Thursday, December 02, 2010

An evolving Katrina history

I finally got around to watching Frontline's Law and Disorder, which first aired in August, around the 5-year anniversary of Katrina, and is viewable online. It's a good overview on what we now know, thanks to the ProPublica and Times Picayune reporting (they teamed with Frontline), about NOPD shootings of unarmed civilians in the days after the storm.

The post-Katrina story started to unravel with the Dec 2008 article in The Nation by ProPublica's A.C. Thompson, which focused on shootings of black civilians, some fatal, by white civilians. The article got very little attention at the time, but turned out to be the beginning of many discoveries, and renewed interest that would bring in the U.S. Justice Department.

As Rebecca Solnit put it in her 5-year anniversary piece in The Nation:
The widely told initial version of Hurricane Katrina was a lie and a slander, based on rumors and racism, and it's been falling apart steadily ever since. For the past two years an antithetical version has been overtaking it, one that tells the real story of who went crazy and who was in danger in the days after the hurricane. It has gained more ground than I ever imagined it would, and the history books may yet get this one right.
I very much hope so. Much of the media, judging by the 5-year anniversary stories, still doesn't really get it, and I'm pretty confident most of the public still thinks what we heard on TV at the time was basically what was happening.

I think it's relevant beyond New Orleans because we're likely to have more and more weather-related disasters, and police departments are going to be tested. Some will probably do better than NOPD, others worse.


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