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View Full Version : Reports of Superdome Deaths Greatly Exaggerated


Lyle
Sep 26, 2005, 12:48 PM
The New Orleans Times-Picayune is now reporting (http://www.nola.com/newslogs/tporleans/index.ssf?/mtlogs/nola_tporleans/archives/2005_09_26.html#082732) that "... the vast majority of reported atrocities committed by evacuees have turned out to be false, or at least unsupported by any evidence, according to key military, law enforcement, medical and civilian officials in positions to know."

I wasn't sure whether to post this in the Politics forum or not. What interests me more about the story is how the urban legends about what was going on took on in the Superdome took on a life of their own, with the media and government officials quoting them as fact (sometimes after a little embellishment of their own).

IJ Reilly
Sep 26, 2005, 01:03 PM
The New Orleans Times-Picayune is now reporting (http://www.nola.com/newslogs/tporleans/index.ssf?/mtlogs/nola_tporleans/archives/2005_09_26.html#082732) that "... the vast majority of reported atrocities committed by evacuees have turned out to be false, or at least unsupported by any evidence, according to key military, law enforcement, medical and civilian officials in positions to know."

I wasn't sure whether to post this in the Politics forum or not. What interests me more about the story is how the urban legends about what was going on took on in the Superdome took on a life of their own, with the media and government officials quoting them as fact (sometimes after a little embellishment of their own).

Personally, I never saw any estimates in the media of the death toll in either the convention center or the Superdome. The fact that early reports were exaggerated is hardly surprising, given the conditions. Still this story made a statement that surprised me -- that 10-20,000 people were holed up in the convention center. This exceeds the estimates I'd heard previously by an order of magnitude.

solvs
Sep 26, 2005, 04:07 PM
Well... it's good to know there were only a few atrocities instead of the many we heard about.

Sorry, I get your point. But good news is not news, so the reporters do what they can to get a story. People were angry, and the media went with it (finally). It is good to know it wasn't as bad as first thought, but I can't say I'm comforted by it. Just proves that you have to take everything you hear with a grain of salt, even if you agree with it. Especially if you agree with it.

Don't get me wrong though, I do appreciate you posting it, as sometimes it is nice to see the other side of things.

Daveway
Sep 26, 2005, 04:26 PM
I haven't read the article, but i think one of the final estimates was 18 deaths and 1 rape.

There's also a lot of talk about tearing the Superdome down and starting over from scratch.

Lyle
Sep 26, 2005, 04:34 PM
Well... it's good to know there were only a few atrocities instead of the many we heard about.Please don't mistake my intentions. I wasn't posting it in an attempt to somehow diminish the suffering that people actually did go through while they were there.

It was just interesting to me, for the reasons I stated previously. If I had the time, I'd like go back to try to find the actual news stories from a few weeks back to see what kinds of claims people were making at the time (e.g. the story I linked to makes references to several things that NOLA Police Chief Eddie Compass and Mayor Ray Nagin allegedly said).

Lyle
Sep 26, 2005, 04:49 PM
I haven't read the article, but i think one of the final estimates was 18 deaths and 1 rape.The tag line for this particular article is "6 bodies found at Dome; 4 at Convention Center":"I've got a report of 200 bodies in the Dome," [Louisiana National Guard Col. Thomas Beron] recalls [an unnamed FEMA doctor] saying.

The real total was six, Beron said.

Of those, four died of natural causes, one overdosed and another jumped to his death in an apparent suicide, said Beron, who personally oversaw the turning over of bodies from a Dome freezer, where they lay atop melting bags of ice. State health department officials in charge of body recovery put the official death count at the Dome at 10, but Beron said the other four bodies were found in the street near the Dome, not inside it. Both sources said no one had been killed inside.

At the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center, just four bodies were recovered, despites reports of corpses piled inside the building. Only one of the dead appeared to have been slain, said health and law enforcement officials.The article seems to also indicate that they hadn't confirmed any rapes, but acknowledges that rape is generally underreported and that it would be difficult to say for sure at this point.

IJ Reilly
Sep 26, 2005, 04:51 PM
Please don't mistake my intentions. I wasn't posting it in an attempt to somehow diminish the suffering that people actually did go through while they were there.

It was just interesting to me, for the reasons I stated previously. If I had the time, I'd like go back to try to find the actual news stories from a few weeks back to see what kinds of claims people were making at the time (e.g. the story I linked to makes references to several things that NOLA Police Chief Eddie Compass and Mayor Ray Nagin allegedly said).

I'm not sure what is to be gained or proved by doing so. Everybody was feeding off rumors and fragmentary information for several days -- which is very much in the nature of such an event. We're only now, these many weeks later, getting any reasonably accurate tallies of deaths from the storm.

skunk
Sep 26, 2005, 05:24 PM
I'm not sure what is to be gained or proved by doing so. Everybody was feeding off rumors and fragmentary information for several days -- which is very much in the nature of such an event. We're only now, these many weeks later, getting any reasonably accurate tallies of deaths from the storm.I do find it odd how such wildly exaggerated tallies are often announced, especially in the States: 25,000 dead at the WTC, 25,000 dead in New Orleans. It almost makes one think there might be a political angle.

IJ Reilly
Sep 26, 2005, 06:07 PM
I do find it odd how such wildly exaggerated tallies are often announced, especially in the States: 25,000 dead at the WTC, 25,000 dead in New Orleans. It almost makes one think there might be a political angle.

Personally, I don't think so. As I recall, the WTC estimates were based on the number of people thought to be in the buildings. Nobody knew how many managed to get out for quite awhile afterwards, so it's easy to see why some would suggest that many deaths. The early New Orleans estimates were closer to 10,000. This figure was actually based on the disaster planning documents for New Orleans, which estimated that 10% of the people remaining in the city would be killed if the levees were breached.

Ugg
Sep 26, 2005, 07:22 PM
The early New Orleans estimates were closer to 10,000. This figure was actually based on the disaster planning documents for New Orleans, which estimated that 10% of the people remaining in the city would be killed if the levees were breached.

That's true, but I can't help but wonder about the reports of rape and murder and looting. How much were they manipulated? Was it just bad reporting or were the reporters being fed information? Obviously some of it did happen but I can't help but feel that the numbers were massaged for somebody's aims.

zimv20
Sep 26, 2005, 07:28 PM
Was it just bad reporting or were the reporters being fed information?
probably bad information and/or conclusions on the reporters' part. e.g. maybe a reporter got reports from 10 people about a rape, all with differing details, but it turns out they were all talking about the same incident.

on 7 july, the BBC et. al. overestimated the number of tube trains/stations bombed. at least once i'd heard the theory that, because the smoke and reports came out of several tube stops around a single incident, it drove up the estimate.

mactastic
Sep 26, 2005, 08:12 PM
I wonder about the reports of rescuers being routinely shot at as well. That was tossed around quite a bit by the pundits.

LethalWolfe
Sep 26, 2005, 10:06 PM
That's true, but I can't help but wonder about the reports of rape and murder and looting. How much were they manipulated? Was it just bad reporting or were the reporters being fed information? Obviously some of it did happen but I can't help but feel that the numbers were massaged for somebody's aims.

Why do you feel this is any different than other huge media event? Being first gets more viewers than being right. And viewers tend to be lazy too. Even if every report was always prefaced by "going by unconfirmed reports" people would still assume the numbers/events to be hard and fast. Just like when someone is accused of a crime they tend to be viewed as guilty by the general public even though they are just a suspect (Richard Jewel for example).

And, like IJ said, many times guesstimates are given to the media but those guesstimates quickly turn into "facts." It's like one giant game of telephone.


Lethal

solvs
Sep 26, 2005, 11:34 PM
Please don't mistake my intentions.
As per the rest of my post. ;)

IJ Reilly
Sep 27, 2005, 01:19 AM
Why do you feel this is any different than other huge media event? Being first gets more viewers than being right. And viewers tend to be lazy too. Even if every report was always prefaced by "going by unconfirmed reports" people would still assume the numbers/events to be hard and fast. Just like when someone is accused of a crime they tend to be viewed as guilty by the general public even though they are just a suspect (Richard Jewel for example).

And, like IJ said, many times guesstimates are given to the media but those guesstimates quickly turn into "facts." It's like one giant game of telephone.


Lethal

The Richard Jewell business was a function of really poor police work, so don't blame the media for that one. Also, you can't account for what people will assume absent the facts. At some point you are expecting far more from the media than you have any right to expect. If they report that something may have happened, and someone takes that to mean it did happen, then the error of judgment wasn't committed by the media.

LethalWolfe
Sep 27, 2005, 02:10 AM
Also, you can't account for what people will assume absent the facts. At some point you are expecting far more from the media than you have any right to expect. If they report that something may have happened, and someone takes that to mean it did happen, then the error of judgment wasn't committed by the media.

Agreed. That was the intent of the "lazy viewers" aspect of my post.


Lethal

Xtremehkr
Sep 27, 2005, 11:06 PM
I would really like to find out who the source of these claims was. I know that the media likes to pick up on the sensationalistic, but they do have some standards when it comes to who they take information from.

I agree with Skunk, when it comes to a beneficial political angle.

There have been numerous false stories spread about goings on in NO after the flood. Chaos being one angle, and abuse of debit cards being another. Who would benefit from people perceiving the situation to be something much more dangerous than what it was. Who would benefit from people, in general, thinking that the help being offered is being horribly abused?

Follow the money?