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Friday, August 31, 2007

 

Katrina: What the Media Missed

How the media told a distorted story about New Orleans during Katrina:

Still, by focusing on the part of the glass that was half-empty, the national media imposed a near total blackout on the nerve center of what may have been the largest, most successful aerial search and rescue operation in history.

"The Coast Guard, the National Guard, the military in general performed heroically," said Sen. Robert Barham, R-Oak Ridge, who monitored the Superdome operation from Baton Rouge as head of the Louisiana State Senate's Homeland Security Committee. His opposite number in the Louisiana House, Rep. Francis Thompson, D-Delhi, said, "They (the Guard) did a yeoman's job." Both said they were getting very different pictures from TV than they got from the Guardsmen at the Dome, and the state fish and wildlife department, another key player in the rescue operation.

"TV of the Superdome was perplexing to most folks," Thompson said. "You had them playing the tapes of the same incidents over and over, it tends to bias your thinking some, you tend to think it's worse than it really is." Official estimates at this point suggest the Guard, working from the Dome, saved 17,000 by air and uncounted thousands more by boat.

Let's try that again: The cavalry wasn't late. It didn't arrive on Thursday smoking a cigar and cussing. It was there all along.

The National Guard's response to Katrina was even more robust than I suspected in my reporting for RealClearPolitics in September, and in more detail for National Review, where I revealed for the first time that rescue operations saved up to 50,000 lives, with perhaps an equal number making their way to shelters on their own.

Fifty thousand New Orleans residents were in danger of death from drowning, heatstroke, dehydration and disease. That was a tough one to get through the media reality-distortion field, but the numbers have since been confirmed by Congress, the White House, Louisiana state officials and the relevant agencies themselves.
[...]
The operation was impossible to hide or ignore and some news outlets may have mentioned it in passing. Still, I haven't seen anything reported that sounded like what the two Majors described Tuesday morning: helicopters landing every minute; big ones, like the National Guard Chinooks, literally shaking the decking of the rooftop parking lot; little ones like the ubiquitous Coast Guard Dolphins; Black Hawks everywhere, many with their regular seats torn out so they could accommodate more passengers, standing. Private air ambulance services evacuating patients from flood-threatened hospitals. Owners of private helicopters who showed up to volunteer, and were sent on their way with impromptu briefings on basic rescue needs. Overhead, helicopters stacked in a holding pattern.

By the end of the week 150 National Guard aircraft were operating, plus regular military and Coast Guard units who also dropped off survivors. The biggest problem rescuers faced, according to crew members I've interviewed, was the danger of aerial collisions.

This is at the Superdome, remember, supposedly Ground Zero for bad behavior and the scene of massive governmental incompetence.

Also hard to ignore at the Dome was another big operation: support for local first responders. This effort included many of the black local heroes among the police and firefighting squads, despite misleading media reports leaving the impression they had either fled the city or walked off the job. The majority of local police and firefighters were available, though their communications system had been wiped out. They quickly hooked up with pre-positioned Guard units, as well as an army of volunteers in everything from flatboats to airboats. "We were just handing out radios to anyone who wanted one," Dressler said.
[...]
Besides rescuers and local first responders, another big story at the Dome was the medical center. Like a Chinook helicopter landing on your roof, that sure was hard to miss. Fifteen doctors and a total of 65 medical personnel set up at the New Orleans Arena, within spitting distance of the Dome. It was primarily for survivors brought in by air and boat, but also for people in the Superdome with medical problems. There was never any shortage of medical care, Dressler and Bush both said.

The Arena medical center cycled through triage and treatment of up to 5,000 injured or sick victims, Dressler said. Those in the worst shape were evacuated to the New Orleans airport and out of the region, those in good shape hydrated and sent to the Superdome. The success of the makeshift medical center was such that there were just six deaths at the entire Superdome complex: four of natural causes, one drug overdose, and one suicide during the week of supposedly rampant anarchy and death.
[...]
Most of the national media also neglected to mention the seven babies that National Guard physicians delivered, something Maj. Ed Bush said he pointed out repeatedly. Overall, the false claims of up to 200 dead at the Dome, including murder victims, had clueless FEMA officials showing up at the end of the week with a refrigerated 18-wheeler to claim the stacks of bodies.

In all this time, Dressler said, "We didn't see a single camera crew or reporter on the scene. Maybe someone was there with a cell phone or a digital camera but I didn't see anyone." This was in the headquarters area. Maj. Ed Bush, meanwhile, did start seeing reporters on Tuesday and Wednesday, but inside the Dome, most were interested in confirming the stacks of bodies in the freezers, interviews with rape victims, he said, and other mayhem that never happened. He pitched the rescue angle and no one was interested. A few reporters and film crews did hitch rides on helicopters, came back, and produced stories of people stuck on rooftops, not stories about rescues, he said.

Neither Maj. Bush nor Dressler saw TV until the end of the week. They were aghast. Apart from sporadic mentions, the most significant note taken of this gigantic operation was widespread reporting of the rumor that a sniper had fired on a helicopter. What were termed evacuations in some cases, rescue operations in others, were said to have been halted as a result. "I never knew how badly we were being killed in the media," Maj. Ed Bush says. In reality, the only shots fired at the Guard were purely metaphorical and originated with the media. Rescues continued 24/7 at a furious pace.



Why? Simple: to hype ratings. They had a story to tell of catastrophe and, by God, they were going to tell it. Heroism, rescue, people doing things right: these were not part of the narrative and of they were observed by the MSM, these stories were left on the cutting room floor. Instead we got fed a load of crap: cannibalism, rape, murder, snipers and mayhem.

Sort of reminds you of the stories being told about Iraq?

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