Here's the truth about what happened in the Dome and the Convention Center in New Orleans.
"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."I knew that those stories about gang rapes, throat-slittings, and other mayhem were just wild stories and rumors. Every televised report I saw about it was always, "Somebody told me." Never, "I saw a murder in front of my own eyes." Not once.
The other reason I was very skeptical is that every time I saw footage from inside the Convention Center (Geraldo's report on FOX, for example), they were reasonable and well-spoken, and the people in the background were quietly sitting or walking around, not rioting, shouting, fighting, etc.
Yet even Matt Labash seemed to fall for some of the worst stories.
And that's not even the worst of it. A block away, I meet Patricia Watts, a postal employee, standing in the back of a line for escape buses, a line she's stood in futilely for three successive days. The buses never came. Watts tells me that there are dead babies, and that they are being kept in the freezer in the kitchen of the convention center. I dash to the side service entrance to confirm this and am forbidden from entering by an Arkansas National Guardsman. "Sorry sir," he says. "We can't let you in." I tell him why I've come, and though he hasn't seen them personally, he tells me it's his understanding that the story's true. "But I can't let you enter in case something happens to you." God forbid a reporter should slip and fall on his way to checking out dead babies in the freezer.See what I mean? No one had really seen them -- but they all believed the unbelievable.
So why didn't the media do its job? Why did they just pass along false rumors, and racist ones at that?
Orleans Parish District Attorney Eddie Jordan said authorities had confirmed only four murders in New Orleans in the aftermath of Katrina - making it a typical week in a city that anticipated more than 200 homicides this year. Jordan expressed outrage at reports from many national media outlets that suffering flood victims had turned into mobs of unchecked savages.No kidding! But then, why would we expect the highest standards of journalism from MSM? Haven't we learned?
"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."
And why did we all believe the worst about the people of New Orleans? We were willing to believe that our fellow citizens were monsters.
Was there some racism involved? If it was racism, it was black on black racism as well, because the black folks seemed to believe and pass along the stories just as readily as the white reporters.
Was it just fear of what was happening as we watched a city destroyed by a storm before our very eyes?
Was it a lack of critical thinking, a certain gullibilty? Or just the love of a good urban legend in the making?
And why are we still so willing to believe the media?