[Postscript, 9/2/12: Tonight, Peter Brimelow just published my VDARE Katrina update, “Revising Katrina for the Age of Obama.”]
By Nicholas Stix
The following article is a reprint from October 25, 2005, and yet, in the face of the continuing disinformation campaign one year after Katrina made landfall in New Orleans, it’s the freshest news you’re likely to read about New Orleans.
On August 27, in his Katrina anniversary screed, “Return to the Scene of the Crime,” New York Times propaganda commissar Frank Rich wrote, “President Bush travels to the Gulf Coast this week, ostensibly to mark the first anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. Everyone knows his real mission: to try to make us forget the first anniversary of the downfall of his presidency.” Rich then weaves back and forth between Katrina myths and myths about the War in Iraq.
And last night, I saw Spike Lee’s surreally dishonest, racist, four-hour HBO propumentary, When the Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts. According to Lee, in the wake of Katrina the only violence New Orleans experienced was one racial attack in which a white man shotgunned a black man, and the only people who were deserving of blame were white men named Bush, Brown, Cheney and an Army Corps of Engineers colonel whose name is not listed, either at imdb.com or HBO.com… oh, and lest I forget, the unnamed white government officials who dynamited the levees, in an effort to commit genocide against The Big Easy’s black population.
But it all began with the September 26 story by a team of New Orleans Times-Picayune reporters, Brian Thevenot, Gordon Russell, Jeff Duncan and Gwen Filosa. That team was tasked with untelling the story of the savagery that gripped New Orleans in Katrina’s wake, virtually all of it committed by blacks. (Actually, it began even before Katrina made landfall; then again, savagery was the quotidian routine in “NOLA.”) And who had originally told that story in such gripping fashion, as to mesmerize the nation? None other than Times-Picayune reporter, Brian Thevenot.
At the time, I only published this article at my Men’s News Daily Blog. Considering all the work I'd put into it, I certainly must have planned to publish it at all of the Web sites that ran my work. I can only imagine that I wanted to put even more work into it, but got distracted by other stories, and eventually forgot about it. And since MND underwent a technical makeover early this year, with new blogging software, you can’t even find the article there; it has been orphaned. And so, I will be posting it at most of my blogs, and at my Web site. In the meantime, I have published an anniversary follow-up at this blog.
Were journalists lying in their reports during the post-Katrina savagery, or are they lying now, in denying it ever happened? Can you put toothpaste back in the tube?
We have now come to a pass, whereby the racial socialists of the MSM, and their erstwhile opponents among neoconservatives and libertarians (themselves usually mortal enemies) have seen fit to create a grand alliance whose goal is to hoodwink the American people about what happened in New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina.
As sociologist Robert Merton once observed, there is no necessary connection between the broadest consensus and the truth.
Already on September 5, before order had even been restored in “NOLA,”
Steve Sailer predicted that the same media that via reporters and photographers on the ground had depicted the savagery that overran the city, would orchestrate a campaign to convince the American people to disbelieve their “lyin’ eyes” (not to mention ears). Sailer spoke, citing a letter from a reader whose doctor father had been on duty at a Detroit hospital during the Motor City’s 1967 race riots, and been targeted by snipers, and seen phony undercounts of killings, how the authorities always undercount the casualties of anarchy. He observed that when the authorities find waterlogged, decomposed corpses, they are not going to search too hard for bullet holes, as opposed to marking the death up to, say, drowning.
Sailer only had to wait three weeks to see his prediction come true.
On September 26, an alleged report by Brian Thevenot and Gordon Russell of New Orleans’ Times-Picayune appeared, that through being cited constantly on TV network news and on the Web would shortly become the single most influential article on post-Katrina New Orleans. Thevenot and Russell denigrated the dire reports from early September as having been based on wild exaggeration, rumor-mongering, and outright fabrication (a tip o’ the hat to Your Lying Eyes and .)
In “Reports That Conditions in NOLA Were Exaggerated are Exaggerated,” Your Lying Eyes came up with three straw man arguments that have figured in the cover-up:
1. Conjuring up incredibly exaggerated reports of murder victims that were supposedly in circulation earlier, even though no one can recall hearing at the time, and counterposing them to extremely low “true” body counts;
2. Denying that anarchy and violence reigned at the Superdome. (Your Lying Eyes argues that the informant, a Sgt. 1st Class Jason Lachney, who was stationed in the Superdome, confused conditions at the “Terrordome” with those at the Convention Center; based on what I’ve read, I simply don’t believe Lachney’s denial); and
3. Double-talk: “Four weeks after the storm, few of the widely reported atrocities have been backed with evidence. The piles of bodies never materialized[what piles of bodies?!], and soldiers, police officers and rescue personnel on the front lines say that although anarchy reigned at times and people suffered unimaginable indignities, most of the worst crimes reported at the time never happened….”
And as Your Lying Eyes showed, in some cases, such as that of Times-Picayune alleged reporter Brian Thevenot, the same person claiming that the earlier stories were exaggerated had earlier told the most dramatic story of all, the you-are-there report, “Bodies found piled in freezer at Convention Center.”
“09/06/05 ‘Nola’ -- -- Arkansas National Guardsman Mikel Brooks stepped through the food service entrance of the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center Monday, flipped on the light at the end of his machine gun, and started pointing out bodies.
“‘Don't step in that blood - it's contaminated, he said. ‘That one with his arm sticking up in the air, he's an old man.’
“Then he shined the light on the smaller human figure under the white sheet next to the elderly man.
“‘That's a kid,’ he said. ‘There's another one in the freezer, a 7-year-old with her throat cut.’
“He moved on, walking quickly through the darkness, pulling his camouflage shirt to his face to screen out the overwhelming odor.
“‘There's an old woman,’ he said, pointing to a wheelchair covered by a sheet. ‘I escorted her in myself. And that old man got bludgeoned to death,’ he said of the body lying on the floor next to the wheelchair.
“Brooks and several other Guardsmen said they had seen between 30 and 40 more bodies in the Convention Center's freezer. ‘It's not on, but at least you can shut the door,’ said fellow Guardsman Phillip Thompson.”
Brian Thevenot has not, to my knowledge, publicly disowned his earlier reporting. Either he was lying then and is now telling the truth, or was telling the truth then, and is lying now. A third possibility, that Thevenot was never in the food service area at the Convention Center with National Guardsmen Mikel Brooks and Phillip Thompson, but fell for a hoax, would still involve Thevenot’s having misrepresented himself as having witnessed the story first-hand. In any case, his credibility as a journalist is shot.
The link I provided is for the cache of Thevenot’s original September 6 story; with the beating he is taking in the Blogosphere, I’m not sure how much longer the Nola Web page will be available.
To my knowledge, Thevenot has, in the time-honored practice of hack politicians and journalists, merely acted as if he’d never written the dramatic earlier report.
Note that at the beginning of the savagery (“anarchy” is too antiseptic a word) the Times-Picayune – a Democrat, New Orleans daily -- led the pack with cheap shots against Pres. George W. Bush, blaming him for the chaos, while refusing to criticize New Orleans Mayor Nagin and Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco, even though it was Nagin and Blanco who failed to execute their own evacuation plans, and who refused Bush’s entreaties to impose a mandatory evacuation until it was too late. By September 26, however, the Bush-bashing had had the desired effect, and so the paper could do a 180-degree turn, and deny that the chaos that had supposedly been Bush’s fault, had even occurred. Somehow, however, the Times-Picayune’s editors and “reporters” forgot to apologize to Bush for their earlier attacks on him.
The Uses of Hysteria
As Steve Sailer observed, by the time of the Times-Picayune’s “exaggeration” story, the media was in lynch-mob mode, looking to make an example of any prominent figure that made the mistake of telling the truth about black savagery in New Orleans, or failing that, who said anything that any black or leftist could find “racially insensitive.”
What followed was an exercise in the uses of hysteria.
Two main types of hysteria were in play: Offense and defense. Hysteria on offense began at the height of the savagery, and was engaged in by black leaders and activists to try and intimidate whites; defensive hysteria came later, as whites sought to appease the team on offense.
For hysteria on offense, the best example was Mayor Ray Nagin, who after he had fumbled the ball by failing to implement his own evacuation plan, screamed for Washington “to get up off their asses.” There were also blacks’ charges early on, that it was “racist” to depict black looters as “looters” or to speak of refugees as “refugees.” (See also: “niggardly.”)
You always have to keep whites on the defensive.
Many of the worst stories came from blacks. Mayor Nagin and his then-Police Chief, Eddie Compass, were telling stories on TV shows, of young girls and even babies in the Superdome getting raped and their throats slit.
But there were countless others, as well. Randall “Reparations” Robinson, spread the canard that black folks were engaging in cannibalism. Meanwhile, lefty bloggers attacked as “racist” any white folks who might look down on cannibalism. Not to be outdone, Min. Louis Farrakhan, the head of the domestic terrorist organization, the Nation of Islam, spread the race hoax claiming that there was a huge crater under the levees by the black section of town, where whites had detonated explosives, in order to commit genocide against New Orleans’ black inhabitants. (I refer to the NOI as a terrorist organization due to its genocidal campaign in California of circa 1970-1974, known as “the Zebra murders,” during which NOI squads of “Death Angels” murdered anywhere from 71 to “just under 270” whites. At the time, the NOI was led by “the Honorable” Elijah Muhammad (1897-1975).) Call that one a case of Farrakhan projecting his own genocidal fantasies.
Some of the MSM’s early behavior, rather than falling on one side or the other of the offense-defense-line, was real hysteria – the media equivalent of a free-for-all in which one team’s quarterback has thrown an interception, the defensive back who snatched the pass has fumbled the ball, and in the mad scramble for the ball, there is no more “offense” or defense.”
Early on, the MSM gave a pretty clear picture of New Orleans’ savagery (“chaos” is too neutral a word). In fact, because of their political loyalty towards blacks, initially the media exclusively showed the travails of blacks. And so we saw blacks suffering, and whites helping them out (or trying to). Since whites were doing almost all of the good deeds, it was impossible to cut them entirely out of the picture. Already then, the media sought to minimize the reality: They quoted an officer in charge as saying that the blacks firing on rescue workers were “frightened.” (No, the rescue workers were frightened.) Or they explained, helpfully, that the folks were just shooting at rescue workers to get their attention.
But then the same reporters in New Orleans remembered their dog-eared script, and started screaming that blacks were doing all the suffering, and the government wasn’t doing enough to help them. Whites were suffering plenty outside of New Orleans, but the media had made them invisible (only days later would the media remember that there were tens of thousands of whites whose homes were destroyed). And unlike New Orleans’ blacks, whites did not expect the government to rescue them. Thus, the media created a self-fulfilling prophecy of disproportionately suffering blacks.
Some leftwing bloggers such as Slate’s Jack Schaefer claimed that the MSM reporters on the ground who hysterically called on the government to do more for New Orleans’ blacks were heroically reacting to the government’s “lies,” when in fact they were just following their usual script: ‘The government never does enough for blacks.’
By late September, as Sailer had predicted, the revisionist bandwagon had started its tour. We began to hear denials of the reports of atrocities, media figures insisting that the crimes we had heard about early in the month had never occurred, that rumors had run amok and dominated news coverage, indeed, that the same white racism that withheld aid from needy blacks had also wanted to believe the worst about them.
There are at least five problems with the new talking points:
1. Many of the worst stories about “blacks behaving badly” came from blacks, not whites (Mayor Nagin, Chief Compass, Randall Robinson);
2. Already at the height of the savagery, the MSM had sought to muffle the truth, with incredible claims that the blacks shooting at white rescuers were actually “frightened” or just trying to “get their attention,” and that the federal government was at fault for everything;
3. Early on, the MSM engaged in propaganda to counter the images:
CNN had reporters racially demagoguing on the air, and media outlets broadcast and repeated black rage over black looters being described as “looters,” and refugees being described as “refugees”;
4. Many of the revisionist stories were bald-faced lies that were easily exposed, by people who had been present at the atrocities or anyone familiar with the story. (A National Guardsman was originally reported as having been shot in the leg by an attacker with his own weapon, after the attacker had hit the Guardsman’s female partner over the head, and the partner had run away. In the Newspeak version, the Guardsman suffered a “self-inflicted” wound, and there is no more mention of the attacker or the Guardette. If you are attacked and while in a life-or-death struggle with your attacker your weapon goes off and wounds you, the wound does not count as self-inflicted.);
4a. The “rumors” were not rumors (which always refer to what someone claims to have heard from someone else), but testimony by specific people who gave their names, or stories directly from reporters on the ground; the witnesses (and in many cases, reporters) were either telling the truth or lying, but they were not spreading “rumors”;
5. The American MSM, to my knowledge, had refused all along to tell many of the horror stories, especially those involving black racial terror towards white and Asian refugees, or to report on the casual contempt black refugees had for white victims of black racism. For such stories, one had to go, as blogger Scoopster did (and did, and did, to the BBC, London Times, Glasgow’s Herald, ABC (Australian Broadcasting Corporation), The Australian, Sidney’s Herald Sun, Melbourne’s The Age, and other Anglo foreign sources; and 5. Cases like that of Brian Thevenot, where the same person who had earlier told dramatic stories now insisted that such stories – from other reporters, anyway -- were exaggerated.
(For links to additional stories the American media refused to report on, see one, two, three, four and five.)
* * *
On September 4, Scoopster also published an interview between Dr. Charles Burnell and Fox News’ Greta Van Susteren about conditions in the Superdome.
Burnell, who’d “been tending to the sick and wounded inside the New Orleans Superdome for the last two days described a horrific scene Thursday night. Asked about the level of violence among the 20,000 displaced residents who sought shelter inside the giant stadium,” he told Fox News Channel's Greta Van Susteren:
"We had three murders last night. We had a total of six rapes last night. We had the day before, I think, there were three or four murders. There were half-a-dozen rapes that night. We had one suicide last night. We had one military policeman shot."
The Perjurer’s Paradox
Inspired by the case of David Brock, I call the New Orleans revisionism a case of the Perjurer’s Paradox. In the Perjurer’s Paradox, an application of the Liar’s Paradox, a person admits to having been an inveterate liar, but says that we should now believe him.
David Brock is the former reporter who in a 1992 article and bestselling, 1993 book exposed Anita Hill (who owed her career to the help of Clarence Thomas, yet sought to destroy him, when he was nominated to the Supreme Court), and who in a 1994 article broke the story about the Arkansas troopers (Troopergate) who variously pimped for and covered for Bill Clinton, when he was governor of Arkansas. That story, which broke while Clinton was in the White House, introduced the world to a “Paula” (Jones), and led inexorably to Clinton’s impeachment.
In 1997, after having ripped off Republican publishers for millions, Brock converted to the Democrat Party, and now works as a well-paid Party hit-man/media activist. The irony with David Brock is that he actually was telling the truth when he was doing muckraking research on Anita Hill and the Arkansas Troopers who pimped for Bill Clinton, but is now lying when he tells us not to believe his earlier work. Brock’s problem, however, is not logical but moral. He simply hasn’t any integrity. There are even many lefties who refuse to grant him any credibility.
Curiouser and Curiouser
Eric Scheie of the blog Classical Values, wrote on the matter of Brian Thevenot in late September, and on October 1 reported receiving an e-mail from Thevenot, in which the alleged reporter complained,
“Did you somehow miss the portion of the follow-up story in which I debunked my own myth about the 40 bodies in the freezer? Did you not bother to read the whole story? I admitted my own mistake, under my own byline, and in again in interviews with news stations and newspapers that interviewed me about myths at the Dome and Convention Center. And now you purport to expose me after I exposed myself?”
Eric Scheie observed that he could not find any public retraction published under Thevenot’s name, or the imprimatur of the Times-Picayune. On the contrary, he quoted the Times-Picayune’s proud, “proprietary” attitude towards the entire Katrina story, and noted that Thevenot’s new Katrina story headlining in the October-November Columbia Journalism Review, “Apocalypse in New Orleans,” repeated his original, September 6 story of murder and mayhem at the convention Center, and had been neither retracted nor corrected.
“My crying bout that morning had been hardly unique, for myself or for the rest of the New Orleans-based crew. I had watched a woman die on the street. Arkansas National Guardsmen had carted her body away to put with the others inside the food service entrance at the rear of the Convention Center. They'd been murdered, or they'd perished, like the woman in front of me, from simple lack of food, water and medicine – here in America, here in my hometown.”
Checking Google News under “Brian Thevenot,” there were only ten stories from around the country, all of them celebrating Thevenot’s supposed debunking of the wild “rumors” that had dominated the early reporting from New Orleans. I found nothing remotely like a retraction or a correction.
Over at Reason magazine, Matt Welch went beyond the call of cover-up. Welch’s story consists of a credulous interview with “Major Ed Bush, public affairs officer for the Louisiana National Guard.” Twice, Major Bush plugs Thevenot, without ever mentioning Thevenot’s original story, even though he had to be familiar with it.
Bush: “Yeah, and you know what? I need your help. I just got off the phone with a Washington Post guy....Brian Thevenot, the Times-Picayune reporter, was on CNN and was interviewed on Fox, and now we're getting all these inquiries again, coming back around, because I think a lot of folks are feeling a little bit guilty because they passed along the same old s--t….
Reason: “Have you gone back and tried to trace any of the roots of some of these wild rumors?”
Bush: “Nah, I'm going to leave that to y'all.
“Brian Thevenot, the Times-Picayune reporter, did the most in-depth backtracking that I've seen, and I think it got him national recognition in the blink of an eye. I mean, he found nothing. And I think he got a whole lot of people going, ‘Oh jeez, you know, OK: I'm guilty of it.’
“And I'm not going give any of them a break. Because if you're in a position of leadership, you need to be able to think through what you're saying. And there's nothing wrong with saying, "You know what? I don't really know what the condition is in the Dome, let's go down and talk to 'em. Let's go down and see.
“That might have made things a lot better for all of us. Certainly, it wouldn't have changed how quick help arrived. Because quite honestly, I heard that help stayed away—I had heard that FEMA stayed away because it was too dangerous. Well, then you can certainly connect some dots and say that perhaps FEMA would have been quicker in if we hadn't heard all these urban myths about shootings and rapes and deaths and killing and bodies everywhere.
Reason: “I had heard that when the National Guard came into the Convention Center...they came in with basically overwhelming force, and were surprised to see that everyone was just happy that they were there.
Bush: “Yeah. One of my good friends, Col. Jacques Thibideaux, led that security effort; that's his guys. He is an MP and he's a cop. That was his baby, and they said "Jacques, you gotta get down here and sweep this thing." And he said he was braced for anything. And he encountered nothing. Other than a whole lot of people clapping and cheering and so glad that they were here.”
* * *
Everybody was “clapping and cheering.” Just like in Iraq. Right.
Matt Welch was familiar with the MSM’s “the atrocities were all urban myths” story, but showed no familiarity with the stories the new story is meant to erase. He never mentioned Thevenot’s original “bodies in the freezer” story, much less did he cite National Guardsmen Mikel Brooks and Phillip Thompson, or the “several other Guardsmen” in Thevenot’s original story. Or the authority figures who themselves tried to explain away the shooting at rescue personnel. Or the angry people around the country and around the world, who insist that they witnessed atrocities (like murders) with their own two eyes. He didn’t ask Major Bush a single skeptical question.
From the interview, you’d never know that a “public affairs officer” is a propaganda officer, as in chief bs-er in charge. I’ve been dealing with these guys at the NYPD for over ten years, and I only get two kinds of answers from them: 1. Nothing; and 2. Lies. When I’ve covered stories on network TV shows, I never even got lies, because the PR reps had apparently never watched the shows they for which they were responsible. I’ve referred to them as privatists rather than publicists – they wouldn’t say spit, if they had a mouthful.
Just take a look at the interview’s phony title: “Echo Chamber in the Superdome A Louisiana National Guardsman explains how he dealt with false rumors being piped into Ground Zero of Hurricane Katrina.”
A “National Guardsman.”
As for why a libertarian magazine would want to push the story that everything was hunky dory down in New Orleans, that’s a subject for a separate column.
A lot of folks think they can just order us to disregard all the different stories from all the different sources, and all the eyewitness accounts, including that of Brian Thevenot. Either they’re peeing on our pants legs, and telling us that it’s raining, or they think that they can turn hysteria and credulity on and off, like a light switch.
But it’s too late: The toothpaste is most definitely out of the tube.
Postscript: Well, I guess I was wrong; apparently, once squeezed, you can put toothpaste back in tube.