I think everyone was very credulous, willing to believe almost any story that was told, because we were seeing something we'd never seen before -- an American city under water, footage of uniformed cops actually looting stores in front of news cameras, and people confused and trapped in extremely unpleasant conditions. There can be no doubt that it was a nightmarish experience to have been stuck at the convention center, but it wasn't, as it turned out, a shooting gallery or a death sentence.
The unprecedented nature of the story as it was should have been enough for everybody. Instead, far too many people -- from cable-news folks to reporters to bloggers -- ended up retailing fiction as fact.
Including--hope you're sitting down--John Podhoretz. August 31:
PEOPLE ON THE STREETS OF NEW ORLEANS... [JPod]
...are telling Jeff Goldblatt of Fox News that they don't want to go to the Astrodome because the experience in the Superdome was so horrendous. He's also reporting about the Wild West craziness, people driving around with AK-47s shooting at police officers, looting...
[ellipsis in original]
Are we supposed to believe that this is the first time Podhoretz, or Malkin, or the Powerline boys, have ever watched teevee news during a wall-to-wall? It's the rule that they get things wrong. (I think I've already recounted how, the day Reagan was shot, I personally witnessed an offhand remark made to Dan Rather by a guy listed under "medical" on CBS' Rolodex become, within ten minutes, a report on NBC and ABC that Reagan was undergoing open-heart surgery.) You take a group of people hired largely for physical attractiveness and the ability to read a teleprompter while inserting random emphasis, and you have them extemporize for hours at a time while the natural array of half-truths and outright lies swirl in their earpieces, and the result is absurd at best. Katrina was no different from any other wall-to-wall story. They report rumor as fact. None of the above was complaining about that while the mass media was credulously reporting the discovery of the Iraqi Trailer of Doom.
It's funny how the same people who who've been caviling about the Librul Media since Nixon was president were forced to believe this time all those nasty rumors about black people running amok because the MSMSMSM told them to. Why, Poor Jonah Goldberg was so unnerved by the reports he became temporarily unhinged and started spouting off about the swimming abilities of African-Americans, some of whom, I'm sure, he counts among his closest friends in quieter moments. On the other hand, Malkin spent three or four days touting the site of a guy who was offering to swap porn for pictures of patriotically gunned-down looters, but I don't think erroneous news reports have anything at all to do with her public pathologies.
And speaking of Ms Magalalong, something I didn't mention earlier is right to the point here. If you're going to direct Kanye West to the Snopes page "debunking" the "looting vs. finding" caption story, you might make a note that the second line says "Status: True". Regardless of the explanations which came about later, that's the way the captions ran. The issue is not whether the white couple "found" the items floating outside a store or not; the issue is that the young brown man taking items necessary to sustain life in an emergency was not, technically "looting", a fact conveniently ignored by you and your ilk who were so busy demanding that cops start shooting everybody and apologize later if any mistakes were made. It was the uproar over this and other suspiciously "color-affected" stories which seemed to tone down a lot of the news coverage by Tuesday. And that uproar wasn't coming from the Right, exactly. For the rest, why not take it up with JPod's source on FAUX, or with Greta and her "eyewitness"? Get your own house in order.
Although, I have to admit, Michelle, that I liked your original defense--"the woman looks like she could be a Latino"--so much better.