Wednesday, September 07, 2005

The Deadly Bigotry of Low Expectations?: Did the rumor mill help kill Katrina victims?

From the article:

All along Hurricane Katrina's Evacuation Belt, in cities from Houston to Baton Rouge to Leesville, Louisiana, the exact same rumors are spreading faster than red ants at a picnic. The refugees from the United States' worst-ever natural disaster, it is repeatedly said, are bringing with them the worst of New Orleans' now-notorious lawlessness: looting, armed carjacking, and even the rape of children.

"By Thursday," the Chicago Tribune's Howard Witt reported, "local TV and radio stations in Baton Rouge...were breezily passing along reports of cars being hijacked at gunpoint by New Orleans refugees, riots breaking out in the shelters set up in Baton Rouge to house the displaced, and guns and knives being seized."

The only problem—none of the reports were true. "The police, for example, confiscated a single knife from a refugee in one Baton Rouge shelter," Witt reported. "There were no riots in Baton Rouge. There were no armed hordes." Yet the panic was enough for Baton Rouge Mayor-President Kip Holden to impose a curfew on the city's largest shelter, and to warn darkly about "New Orleans thugs."


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