One of the more unfortunate facts of journalism is that no one remembers the retractions, only the retracted errors. This has never been more apparent than in all the stories marking the tenth anniversary of the landfall of Hurricane Katrina.
Press coverage of the tragedy was voluminous, the broadcast networks filled nearly entire days with reports, and it was riddled with well-remembered and still-believed balderdash. There were tales of mass rapes and other outrages inside the New Orleans Superdome, where federal officials had established a rescue center, and reports street gangs shooting at rescue helicopters and committing other atrocities on the crime-ridden streets, and even talk about survivors resorting to cannibalism after a few days of federal inaction. It was all eventually but inconspicuously corrected, yet the even bigger errors remain unacknowledged. The extraordinary number of people rescued by the heroic efforts of the National Guard and the Coast Guard and other military is still less known than than the providentially low number of people who perished in the historical storm, the undeniable failure of the Federal Emergency Management Agency was less publicized than the even the more inept response of the more responsible and Democrat-controlled state and local governments, and that the dire consequences of the storm falling upon a dysfunctional city of New Orleans that had long been dominated by liberal rule, are even after ten years still mostly unmentioned in all of those tenth anniversary stories.
Ten years ago the press and the broadcast networks were mostly concerned with undermining support for President George W. Bush, who had been the target of media wrath even before the Supreme Court decision that handed him the presidency despite the popular support for the favored Democratic nominee Al Gore, with the animus exponentially increased by his decision to invade and occupy, the momentarily unfortunate consequences of which were also an unavoidable topic of the time, and the temptation to pile on during a natural catastrophe was too much for most reporters to resist. Such was the temptation that even the most politically correct reporters were willing to embrace to the most vile stereotypes of black Americans as rapists and gangsters whenever the federal government failed to take the necessary steps. The outrageous claim that black people in New Orleans were resorting to cannibalism after just a couple of days of federal inaction was promulgated by the the impeccably liberal Huffington Post’s Randall Robinson, a black “intellectual” known for his for advocacy of “black reparations,” who meekly admitted a few days later that his hateful assumptions were nothing but bunk but still huffily insisted that the rest of his rants against the hated Bush were all justified.
The impression left by such irresponsible journalism is still strong enough that the current President of the United States can go to New Orleans and give a speech assuming that his audience will still believe all the old beliefs, and that the press and broadcasters will report accordingly, but there have been corrections that should set the public straight. Hurricane Katrina was a tragedy, more so in those parts of the storm’s affected area that were Democrat-controlled and thus dependent on a federal response, but its lessons for ten years later are not what the anniversary coverage would have you believe.
— Bud Norman