"HOARD WEAPONS, GROW GILLS, AND LEARN TO COMMUNICATE WITH SERPENTS."

"HOARD WEAPONS, GROW GILLS, AND LEARN TO COMMUNICATE WITH SERPENTS." Jonah Goldberg is upset that, two years after Katrina, the news media are still under-reporting their own failures.

"Few of us can forget the reports from two years ago. CNN warned that there were "bands of rapists, going block to block." Snipers were reportedly shooting at medical personnel. Bodies at the Superdome, we were told, were stacked like cordwood. The Washington Post proclaimed in a banner headline that New Orleans was a "A City of Despair and Lawlessness," insisting in an editorial that "looters and carjackers, some of them armed, have run rampant." Fox News anchor John Gibson said there were "all kinds of reports of looting, fires and violence. Thugs shooting at rescue crews."

[...]

Reports of the Superdome being a slaughterhouse were repeated, even though dozens of news organizations had access to the building. CBS alone had 200 people in New Orleans, and yet it couldn't find those bodies stacked to the ceiling or a single rape victim from the roving bands of "Mad Max"-style marauders. That's because nobody was raped or murdered in the Superdome."

Yes, who was it, in a moment of characteristic cruelty masquerading as humor, that first made the Mad Max-Katrina connection? Jonah Goldberg. Thanks for reminding us.

Confoundingly, Jonah recognizes that several newspapers "received accolades for debunking the hysteria less than a month after the hurricane." So, basically, his beef is that news organizations haven't continued to flog themselves over their mistakes, and have instead chosen to nitpick over irrelevancies such as the Bush administration's scandalous, continuing incompetence/disinterest in dealing with the disaster. Jonah’s outrage is, to say the very least, selective.

I do think Jonah makes a fair point about the persistence of rumors, and about journalists' being "invested in the dominant narratives." I'd suggest that exhibit A for this is the U.S. media's uncritically repeating the Bush administration's various myths and misrepresentations about the Iraq threat. Somehow I doubt Jonah's very interested in journalists interrogating themselves over that, even though the consequences have been inestimably more disastrous, and especially since the conservative movement is still very much invested in perpetuating those myths.

--Matthew Duss

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