Thursday, September 01, 2005

Look What They're Doing

So this is how they're going to play it. The new theme of all the heads-talking is 'New Orleans in criminal chaos'. They've been preparing the ground for hours; every public figure who's held a press conference this afternoon has talked endlessly about the scores of thousands of police, National Guard and deputy sheriffs being rushed to the scene 'to restore security'. The Governor of Louisiana held a press conference in which she assured us that all these troops had taken law-enforcement oaths and been issued power of arrest to enable them to 'quell the civil unrest'. The zero-tolerance looting policy is much touted, and continually reiterated in its universal application. It's now all about 'taking back control of the city'.

FEMA Director Michael Brown informed us that we're dealing with a 'criminal element' who seek to gain control of the city. He also distinguished between the 'bad person' who talks to the news cameras and 'wants to shout and complain', and the nice mother 'sitting quietly in the corner with her kids--she understands, she's being patient'.

Oh and my fucking god, he's just come back to share that 'he doesn't want to second-guess why' all those people didn't heed the evacuation orders. He just wishes they could 'convince them that when an evacuation order goes out, it's for their own good.' Oh, oh, oh. Here is a very good response to that.

And now the news coverage is duly falling in: we're being repeatedly told how the 'lawlessness' and violence are hampering and even preventing rescue efforts. Police, we're told, are afraid to go out on the streets. A sniper, or possibly two, paralyzed the evacuation of a hospital for several hours.

This is how they're going to play it. They're going to try to blanket-criminalize the victims they can't even be fucked to rescue. The tens of thousands of people they fucking abandoned to die or, in the words of CNN's reporter, 'live like animals' in a devastated apocalyptic landscape, and some tiny few of whom have, in the world's least surprising development, acted like animals in response. Some have visited punishment on their fellow victims, and some on rescuers. Some have looted property. Vastly, vastly more have quietly waited to be rescued, in vain, or have taken provisions from stores to feed and clothe themselves, their neighbors and their children after waiting days to be given food, water, medical care. Tarring these victims as 'a criminal element' and using 'looting' as an excuse for the monumental, unforgivable cockup that is this shambolic rescue effort is beyond outrageous. That is what's criminal.

On the bright side, though, I'm not sure it'll actually work. I don't think even the lapdog press are buying the 'security' line with their usual credulity. We're still hearing a lot of unaccustomedly sharp questions about preparedness and response time, a steady questioning of the zero-tolerance policy for people looting for survival, a real and strong outpouring of genuine sympathy from not only the reporters on the scene (who are practically babbling hysterically with horror) but the visibly-shaken anchors in the studio. I think the people who did this may actually take an amply-deserved beating for once.

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