"Well, we had several murders. We had three murders last night. We had a total of six rapes last night. We had the day before I think there were three or four murders. There were half a dozen rapes that night," he told Ms. Van Susteren. (Dr. Burnell did not return several calls asking for comment.) On the same day, The New York Times referred to two rapes at the Superdome, quoting a woman by name who said she was a witness.
It is a fact that many died at the convention center and Superdome (7 and 10 respectively, according to the most recent reports from the coroner), but according to a Sept. 15 report in The Chicago Tribune, it was mostly from neglect rather than overt violence. According to the Tribune article, which quoted Capt. Jeffery Winn, the head of the city's SWAT team, one person at the convention center died from multiple stab wounds and one National Guardsman was shot in the leg.
[...don't blame the reporters, since officials confirmed the tenor of the reports...] Appearing on "Oprah" on Sept. 6, Chief Eddie Compass said of the Superdome: "We had little babies in there, some of the little babies getting raped." Mayor C. Ray Nagin concurred: "They have people standing out there, have been in that frickin' Superdome for five days watching dead bodies, watching hooligans killing people, raping people."
But the night before, Chief Compass had told The Guardian, "We don't have any substantiated rapes. We will investigate if they come forward."
..."They're Going to Kill or Rape Us, Get Us Out" read the headline in The Daily Star, a British tabloid. "Tourist Tells of Murder and Rape," was one headline in The Australian. "Snipers Shoot at Hospitals. Evacuees Raped, Beaten," The Ottawa Citizen reported... [See similar foreign reports in "Tourists in the Superdome". Those reports sound accurate to me, although the tourists might have obtained their information from inaccurate sources.