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Hullabaloo


Monday, August 31, 2009

 
Four Years Ago Today

by digby

.... we were just beginning to understand how bad it was. We saw people being rescued from atop buildings. We knew many were homeless. The talk of looters was rampant and the media was eating up the rumors. The right was nearly hysterical.

Here's a typical post from that day:

KATRINA: “YOU LOOT, I SHOOT”
By Michelle Malkin • August 31, 2005 01:42 AM

***scroll down for updates…Louisiana Gov. requesting federal troops…looting in Biloxi…hospital evacuations…someone looted a Dyson vacuum cleaner…”Finding vs. looting…”***

Darkness is descending on New Orleans, literally and figuratively. Just when you think it couldn’t get any worse, the N.O. Times-Picayune blog reports that the local children’s hospital is under siege:

[...]

Things are spiraling completely out of control–and contrary to some naive observers, the crimes are not just being committed by people desperate for basic food and sustenance.
In fact, according to right wingers the place had descended into total anarchy:
Something has happened in New Orleans that is unprecedented. We’ve seen it happen on a smaller scale during other natural disasters. The looting, the anger, the despair was evident in the aftermath of Hurricane Andrew in Florida. However, while the area damaged by Andrew may have been just as large as the swath of total destruction left by Katrina, Andrew never quite destroyed the spirit of community and shared faith which allowed Floridians to maintain a patina of civilization that kept them from lunging at each other’s throats and descending to the level of animals whose only thought was of obeying the primal instinct present in all of us for self preservation.

Make no mistake. Unless something truly dramatic happens in the next 48 hours, the situation in New Orleans will degenerate into something heretofore seen only in refugee camps and places like Somalia. People will start forming themselves into mobs for protection. And those mobs will start fighting both the authorities and each other for scarce resources as people get hungrier and thirstier by the hour.

It was revealed later, of course, that 90% of the reports of criminal activity were completely bogus and the most famous of the incidents was actually a result of the police shooting completely innocent people (a case which is still being investigated today.)

Of course civilization did break down, but not quite the way these hysterics portrayed it. It broke down in the Convention Center a couple of days later because the authorities left thousands of people to fend for themselves out of fear of the rampaging mobs that existed only in the fevered minds of the thinly disguised racists of the right. The shame of that is still haunting.

But on August 31st we still didn't know how bad it really was or how bad it was going to get.

Here's what I wrote that day:

Game Cancelled

BagNews Notes has the most interesting take on the compelling images of New Orleans: he looks at pictures of the refugees at the Superdome and observes:

Beginning with the weekend evacuation, one unstated subtext running through much of the reporting involved the disparate prospects between rich and poor. In many accounts, for example, the more well-to-do were securing refuge by way of upper-floor hotel rooms, or escape via rental cars and long-haul taxi rides.

On the other hand, those of modest mean mostly headed for the football stadium.

In looking through the painful photos coming out of this ravaged city, I was particularly struck by the scenes shot at the New Orleans Superdome -- which seemed to have transformed, almost overnight, into the world's largest disaster shelter.

Besides people trying to adapt to the building as living quarters, what I found ironic was the fact that this was the only way the lower income evacuees -- not to mention the needy or indigent -- would ever get close to these field level seats.


The pictures coming out of New Orleans are all horrible. But the income disparities among the citizens are brought into stark relief by this tragedy. Everyone is affected of course, but those who had little to begin with are truly left with less than nothing now. A whole lot of people who were hanging by a thread already just dropped into total despair. That dimension of the tragedy really makes my heart ache.

That was only one facet of the tragedy as it turned out. The worst was yet to come.


I highly recommend that you read this post from the indefatigable Scout Prime, who has been blogging non-stop about Katrina since the day it hit. Watch the videos. Remind yourself.


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