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September 26, 2005

Comments

Hilzoy, let me be the first on this thread to say damn, you're good. Spot on.

Thanks. -- I just saw that while I was writing my post, Digby was thinking along the same lines.

Second DaveL here. A couple of things that I will note and hope I can provide backup links when I get home this pm

-it is important not to conflate the Superdome and the Convention Center. (not saying you are, but in some of the blogging about this, there has been that) At the superdome, evacuees were searched for weapons, at the CC, they weren't. There was also reports of a 30 person guard unit in the CC I think, that merely barricaded themselves in. Unfortunately, it is obvious that any problems at the CC were assumed to also exist at the Superdome, as is evidenced by the fact that both received relief at the same time.

There is very little calling out of specific articles and pieces and I suspect that there wasn't so much reporting of the kinds of numbers that are given in the article (if you note carefully, none of the incidents in the TP article are referenced), I was pretty much glued to CNN and while there were discussions of looting, the concentration was on the suffering. There were the photos of the two bloody corpses covered with sheets, and the shooting incident that was reported as an attack by a crowd was also reported widely (which is embarassingly debunked here
Inside the Dome, where National Guardsmen performed rigorous security checks before allowing anyone inside, only one shooting has been verified. Even that incident, in which Louisiana Guardsman Chris Watt of the 527th Engineer Battalion was injured, has been widely misreported, said Maj. David Baldwin, who led the team of soldiers who arrested a suspect.

Watt was attacked inside one of the Dome's locker rooms, which he entered with another soldier. In the darkness, as he walked through about six inches of water, Watt was attacked with a metal rod, a piece of a cot. But the bullet that penetrated Watt's leg came from his own gun - he accidentally shot himself in the commotion. The attacker never took his gun from him, Baldwin said. New Orleans police investigated the matter fully and sent the suspect to jail in Breaux Bridge, Baldwin said.

I'm not remembering the kinds of numbers that were claimed to be reported, but I will try and find links this pm. I also thought that Geraldo and maybe Shep Smith(?) may have stayed at the Superdome because the clips of their coverage were after dark

-I remember Barbara Star of CNN in particular noting how Gen Honore was insistent that the NG units keep their weapons pointed down. Clearly, the notions of dealing with armed looters were widespread among the units. Also, Nagin recalled all the NO police from rescue duties in order to devote them to keeping order, so it would be interesting to know who was fooling whom.

(I should also note the breathless CNN coverage of the beseiged police station as one of the potential low points, so I'm not absolving the media by any means)

-While the idea that the NG was broken by the Iraq deployment has been tossed aside by most, I think it really needs careful examination. I feel certain that the most able are being deployed to Iraq and the less capable are kept in state.

-There was an excellent essay about New Orleans and its relation to white tourists, suggesting that part of New Orleans attraction was the notion that it let them understand how the other half lives. There was enough in that essay (maybe in Slate or Salon?) to provoke a painful twinge of recognition, as someone who went to New Orleans for Mardi Gras and the various clubs to listen to music.

The TP also has this disturbing by justaposition article

Downtown hotels an island of commerce in a ghostly sea
Most have power, plenty of guests

As the feeder bands and storm surge of Hurricane Rita drenched buildings and flooded streets Friday night in the darkness outside, guests at the Sheraton New Orleans Hotel carried on virtually undisturbed.


The film "Anchor Man" played in the lobby, projected on a large screen for bar patrons' viewing pleasure, followed by "Caddyshack." Dinner again was served buffet-style, and members of the international press corps sipped drinks at the second-floor "press club." The satellite signal on the TV cut out frequently, but the wireless Internet connection was unbroken.
[snip]
Starwood hired one of the world's largest emergency response contractors, BMS Catastrophe, which responded immediately and brought in a small army of workers. The firm has been hired to remediate several downtown hotels.

"We hired them before the hurricane hit, and by Wednesday morning (Aug. 31), they had the place locked down," said Dan King, general manager. "They acted so fast, before the mold could start growing," Clayton said.

BMS Catastrophe has 13 global response centers, and the company boasts a range of services including remediation of damage from hurricane, earthquake, mudslide, fire, water and bombing. It can remove debris, retrieve data and restore industrial equipment. It was one of the companies that responded to the Oklahoma City bombing.

The Sheraton had about 500 customers and 500 employees at the hotel when Katrina struck, and the majority of those drove away or were taken out by bus Aug. 31, according to King. A few key staff members were brought in, as was an insurance adjuster, to secure the generators and information technology systems.

The hotel brought in shipments of food and 5,000-gallon water tankers from LaPlace and Algiers, using as much as 200,000 gallons daily to supplement the city water. A fleet of ten trucks has been making multiple trips daily. The hotel set up a sanitation station to inject extra chlorine in the water but guests have been advised to drink bottled water.

After a brief period on its backup 350-kilowatt generator, the Sheraton brought in two truck-size, 2.5-megawatt generators, then switched to city power when it was restored weeks ago. Contractors set up dehumidifiers and filtration devices. Once the building was sealed, workers began to dry it with low-humidity air through ventilators.

anyway, more later.

Excellent post, Hilzoy, especially in the way it covers the racial issues. One disagreement, though, on the media and standards of evidence. You say: "This means that if you were a reporter, and you were trying to do your job right, you might have interviewed a bunch of people who didn't know each other, who all claimed to know that some event took place, and who all gave similar details. You might have heard that story confirmed by officials or staff and rescue personnel. You would, in short, have every reason to think it was true that you could have short of having witnessed it yourself; and presumably no one thinks that the media should report only what they have first-hand knowledge of." (emphasis added)

That's not true. The best kind of witness evidence is first-hand information - witnessing the events yourself. The second-best kind of witness evidence is second-hand information - hearing the testimony of an eyewitness who has first-hand information about the events. It sounds like the media only had third-hand information or worse - hearing the testimony of a person who learned about the events from others' testimony. This is also known as hearsay, and it's considered dubious evidence in court and among experts like Snopes.

Part of the media's problem is that they're used to dealing with situations where getting corroboration from different sources is sufficient evidence, but in this case they were just accessing the same rumor mill from different angles. They're also used to counting on authorities for reliability, but in this case the authorities didn't have reliable information either. The media could've retained more skepticism about these indirect accounts (although there's less that they can do when people claim to give them eyewitness testimony, as with Compass and the muzzle flashes). Another big part of the problem is that the media had to rely on hearsay because they weren't in a very good position to gather second-hand information. The situation was too chaotic, and, as you say, they weren't on the scene where they could do the investigative work to hunt down eyewitnesses.

The media don't deserve a harsh condemnation (and accusations like Hinderaker's are wildly inappropriate), but there's a good chance that they could've done a better job.

Hilzoy, posts like this are why you have groupies.

I remember this in particular because Rivka at Respectful of Otters quoted it:

yesterday shortly after noon stormed the convention center, for lack of a better term, and there was absolutely no opposition, complete cooperation, and we attribute that to an excellent plan, superbly executed with great military precision.
Yet what reportage there was of the crowds at the Convention Center was, I recall very well, that they were being extremely orderly - standing in line to show they were ready for evacuation, with women, small children, and elderly people at the front of the lines, men at the back. They cleaned windows. Yet they report vehicle after vehicle going past and ignoring them, though the guardsmen clearly saw them.

I wrote about my reaction to that DoD spokesman here. I attributed his vile claim that this was a "success story" to pro-Bush spin.

If you're right - and your explanation makes horrifying sense - I have for the very first time that I know of actually done what so many right-wingers habitually accuse anyone critical of Bush of doing: I was blinded by my dislike of Bush to a far more likely explanation. I will update my post accordingly: I do think your explanation is more likely than simple pro-Bush spin.

Boy, google is a tough mistress. A first pass:

If the media was ginning up notions of lawlessness, Brownie wasn't helping

Federal Emergency Management Agency Director Michael Brown said his agency was attempting to work "under conditions of urban warfare."

further in the article, CNN quotes a Raymond Cooper who talked to CNN by phone and claimed that he was at either the SD or the CC

"Please don't send the National Guard," Raymond Cooper told CNN by telephone. "Send someone with a bullhorn outside the place that can talk to these people first."

He described scenes of lawlessness and desperation, with people simply dragging corpses into corners.

"They have quite a few people running around here with guns," he said. "You got these young teenage boys running around up here raping these girls."

Elsewhere, groups of armed men wandered the streets, buildings smoldered and people picked through stores for what they could find.

The reliance on 'breaking news' sources that are 'the man in the street' bear some blame here, I think.

I've been trying to find comparable statements by Nagin. In the WWL radio interview, the emphasis was not on lawlessness, but on lack of supplies

New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin took the extraordinary step Thursday of sending a message through the media -- which he termed a "desperate SOS" -- advising the crowd at the convention center to march over the Crescent City Connection bridge to the west bank of the Mississippi River to find relief in neighboring Jefferson Parish.

"The convention center is unsanitary and unsafe, and we are running out of supplies for the 15- to 20,000 people," he said.

Later in a radio interview, Nagin was even more direct. "I keep hearing that it's coming. This is coming. That is coming. My answer to that is B.S. Where is the beef?"

Also, in that interview, Nagin noted that much of the looting was probably attributable to junkies in need of a fix. I mention that because one of the common 'incidents' noted were thieves using a forklift to break into a pharmacy link

This article discusses the beseiged police station but it is unclear why they would be attacked

This article is notable for the way it depicts all assaults on property as looting. Note that no numbers are given, but the general atmosphere of lawlessness is portrayed.

This one tries to soften it by portraying the 'holdouts'

Some outside the same Rite-Aid on Thursday were anxious to show they needed what they were taking. A gray-haired man who would not give his name pulled up his T-shirt to show a surgery scar and explained that he needs pads for incontinence.

"I'm a Christian. I feel bad going in there," he said.

Earl Baker of Kenner carried toothpaste, tooth brushes and deodorant. "Look, I'm only getting necessities," he told a reporter. "All of this is personal hygiene. I ain't getting nothing to get drunk or high with."

One should also note that it was Terry Ebberts, NO director of Homeland Security, who made inflammatory remarks.

New Orleans' homeland security chief, Terry Ebbert, said looters were breaking into stores all over town and stealing guns. He said there are gangs of armed men moving around the city. At one point, officers stranded on the roof of a hotel were fired at by people on the street.

I would also like to know if this was true
Tenet Healthcare Corp. said late Wednesday that it would evacuate one of its fully functioning hospitals in Gretna after a supply truck carrying food, water, medical supplies and pharmaceuticals was held up by gunmen. The hospital has about 350 staff members and 125 to 150 patients.

"There are physical threats to safety from roving bands of armed individuals with weapons who are threatening the safety of the hospital," spokesman Steven Campanini said.

If the truck was held up, then presumably, an empty truck arrived at the hospital. But, if the truck was rerouted by officials and it was assumed that it was highjacked, we have precisely the sort of thing that Hilzoy is talking about.

This article has a number of interesting points as well
Heavily armed state policemen stood watch as tense and exhausted residents struggled onto the buses that would deliver them from the miserable conditions of the Superdome, which has been without running water, lights and air-conditioning for days.

At one point, a crowd broke through a line of National Guardsmen and rushed the glass doors into the Hyatt Regency complex that adjoins the Superdome. They were stopped by 19 heavily armed state policemen - one had an AR15 rifle and another a 12-gauge shotgun - all in Kevlar vests.

State police officer K.W. Miller told a reporter, "You better move to the back. This is ready to break. We've been here since 6 a.m. and this is getting worse and worse.

Paramedics became alarmed by the sight of residents with guns. The evacuation of fragile refugees, who were supposed to be airlifted to the Astrodome, ground to a halt when medical personnel received reports of gunfire and as trash fires outside the Superdome fanned unfounded fears of arson.

Richard Zuschlag, chief of Acadian Ambulance, said it had become too dangerous for his pilots. Zeuschlag said paramedics were calling him and crying for help because they were so scared of people with guns at the Superdome. He also said that during the night, when a medical evacuation helicopter tried to land at a hospital in the outlying town of Kenner, the pilot reported 100 people were on the landing pad, some with guns.

"He was frightened and would not land,'' Zeuschlag.

Despite the angry crowds, the bus evacuations continued.

Note that this is _after_ the period of looting. Clearly, the media was not 'manufacturing' reports, but picking up these reports from police who were falling to precisely the kind of subconscious racism discussed.

This quote from Nagin suggests that he had a better handle on what was going on
"It's really difficult because my opinion of the looting is it started with people running out of food, and you can't really argue with that too much,'' Nagin said. "Then it escalated to this kind of mass chaos where people are taking electronic stuff and all that.''

This sfgate article
has the comments by Chief Compass
About 15,000 to 20,000 people who had taken shelter at New Orleans convention center grew ever more hostile after waiting for buses for days amid the filth and the dead. Police Chief Eddie Compass said there was such a crush around a squad of 88 officers that they retreated when they went in to check out reports of assaults.

"We have individuals who are getting raped, we have individuals who are getting beaten," Compass said. "Tourists are walking in that direction and they are getting preyed upon."

along with these points of note

In hopes of defusing the situation at the convention center, Mayor Ray Nagin gave the refugees permission to march across a bridge to the city's unflooded west bank for whatever relief they could find. But the bedlam made that difficult.

All of these points appear in multiple articles and it seems that the process of taking newswire reports and then adding whatever local color the reporter on the scene could add served to strengthen the impression of general lawlessness.

I've been wondering when reports like this would come out; UK people who were in the Dome and Convention Centre have been interviewed by our media. They were all scared but none of them, not a single one, reported mass violence. One said some people were really hostile but most of the New Orleans people there, who gave them food, were really nice. (They did describe it, though, as hell.) Admittedly after a while the National Guard got them out of both places, so all the alleged violence could have happened later...
A young woman from here couldn't get any shelter and slept on the streets for 3 nights. She said there were men coming out of shops carrying samurai swords (?!) and she was very scared most of the time. Did anyone harm her during those days and nights? No.

Very fine post, Hilzoy. I've lived in Mississippi for years now, and people down here are lying to others or themselves when they pretend that race isn't an issue any more. It affects us all, consciously or subconsciously, whatever our politics.

You just don't have the rampant evil that reigned in the South until the 1960s and then see it vanish in a generation or two.

What compounded it was the resultant demagoguery by the likes of Broussard, Rangel and Brazile, who said on NPR, "They [the Bush administration] let us [black people] die." Racism is bad enough, but almost as bad is this poisonous and inexcusable race-baiting.

That is not what race-baiting means, Charles. You've been told that before.

Wikipedia's definition is as good as any:

Race baiting is the act of using racially derisive language, actions or other forms of communication to anger or intimidate a person or groups of people, or to make those persons behave in ways that are inimical to their personal or group interests. The term race in this context can be construed very broadly to include the social constructs which define race or racial difference, as well as ethnic, religious, gender and economic differences. Thus the use of any language or actions for the purpose of exploiting actual or perceived weaknesses in persons who can be identified as members of certain groups in order to do them some sort of harm can be contained within the concept of "race baiting."

Use proper terminology please, Charles.

People will say all kinds of crazy things, when they feel attacked.

After 9-11, we blamed Hussein and Islam for evey ill visited on mankind.

I think the great tradition of the American Lynch Mob, shows how lying about ethnic groups, makes it easier to kill them.

Traditional values and honor and liberty and all that.

I hazard the guess that if an almost entirely black administration had overseen a situation in which a predominately white population were treated just the same way, we'd be hearing a lot about racial bias from the right.

Bruce,

It would be a lynched administration.

Brazile, who said on NPR, "They [the Bush administration] let us [black people] die."
Chas
You mean the Donna Brazile who wrote
this op-ed?

On Thursday night President Bush spoke to the nation from my city. I am not a Republican. I did not vote for George W. Bush -- in fact, I worked pretty hard against him in 2000 and 2004. But on Thursday night, after watching him speak from the heart, I could not have been prouder of the president and the plan he outlined to empower those who lost everything and to rebuild the Gulf Coast.

I really have no idea what you heard, but you must realize that this is why, in a nutshell, so many people have such a low opinion of what you write here.

Does it really matter if Charles got his terminology right? It would seem secondary to his point, and thus the whole "you've been told this many times before" seems schoolmarmish to me.

I think there is definately racism at work here, but I'm not sure if its as simple as what's being discussed. White people, strike that, people in general are intimidated by the thugged-out lifestyle and culture. You see a black guy, or hispanic or even white guy, for that matter, dressed in a certain way, gesturing and walking a certain way, speaking a certain way, certain assumptions are made. These guys admire the "thug" look, and if they do that, maybe they are part of the "thug" culture. What is that culture? Drugs, guns, and general lawlessness.

So if you have these guys running around, and you hear on the news that there is all this violence and lawlessness, then those seas of black people start to look pretty intimidating, especially when they look angry and are chanting things. Some things I'm wondering: What if 20 years ago, and please allow me a bit of silliness, instead of the thug culture becoming popular, it was the thing to do to emulate the dress and style of the Huxtables. Would a sea of black faces in trousers and sweaters be as intimidating? Would the national guard still want overwhelming force? Flip it up and reverse it: what if we replaced the poor black populace with a poor white populace, and lets say that a significant minority of them embraced the "GWAR" life, and emulated them in dress and style. Would the national guard have treated them differently?

So is it the images of black faces that trigger this fear response, or is it culture differences that have grown wider since the civil rights movement that does the trick. Is there any difference? How do we reverse the trend? Is there a mainstream analogue of the "thug" life in white culture that could be seen to be, aside from racial differences, to be equally intimidating? I'm trying to think of some, but I'm failing. The militia-men of the mid 90's were one. If that movement had picked up steam with poor whites, I could see how the National Guard or LEOs would go loaded for bear when doing search in rescue in areas of the country that are predominately poor and white.

Does any of this make sense?

Does it really matter if Charles got his terminology right? It would seem secondary to his point, and thus the whole "you've been told this many times before" seems schoolmarmish to me.

That's rather a big point of terminology. There's a tendency among some on the right, which by using 'race baiting' in the way that he did, Charles seems to share, to confuse racism, that is, direct expressions of animus toward or contempt for those of other races as a class, with poorly supported or unsupported allegations of racism, which are a bad thing, but not the same bad thing as racism.

For example, calling someone a n**r to express animus toward them is racist, and could be reasonably described as race-baiting. Saying "How could you use a word like 'niggardly'! That is so racist of you!" is idiotic, but is neither racist nor race-baiting. It's a worthwhile distinction to maintain.

Neolith,

White people, strike that, people in general are intimidated by the thugged-out lifestyle and culture. You see a black guy, or hispanic or even white guy, for that matter, dressed in a certain way, gesturing and walking a certain way, speaking a certain way, certain assumptions are made. These guys admire the "thug" look, and if they do that, maybe they are part of the "thug" culture. What is that culture? Drugs, guns, and general lawlessness.

You're on to something here - I'm sure many people feel this way. But what most people apparently don't realize is in most instances of "thugged out" teenagers, it's an superficial affectation, and not indicative of actually living a life of drugs, guns, and general lawlessness. Well, aside from the drugs and lawlessness you'll find in any rebellious teenager.

The problem is that most people can't tell the difference, which is unfortunate. It makes no more sense to presume that a black teenager wearing the latest in absurd hip-hop clothing is an actual dangerous criminal than it does to think that some pasty goth is actually a vampire.

So is it the images of black faces that trigger this fear response, or is it culture differences that have grown wider since the civil rights movement that does the trick.

It is not merely a result of cultural difference that causes the fear you describe, it's a generalized cultural incompetence. Being able to tell someone who is out to do you harm should not be relying upon race - as nearly everyone would agree - but neither on clothing and mannerisms.

It's a worthwhile distinction to maintain.

Sure. It's just too bad that 2shoes needed to convey that message with such a supercilious tone. And while we're on the subject of Charles abuse, I'm not sure what relevance LJ's quote has to Charles's comment -- does the fact that she wrote that op-ed mean she could not have said what Charles said she did? How does it prove that Charles's comment is worthy of disdain? This kind of stuff should be saved for ihatecharlesbird.blogspot.com.

Jonas: I somewhat agree. That's why I'm trying to find parallels in the white culture. For example, Rock'n'Roll has always cultivated a lawless, sex, drugs, blah blah blah culture. However, its rare for white teenagers to actually live and dress overtly in this manner. And the ones that do are viewed culturally as burnt out loosers, and definately not a threat. I'm thinking in highschool the guys who did the whole teased hair, ripped jeans, eyeliner and spandex, who were "in a band", those were not the guys you had to worry about, you know? In the 90's, the Kurt Cobain wannabees, slumping around in flannel, again, not a threat. Today, goth kids? Yeah, they're creepy, but they provoke more exasperation and eyerolling than fear.

Contrast this to the agressive, gun toting, drug pushing urban hip-hip culture. They don't do drugs and hang out in bands, the sell drugs, cap n****s, and hang out in gangs. That is the perception, anyway, and that is a threat. It doesn't help that this thug lifestyle is somewhat reality based, where as the rock-n-roll lifestyle is more pure fantasy.

Again, I think if the poor white youth started going around polishing guns and wearing camo and paramilitary gear, coupled with very real groups of actual lawless militants roaming around... it would be just as inimidating, more intimidating, probably, even if these kids were law abiding citizens that just happened to like going around in camo and combat boots.

But the militiamen and they're movement was never embraced like this, nor did they spawn their own popular culture, and I can't think of anything else in white culture that is as overtly dangerous.

Cultural incompetence? I don't know. If I'm walking down the street, and I see a group of thugged out brothers on one corner, and a group of goth kids on the other, which side of the street am I safer on? Which side projects more threat? In reality, I could be jacked by the vampires and the black guys would just nod and wave. But what are the percentages? It seems more complicated.

You know, I took motorcycle trip down in North Carolina last week, and there were some huge rallies down there, in particular one to commemerate the Trail of Tears. And there were loads of black guys in a mostly white area. And what I found remarkable was how little race mattered in this one situation. All the leather clad scary white guys were talking to the equally leather clad scary black guys, and swapping stories about where they came from and what the ride from there was like, and how many guys are down here as from last year, and where you from? Cincinnati? No shit, my brothers from there. Buying each other drinks. And you just think, man, if everybody could find something in common with everybody else, what the world would be like. Especially in contrast to the events in NO. On the one hand encouraging, on the other, sad.

Oh, yeah. Biker culture. The perception of bikers (ignoring the sportbike guys) is far and away removed from the reality of them, but they still get a bum rap because the emulate the dress and styling of certain still infamous biker gangs. If you had a city chock full of leather-clad, bearded, angry bikers, would they get the overwhelming force treatment? Even though 99% of them would be the nicest guys you can imagine?

KenB: Agreed 100%.

But the militiamen and they're movement was never embraced like this, nor did they spawn their own popular culture, and I can't think of anything else in white culture that is as overtly dangerous.

It's worthwhile noting explicitly at this juncture that you're talking only about the United States, and primarily post-WWII US at that. I can think of plenty of instances of "white culture" that did, in fact, become so overtly dangerous...

Does it really matter if Charles got his terminology right?

Yes.

It would seem secondary to his point

No, it's central. It implies the Bush Administration is a victim of racism. Those specific accusations levelled against the aforementioned may or may not be unfair, but it is certainly not racist itself.

As for being supercilious, when people continually use terms, especially terms like race-baiting, improperly, even when corrected....it has ever appearance of.....well...

...let's just say it does not sit well with me.

Neolith,

Cultural incompetence? I don't know. If I'm walking down the street, and I see a group of thugged out brothers on one corner, and a group of goth kids on the other, which side of the street am I safer on? Which side projects more threat? In reality, I could be jacked by the vampires and the black guys would just nod and wave. But what are the percentages? It seems more complicated.

What I meant by cultural incompetence - not the most articulate way of expressing my idea - is that extrapolating the threat of people based on cultural affiliation is not very reliable. It is far more complicated for certain. You say:

In the 90's, the Kurt Cobain wannabees, slumping around in flannel, again, not a threat.

While that makes sense when you think about the general nature of grunge culture, it does not make sense if you acknowledge that there were some members of that subculture who were a danger to others. Likely far less as a percentage than how many gangsta-rap enthusiasts would pose a threat, but treating one group as harmless and the other as threatening is pointless. What will serve anyone well in dangerous situations is being able to determine a persons threat based on their demeanor rather than the cultural signals they are giving off.

That's the only point I'm trying to make. Not that people won't be making generalizations based on how people dress and talk - that they do - I'm merely arguing that it isn't very practical.

And that's not to say, sadly, that gangsta culture doesn't make a big, central point of being threatening. But to quibble with you here:

For example, Rock'n'Roll has always cultivated a lawless, sex, drugs, blah blah blah culture. However, its rare for white teenagers to actually live and dress overtly in this manner. And the ones that do are viewed culturally as burnt out loosers, and definately not a threat.

... I'd say that it is my impression that 50's teenagers into Rock n' Roll, and 70s punks exhibited the same regrettable enthusiasm for superficially embracing an image of being threatening. Meanwhile, a whole lot of the kids I've known well who were in the "gangsta culture" were precisely the same kind of burnt-out losers you're describing above.

I can't tell you how many times groups of gangsta kids have assumed that they could freak the hell of out me by their mere presence - it didn't work because they weren't giving off any of the sociopathic signals that truly dangerous people tend to, and I'm used to gangsta kids being around. It would be far harder for me to be as flippant about it were I suddenly in the company of the Bikers you mention, as I have no idea what any of that is about. But if I crossed the street because of them I'd know I was being paranoid, and not really doing anything to ensure my safety.

The last thing I will address is this:

It doesn't help that this thug lifestyle is somewhat reality based, where as the rock-n-roll lifestyle is more pure fantasy.

The gangsta lifestyle is fantasy, and not reality-based. Ironically, it seems to me that the only people coming close to actually living it are big-shot rappers, not your local neighborhood drug dealer. Meanwhile, a general overestimation of the dangers of the inner-city by those who don't live there contribute to this mistaken impression that the reality looks this particular way.

I'm not sure what relevance LJ's quote has to Charles's comment

The probability that Donna Brazile, former Gore advisor, very much inside the beltway type, said anything like "They [the Bush administration] let us [black people] die." is as close to zero as one can get. Add to that the fact that she wrote the editorial (which was the simplest way I could find to point out the absurdity of Chas comment) and you get an idea of why I think Chas is full of it. I'm sure there is some logical explanation (obviously chas supplying the missing anaphors suggests Brazile was being asked about Kanye West's remarks and she restated them before addressing them), but having to deal with Chas as Emily Litella does little for helpful discussion here, and what's worse, Chas, instead of saying 'never mind', will simply pretend that this was his 'factually based opinion'. Of course, either he just dropped by to lighten his load because he can't be bothered to read all the comments, or he's reading all this and the only thing he has in response to a careful and thoughtful post by Hilzoy is a misremembered snippet of NPR. I realise that this may seem like a game of Gotcha, but when someone can't be bothered to get the little things right, it suggests that he isn't going to get the big things right.

As for the ihatechasbird site, it's a lovely idea (and I did enjoy the brief photo of jackmormon) but I have a blogger identity that I use for dealing with a different subset of blogs and I don't want to get them confused.

I apologize for derailing the conversation (like Anderson, I'm from Mississippi, (sort of) so his point about the foundational nature of race, especially in the deep South, is something that I agree with and often try to come to grips with) and when I stop grinding my teeth at Chas, I will try and add something to the conversation.

"It's worthwhile noting explicitly at this juncture that you're talking only about the United States, and primarily post-WWII US at that. I can think of plenty of instances of "white culture" that did, in fact, become so overtly dangerous..."

And when they did people were generally quite afraid to see them congregating with cultural markers tying them to such a culture. If an average citizen were to go to say Frankfurt or Berlin and find himself inadvertantly walking by a group of young white men with shaved heads, rugby shirts or white T-shirts with thin red suspenders, wearing large black or tan engineer boots, he would feel much more uncomfortable than if he saw a bunch of girls in red tank-tops. He would feel that way because the group was culturally identifying with (or identifying with groups that do not sort themselves easily from) Nazi-sympathizers. Picking up on those cultural cues is important and useful even if you would only get attacked by such a group 1 out of 50 times. You are likely to be attacked by the group of female Dutch tourists far less often.

While that makes sense when you think about the general nature of grunge culture, it does not make sense if you acknowledge that there were some members of that subculture who were a danger to others. Likely far less as a percentage than how many gangsta-rap enthusiasts would pose a threat, but treating one group as harmless and the other as threatening is pointless. What will serve anyone well in dangerous situations is being able to determine a persons threat based on their demeanor rather than the cultural signals they are giving off.

The cultural signals they are putting off are an intentional part of the demeanor you want to judge. They aren't easily cordoned off into different areas. If I shave my head and tattoo a swastika on it, you ought to be initially suspicious that I'm more physically dangerous than a Japanese girl wearing a club-kid outfit with a shiny blue pull-over and 2-foot tall platform shoes. You would be a fool not to. Now if she pulls a gun out of her flashy tote-bag, you would also be a fool not to revise your initial opinion. But your initial opinion was not stupid and it wasn't useless. The cultural indications of shaving your head and installing a swastika tattoo on it are self-chosen and ought to be interpreted as both threatening and requiring somewhat more attention than all sorts of other cultural indications.

Like it or not (and I don't) there really is a thug culture that really is dangerous and really does have some pop-culture success. And if you were walking down the street in most major US cities and saw a group of ten young men on the left side of the street walking and flagging gangsta cultural trappings while you saw on the right side of the street a group of ten young men flagging obvious Islamic cultural trappings, I would say if you were trying to minimize your risks that you should cross to the right side of the street.

Whoops lost a sentence at the end. You would be right to cross the street even the the probability of either group being dangerous to you is fairly low in an absolute sense. (Though I suspect it is far higher than many of the risks that people commonly freak out about).

Like it or not (and I don't) there really is a thug culture that really is dangerous and really does have some pop-culture success. And if you were walking down the street in most major US cities and saw a group of ten young men on the left side of the street walking and flagging gangsta cultural trappings while you saw on the right side of the street a group of ten young men flagging obvious Islamic cultural trappings, I would say if you were trying to minimize your risks that you should cross to the right side of the street.

SH -- I mean this in the most inoffensive possible way, but do you live in a city where walking down the street and seeing ten young men dressed 'gangsta' style is at all likely? Because if by 'gangsta' you mean anything short of particular gang symbols (which I wouldn't recognize or be able to interpret), that describes most of the young men in my neighborhood. Now, I'm sure by the law of averages that some of the guys I see in the street are not good people, but if I started making deductions based on style, I would be avoiding almost all of the young black and Latino men I see around. It's simply not a useful means of distinguishing between scary and non-scary people.

(I should say that there is probably some non-zero risk that any single-sex group of men between say, 16 and 22, is a dangerous group, I just don't think looking at their clothes is an effective way of telling which are dangerous.)(Short, as I said above, of particular symbols indicating membership in a specific dangerous organization.)

This kind of stuff should be saved for ihatecharlesbird.blogspot.com.

*****drumroll, please!******

A fresh hate thread has been created for CB's most recent comment. Click here to contribute excoriations.

2shoes: Then perhaps the best course of action would be to walk away from the computer. If you can't correct someone in a manner that bristles innocent bystanders, well, that doesn't sit very well with me. So there you go.

Jonas: The gangsta lifestyle is fantasy, and not reality-based.

This seems a difficult statement to defend. Yes, the stupid overtly bling-bling crap is fantasy, but it is based on reality. When you look at where gansta rap comes from, and you look at your standard issue gangster (real, not imagined), its easy to see the stylistic evolution.

What I'm saying is, if you look at the roots of most of the "out there" white teenage cultural trappings, they come from the bands and music portreying a certain image, but that image doesn't go back to any further archtypes. If you look at the gansta look, that comes from rappers and artists also portreying a certain image, and that image is lifted directly from violent street gangs. The reality is that when I see a goth, I don't have to carefully sift through layers of meaning in their look and analyze if they're hanging appropriate colored flags out of what pocket, I can dismiss them as harmless. Even a black goth, if I were to see one. Its harder to dismiss the banger-look. Maybe in another 20 years when the origins of gansta rap become less and less associated with, you know, gangsters, there will be more cultural acceptance. But again, where would we be if gangsta style were not seen as something that should actually be lived out. I actually love rap music, but I think its foolish and ridiculous to adopt the ultra-materialistic lifestyle, to say nothing of the other negative trappings that go along with it, of the ganstas. In fact, I think the irony and self-parody is part of the charm. Its too bad more young men don't see it that way.

It's worthwhile noting explicitly at this juncture that you're talking only about the United States, and primarily post-WWII US at that. I can think of plenty of instances of "white culture" that did, in fact, become so overtly dangerous...

Of course. It would be pretty tough to claim that blacks or hispanics hold a lock on fear-inspiring cultures. I did point out the burly white male biker. Then there were those guys in white sheets that were pretty damn terrifying. The list goes on.

The thing is: it's interesting what non-racial cues we use while leaping to conclusions about people, but the specific problem in NO that I meant to raise as a possibility was that race per se might function the same way. A lot of the pictures of crowds that I say (and here I'm going on memory) were of people who did not look particularly threatening, if viewed in non-racial terms -- sick people, families, people who just looked tired.

do you live in a city where walking down the street and seeing ten young men dressed 'gangsta' style is at all likely?

I do. I live on the border of Harlem and have a pretty finely attuned sense of what is gangsta vs. thug, streetwear vs. athletic. The first two fashion choices do send up little flashes of warning, but most times, these are just fashion choices.

Generally, I avoid congregations of young men hanging out and hope it's not a race-based thing, but I really can't be sure.

When I remember the photos from the Superdome and the Convention Center, what I was struck by, though, was how few of the people were weared gangsta or thugwear. I saw a lot of women in Carribbean-style headscarves, a lot of men in pretty sober working-class gear, and most people in some sturdy variation of t-shirts and jeans.

The slight twinge of menace any of us whities might feel from gangsta or thugwear doesn't really seem to be the point here, not unless we're willing to admit that the twinge of menace might go past the clothing-signals to the black faces. Let's be careful about what we rationalize ourselves into, here.

(LJ, sorry to hear you won't be contributing to Hating on CB--but I'm glad you enjoyed the pic.)

Slarrow, come to your thread!

I should say that there's nothing inherently absurd about assessing someone's dangerousness based on what they're wearing -- the skinhead example SH gave was a good one. While certainly not all skinheads are violent, IME there is a real correlation (or was back when I was hanging out in clubs, longer ago than I like to remember) between someone dressed like a skinhead and someone who is going to start a fight.

Its harder to dismiss the banger-look. Maybe in another 20 years when the origins of gansta rap become less and less associated with, you know, gangsters, there will be more cultural acceptance.

The thing is, some version of the 'gangsta' look is pretty much how most urban minority young men dress. 'Skinhead' picks out a very small percentage of people -- 'gangsta' fashion (unless people are defining it much more narrowly than I am) is pretty mainstream for a young urban minority guy who's dressing fashionably at all.

Yeah, slarrow: using your name was meant to be a compliment, of the form: you asked a serious question; I tried to give a serious answer.

Hilzoy: You're point is a valid one. But that leads us down other paths, like are white people afraid of black people simply because they are black, or because they associate black people with scary things. Even if you got a crowd full of Brian Gumbels, Micheal Jordans, and Bill Cosbys on respirators with two broken legs, if somebody thinks one out of a hundred of them is going to be a thugged out maniac, one will still have an unreasoning fear of the situation. And was that the root cause of the hesitation to go in there, or just the concern that "Gee whiz, there are a whole bunch of black people down there. Better wait for reinforcements."

Sure, race is a factor, but I'm trying to figure out why, in this day in age, it still is. I'm also trying to figure out if it ever won't be. Why am I, a pretty open minded kind of guy, totally at ease getting on an elevator with a well-dressed black family, but might give one chock full of doo-rags, bandanas, gold-chains and low riding pants a pass? Why do white rednecks from the mountains treat black guys on Harley's different then ones on low riders. Race is becoming a more complicated issue, it seems to me, than a less complicated one, which is how I perceive you to be viewing it. Maybe there is no difference. I don't know.

LizardBreath: (Short, as I said above, of particular symbols indicating membership in a specific dangerous organization.)

The problem is, that I, as a white guy living in the fairly urban city of Indianapolis, have a hard time keeping up with what is a "real" gangster and who is just posing. And its not like if I get it wrong, there won't be potential consequences. If I have time to watch and observe, fine, but if I don't? I guess I profile.

The problem is, that I, as a white guy living in the fairly urban city of Indianapolis, have a hard time keeping up with what is a "real" gangster and who is just posing.

My point is that (pulling a percentage out of the air) 80% of the black and Latino kids/young men dress like that. The fashion is just too common to treat it as any kind of useful information about how dangerous they're likely to be.

I get so sick of hearing that the so-called MSM is out to get Bush and damage his presidency by continuously slanting the news in a negative way against him.

Could it just be that the Results of President Bush's policies, his statements and actions are producing negative results that are being accurately reported, however that Republicans want to sweep under a rug?

The slight twinge of menace any of us whities might feel from gangsta or thugwear doesn't really seem to be the point here, not unless we're willing to admit that the twinge of menace might go past the clothing-signals to the black faces. Let's be careful about what we rationalize ourselves into, here.

It is an area for soul searching for sure. I think its interesting the points you make: "I live on the border of Harlem and have a pretty finely attuned sense of what is gangsta vs. thug, streetwear vs. athletic. The first two fashion choices do send up little flashes of warning, but most times, these are just fashion choices."

Ok, so that's you, living next to Harlem. Can Joe Sixpack in Generic RedState make that same distinction? How about your average Louisiana guardsmen? I don't want to sound too much like an apologist, after all, words cannot express the disgust I felt reading about the refugees turned away from walking out of NO. And part of me wondered what would happen if those guys had just linked hands, kept walking, and said "Fine, shoot us." Obviously, they were afraid to find out. And that's crazy.

Sebastian,

The cultural signals they are putting off are an intentional part of the demeanor you want to judge.

LizardBreath aptly got to the root of why i think this doesn't work with thug/gangsta types:

...but if I started making deductions based on style, I would be avoiding almost all of the young black and Latino men I see around. It's simply not a useful means of distinguishing between scary and non-scary people.

That's why I find the notion useless. For all I know the Eurotrash Neonazis you describe are very reliably dangerous - truth is I'm clueless.

Like it or not (and I don't) there really is a thug culture that really is dangerous and really does have some pop-culture success. And if you were walking down the street in most major US cities and saw a group of ten young men on the left side of the street walking and flagging gangsta cultural trappings while you saw on the right side of the street a group of ten young men flagging obvious Islamic cultural trappings, I would say if you were trying to minimize your risks that you should cross to the right side of the street.

I suspect you'd be reducing your risks (if I may use imaginary numerical hyperbole) from 99.9997% safe to 99.9998% safe. That's just not enough to matter to me.

I was almost mugged Downtown in the village by a white guy who was completely indistinguishable from your average college student you see everyday. If I had been relying upon appearances and their related cultures I would have been screwed. Luckily, I could tell the guy was off, and I could tell he was up to something. I suspect most people are unable to make such observations of behavior of cultures to which they are completely unfamiliar (i.e. the Biker example in my case. I'd be far less trusting of my general appraisal of a Biker because of a relative lack of understanding of them. But if I didn't let that ignorance blind me, I probably be better off evaluating them by the criteria I use with everyone else.)

Then perhaps the best course of action would be to walk away from the computer. If you can't correct someone in a manner that bristles innocent bystanders, well, that doesn't sit very well with me. So there you go.

Don't you think you are doing precisely what you're accusing me of?

To me, the point was important to raise. I'm sorry that you and KenB felt otherwise.

are white people afraid of black people simply because they are black, or because they associate black people with scary things.

In the Gretna example, there were plenty of scary things in the news at that point, so I don't think it's so easy to accuse them of racism (although it could easily have been a component, of course). Regardless of the individuals that anyone may have seen on the bridge at a given moment, they had reason enough to think that leaving the bridge open would lead to widespread property damage, given the stories they were hearing and the precipitating event of the building being burned down.

So I'd tend to disagree with hilzoy's thought that the mayer would not have assumed that they would have looted and burned his town if they were white. However, the offensive part of the story to me is not that he (and the town by extension) feared for their property but that they were willing to leave the Orleaners to their fate because of it; perhaps they might have weighed things differently if the crowd on the bridge was mostly white.

My point is that (pulling a percentage out of the air) 80% of the black and Latino kids/young men dress like that. The fashion is just too common to treat it as any kind of useful information about how dangerous they're likely to be.

I get that. But if I dropped you in the middle of a state forest and said, "80% of the mushrooms here are edible. Bon appetite!" how hungry would you feel? Me, I'm a mushroom aficianado, and I'd pick out the morels and go to town. But I've been around them since I was a boy, and know what to look for and what to avoid. Its what you're familiar with I guess. And so if the average US citizen is afraid of black people (if this is even an accurate assertion) is it because they are afraid of the average black person? I guess to put it mildly I'd like it if that were not true.

Being intimidate by people because of how they dress, appear and race says that you lack self confidence in yourself. If you are a confident person you should be able to walk into any situation and feel comfortable knowing that you can take care of yourself.

just because people "appear" to be thuggish doesnt neccessarily meant that they are..a lot of those young men are "perpetrating a fraud" and attempting to blend in for acceptance by their peer groups. As long as they are with that particular group, yeah they are tough, but get them alone and believe me they aint so tough.

2shoes: Don't you think you are doing precisely what you're accusing me of?

Did I mention how many times people have bristled at attacks against Charles in just the past month? Did I then go on to say "really, 2shoes, this is why so many people have a problem with you?" I tried to state that I didn't see your point and that I thought the way you made it made you look bad. I thought your point valid, but a red herring relating to what BD was trying to get at. I'm sorry that I offended you in pointing out that you offended me. I guess its hard avoiding attacking someone when pointing out a perceived attack. If I bristled anyone else, I apologize for that. And in case this comes across as being ironic, I am being totally, 100% sincere.

Neolith,

If you look at the gansta look, that comes from rappers and artists also portreying a certain image, and that image is lifted directly from violent street gangs. The reality is that when I see a goth, I don't have to carefully sift through layers of meaning in their look and analyze if they're hanging appropriate colored flags out of what pocket, I can dismiss them as harmless.

What I am trying to express is that in both cases, the goth and the gangsta are just putting on airs for their own amusement. The fact that there are actual gangsters that are real people in no way reflects on these kids as they are, more likely than not, complete posers and actually harmless.

There's no code to figure this out, other than the one you use to distinguish people with whom you are already familiar. It's tough to work this out, but what little I have has served me quite well over the years.

That's why I find the notion useless. For all I know the Eurotrash Neonazis you describe are very reliably dangerous - truth is I'm clueless... the Biker example in my case. I'd be far less trusting of my general appraisal of a Biker because of a relative lack of understanding of them. But if I didn't let that ignorance blind me, I probably be better off evaluating them by the criteria I use with everyone else.

I don't understand this. To me, you'd be smart to avoid a dangerous looking person you don't understand until you do achieve an understanding. I don't see you being afraid of scary looking bikers as unreasonable just because I happen to know its unreasonable. The fact that writ large this attitude gets you New Orleans is tragic, but understandable, and therefore reversable and correctable. If you postulate that black people are scary just because... I don't know if its the same situation. Because black people will always be black, and whites always white, well, at least until we all procreate together until one magnificent day when we're all a single slighly brownish non-descript human race. Then we turn to belly buttons. You can't trust an damn dirty innie for nothing, I tell you what.

What I am trying to express is that in both cases, the goth and the gangsta are just putting on airs for their own amusement. The fact that there are actual gangsters that are real people in no way reflects on these kids as they are, more likely than not, complete posers and actually harmless.

To which I retort that we all know there are no such things as "real" gothic vampires. At least most of us agree that this is the case. Does that make sense?

Cassini,

If you are a confident person you should be able to walk into any situation and feel comfortable knowing that you can take care of yourself.

Good lord, and I thought I might be holding people to an unreasonable standard in this thread...

a lot of those young men are "perpetrating a fraud" and attempting to blend in for acceptance by their peer groups.

Come on, it's not a fraud, anymore than the Goth who doesn't actually want to commit suicide and doesn't have naturally black hair is perpetrating one.

Wow. Invited by name and everything. I'll have to write something, then (quickly--I've been busy today, and break will be over soon.)

I continue to think Hinderaker's list is a good one (noting that if the answer given to the question of deliberateness is "none", then the loaded nature of the questions is defused.) hilzoy's post seems to me to concentrate on the first few questions about how these things came to be.

hilzoy makes a good point about some of the lurid stories coming directly from the mouths of local authorities; thus, it's harder to lay that on media types (although it does put the competence and judgement of the local types into question again.) But I think hilzoy missteps when she talks about how reporters were gathering "witness" reports, as Blar points out (in the excellent phrase "accessing the same rumor mill from different angles"). I don't think this qualifies as doing one's job "right"; it's more like doing one's job "fast." Given the nature of the rumors, I'd hope that considerations of Hinderaker's last point would kick in--namely, what damage might this do if false? I do, however, agree with hilzoy that "embedded" reporting might have stopped some of the rumors floating out.

As for hilzoy's race analysis, I am not quite sold. It is an explanation, and it does provide a certain framework, but I don't know to what extent actual evidence for that point of view could be gathered. Here's the interesting thing, though: hilzoy takes a look at these reactions through the prism of race. That's a filter that tends to categorize facts and tap into well-known storylines. Once people get locked into those storylines, whether official or media type, it becomes harder to jump out of those mindsets, especially when they're so useful in making decisions in a world where confusion reigns.

Well, here's where the viewpoint of a Hinderaker comes back in. In addition to a race prism, let's add a view of a blame-Bush prism for those people selecting what material comes out as the news stories. So on top of the hilzoy-suggested layer of "black groups are dangerous", add a layer of "Bush has lost control". (Perhaps other filters come into play; all suffer from the difficulty of being properly supported by evidence, but they share a certain degree of explanatory power. I actually think one of the most powerful filters in play here is "bad news is news, good news isn't." Maybe "this is somebody's fault" as well.)

Now events start to make sense to the people reporting the story. Confusion is lessened, news types are more in control, and journalists with "authentic" angry reactions are getting lots of face time on TV. Now we have a reaction beginning, fueled by factoids that fit the filters while dissenting facts just get ignored (until later, like now.) The storm builds and crests, and the finger-pointing begins.

The fundamental problem here, I think, is that people tend to organize information into preexisting filters, even those whose profession it is to be "objective." hilzoy has suggested how identifying one of these filters as race has a certain amount of explanatory power, especially given the results and actions taken. Hinderaker seems to me to be suggesting that anti-Bush bias was another filter in operation, a thesis also with explanatory power about results and actions. Hinderaker may indeed be wrong that this filter was consciously or deliberately in play during the reporting, but I don't think hilzoy would demand that race be an explicit, conscious factor in people's reaction to be a real explanation either.

What's the bottom line? For my money, it's that it's good to keep a few old cliches in mind. Don't believe everything you hear. Don't run around like a chicken with your head cut off. [Stuff] happens. Appearances can be deceiving. Look before you leap. And such.

There's my contribution (took longer than I hoped--always does.) Maybe see the thread later tonight, maybe not; I might spend the time watching Firefly in preparation for Friday's premiere of Serenity. This analysis of information filters and bias errors is interesting and all, but let's not get all crazy about priorities and stuff.

Jonas Cord:

Are you telling me that you let people intimidate you because of the way they look, dress or their race?

Because if you do that is exactly what those people want you to do no matter what race they are. Once they sense that they will take advantage of you.

And yes, I think a lot of those guys are
"perpetrating a fraud of false thuggery".

Neolith,

I don't understand this. To me, you'd be smart to avoid a dangerous looking person you don't understand until you do achieve an understanding. I don't see you being afraid of scary looking bikers as unreasonable just because I happen to know its unreasonable.

I think it is unreasonable, if I am interested in being truly safe, to use outward appearance as the basis of a snap judgement. That's not to say I wouldn't do it, but that I recognize I'm being sloppy and probably not doing myself any favors. I prefer judgements made on more universal attributes.

Is the person relaxed or tense, or wierdly focused? Is a teenager merely being aggressive in that mostly harmless way that all teenage guys tend to be in groups, or is it something more serious? Are they behaving suspiciously? And so on... this works with everyone. And not to mention the Catch-22 of urban living: act defensive and uncomfortable and you are more likely to have reasons to be defensive and uncomfortable.

To which I retort that we all know there are no such things as "real" gothic vampires. At least most of us agree that this is the case. Does that make sense?

There are real gangstas and imaginary vampires. The fact that one is real and one is not does not matter when the vast majority of teenagers will be playing a dumb, silly, and harmless game regardless if the basis of their fantasy comes from the science fiction or the newspaper.

This is the last time I'll bring this up and...well, I'll post a comment. Huzzah.

Did I mention how many times people have bristled at attacks against Charles in just the past month?

All I can say is that pointing out an error by a commentator is not an "attack", and it's not really my or anyone else's fault that CB makes the same ones over and over again and, in this specific matter, has the appearance of choosing to make that mistake.

Did I then go on to say "really, 2shoes, this is why so many people have a problem with you?"

With me in particular? Golly, I didn't realize I posted enough to have warranted a reputation one way or another.

I am being totally, 100% sincere.

So was I. False accusations of racism really do bother me (Nevertheless, I used neutral language: "This is not race-baiting. You've been told that before. Here's a definition". No Tacitesque "you ninny".)

But I guess the sincerity of some is more worthy of consideration.

Anyways, there seems to be different standards applied to individual commentators, and damned if I know what, precisely, the totem pole in that department is. I'm worn out.

Adieu.

Slarrow, I think your points are mostly well taken. I think that the filters of "Bush must be blameless, somehow" and "whatever Bush may have done, the people who hate him are so awful that under no circumstances should I even for a moment credit anything they say despite whatever evidence there might be" are prevalent enough that the whole discussion -- stretching well beyond this site -- is really but a poor substitute for your cliches.

I'll add, though, that excessive deference to power is much more dangerous than excessive caution.

By the way, is it still considered true that federal officials thought there was some kind of legal barrier that prevented them from delivering a pallet of Evian to the Convention Center without invoking the Insurrection Act?

Jonas: You're being truly street smart, which is a good thing. It's also something not very many people are good at, as I'm sure you've noticed. As far as the rest of the stuff, I feel we understand each other as well as can be expected. I'm all like "well, yeah," and you're all like "yeah, but", and then I'm all like "ok, cool." I still think there is something to this thug life stuff that disconnects a lot of people, rightly or wrongly. This has nothing to do with this particular discussion, but I also think it demands more from its adherants than the equivalent goth, punk, or grunge fan. The difference between a casual goth and hardcore is about $50 in masquera and pantyhose. The difference between the casual and hardcore thug is about fifty thousand dollars, whip rolling on dubs not included. Which is real tragedy on top of my hypothetical one.

"I suspect you'd be reducing your risks (if I may use imaginary numerical hyperbole) from 99.9997% safe to 99.9998% safe. That's just not enough to matter to me."

I suspect it is more likely an 90% vs. 99% thing so that is enough to matter to me.

"Being intimidate by people because of how they dress, appear and race says that you lack self confidence in yourself. If you are a confident person you should be able to walk into any situation and feel comfortable knowing that you can take care of yourself."

That is mostly appropriate thinking for purely social situations where social standards will protect you. Self-confidence is just as likely to get your face kicked in if you are a black person walking through Frankfurt around the wrong skinheads or if you are walking through Watts when the local gang is looking for someone to prey upon.

Oh, I forgot to answer: "SH -- I mean this in the most inoffensive possible way, but do you live in a city where walking down the street and seeing ten young men dressed 'gangsta' style is at all likely?". I live in San Diego. Most of the local gangs are Hispanic, and I escaped a gay-bashing by a group of 5 while walking home from a local bar on a busy streat only by virtue of the fact that I rarely drink and was thus able to run as fast as my feet could carry me to somewhere safe and call the cops. I was alerted initally by their dress, and then by the fact that they followed me for two blocks without speaking to each other (behavior not at all characteristic of 5 men coming home from a bar). In any case I am not saying that you rely SOLELY on what people are wearing to make safety determinations. I am saying that gangsta dress is certainly worth noticing as one possible indicator of danger. I'm not sure how many indicators you need to take some action (four? five? three?) but I have no trouble counting gangsta dress as one of them. In my case I counted the dress as number one, the silence as number two, the fact that they were able to keep up with me when I walked briskly as number three and the fact that they crossed the street with me and then back again when I crossed as number four. All four together meant that when I heard them start to jog toward me, I took off running. My initial notice of them came from their dress. If I had gone up and shot them because of that it would have been wrong. But paying extra attention was not wrong. Testing their intentions by walking briskly was not wrong. Testing their intentions by crossing the street was not wrong. Being much more careful than if I saw club-kids in two-foot platforms was not wrong. Running when they started running toward me was not wrong.

"What I am trying to express is that in both cases, the goth and the gangsta are just putting on airs for their own amusement. The fact that there are actual gangsters that are real people in no way reflects on these kids as they are, more likely than not, complete posers and actually harmless."

There aren't really vampires. Commiting suicide (at least in the way a goth typically considers) isn't likely to hurt me. There are really gangsta thugs. They really do hurt people with greater frequency than many other sub-classifications of human being. Being more careful around people who self-identify as gangsta than you are around self-identified goths is perfectly rational. Being more careful around self-identified NAZI skinheads than around either of the other two groups is also rational. The fact that in all three cases you are "more likely than not" to avoid attack is not comforting considering how devasting or deadly such an attack could be. The goth group is extremely unlikely to be dangerous (not impossible, but extremely unlikely--similar to your chance of having a heart problem caused by taking large amounts of recently hyped pain-killers). The chance of a gangsta group hurting you is much higher, though still much less than 50%. If forced to guess I would put it in the 5%-10% range. Skinheads, somewhat more. If forced to guess I would put a group of skinheads in the 10%-15% (in other words I would guess that 1 out of 8 of skinhead groups are somewhat dangerous). One out of eight isn't enough that I would try to turn in every skinhead group I saw. One out of eight isn't enough to take any action against them. But one out of eight is much higher than the chances that the Japanese club-kid girl is going to attack me. So spending my limited attention watching the skinheads more closely is rational.

Cassini,

Are you telling me that you let people intimidate you because of the way they look, dress or their race?

I'm kinda just giving you a hard time, but of course sometimes I am intimidated by people for any number of reasons. It's a tough battle for most people to win 100% of the time.

Because if you do that is exactly what those people want you to do no matter what race they are. Once they sense that they will take advantage of you.

That's true. Which I why I try to avoid it, but jeez, every minute of every day? Eternal vigilance?

And yes, I think a lot of those guys are "perpetrating a fraud of false thuggery".

Is it a fraud in that they are not actually dangerous thugs? Yes. But it is a kind of narcissistic self-indulgence of the worst behaviors of young men, which I doubt is a complete put-on.

Jonas Cord:

I think that the reason a lot of white people feel threatened by minority males is because of television. It's all about stereotypes.

I was always taught that no matter what situation you are in life to observe whats going on around you. It isnt always the obvious danger that attacks you.

Gangs of all races are groups of individuals influenced by peer pressure. If you dont look, act or dress the part, you are shunned by the leaders and established peers.
Thats why I say a lot of these guys are not as tough as they act.

oh, and i know you were giving me a hard time a was i to you..lol

"Thats why I say a lot of these guys are not as tough as they act."

This is almost always true. Unfortunately the tough that they act can still get you killed.

This is almost always true. Unfortunately the tough that they act can still get you killed.

Good reason to keep the number of guns floating about a society to a minimum, in my opinion.

The chance of a gangsta group hurting you is much higher, though still much less than 50%. If forced to guess I would put it in the 5%-10% range.

SH -- See, the problem here is what do you mean by a 'gangsta group'? (And what a terrifying story, and of course nothing you did in the context of the story was wrong.) If we're literally talking about gold chains, lowslung pants, and cornrows or other braids, for example, then 5-10% chance of such a group hurting you is hugely inflated. I walk past guys who look like that daily, and have for the eight years I've lived in my neighborhood, and have never had any trouble. That's 0 incidents out of a couple of thousand encounters. If you've been attacked one time out of every twenty you've seen such a group of young men, I'd be shocked.

The story you told was about a group of young men following you at night away from a bar. While their clothes aren't completely irrelevant, I can't think of a mode of dress that would have assured me that a group acting like that was harmless -- the behavior, rather than the fashion, was the tip-off. If by 'gangsta group' you mean a group of young men dressing as described, and behaving threateningly, that's reasonable. If, on the other hand, you're relying on fashion choices alone, a 'gangsta' mode of dress, in the context of neutral behavior, simply doesn't tell you much more than that you're looking at a group of urban minority teenagers.

A lot of interesting observations, but (no offense intended) they all are simply anecdotal. I think that it is pretty obvious that there is a connection between fearing blacks and the notion of Otherness and tipping points. Having one, a handful, no problem, but when it reaches a certain percentage, then they are perceived as a threat. I can't remember if Gladwell's book talks specifically about that, but it is easy enough to see examples of it all around us. What triggers this is not simply overt signals like dress or language, but the simply perception of an other.

For example, Japan has a long ongoing history of discrimination against Koreans. This currently manifests itself against a class of people called Zainichi kankokujin/chosenjin. These are the descendants of Koreans who came/were brought to Japan before and during the war, and after the occupation, were told that they could either return to Korea with a miserly amount or they could stay in Japan, but would not be Japanese citizens (this is very simplified). I believe that there are at least 4th generation kainichi and the vast majority are indistinguishable from Japanese. Yet they have suffered widescale societal discrimination. Things have improved, (it's a very interesting dynamic involved) but the point I would make here is that they are/were discriminated against not in spite of the fact that Japanese could not tell, without access to family records, that they were zainichi. To me, this seems similar to Neolith's mushroom example above, with the added fillup that the mushrooms are us.

I previously linked this paper by Jerry Kang, which is built on research on social cognition and it is impossible to read that paper and claim that this is anything but a deep-seated, perhaps irremovable trait. But accepting that is part of our nature is at a great remove to trying to make intellectual contortions to either blame it on external factors and therefore justified (I'm not thinking of anyone here, but some of the more vehement outbursts of 'it couldn't be racism, we're Americans' that I've seen in various places) and, like the essence of any 12 step program, the first step is admitting you have a problem. Jackmormon's point bears repeating:
Let's be careful about what we rationalize ourselves into, here.

However, simply invoking the tipping point is not the end of things. Tipping point phenonmenon occur when a new population enters. The black population has been entwined with the US since its foundation, yet almost 250 years on, and almost 50 years since the civil rights movement, we (and I definitely include myself in this) are unable to reach an understanding, such that people leaving the site of a disaster would still be turned back from aid. I am sure that people could cite examples of similar 50 year periods where what appeared to be slow but steady progress towards accomodation was washed away by a single event, but just as it is sobering when a person finds himself as susceptible as the next person that the US finds itself like any other nation.

An author who I am amazed by (her writing disturbs me too much to say that I love it), Gayl Jones, argues against multiculturalization, making the point that it is the majority white culture simply taking on a bit of spice, but that there is no understanding of cultures on their own terms, so multiculturalism essentially preserves the power relationship. I think this is true, as it seems that Katrina has revealed that to be a comfortable facade, but I am not sure what should replace it.

I am not pretending to have any great insight into any of the cultures that we are discussing here and are suggested to be threatening (though I think Hilzoy probably knows more about Biker culture than all of us put together) and, as I said, would probably have the same fear that Hilzoy notes above, which makes me hope that I can be logical and rational enough to set aside what my tendencies are when it really matters. However, this can lead to people placing themselves in dangerous situations in an attempt to 'understand' and if they come to a bad end, this anecdotally is cited as evidence for the violent nature of the particular subculture. And it's not simply violence, it's the notion of dependency, of different mores and morals. This is why Wolf Blitzer's 'so very, very black' comment made everyone take notice and why Barbara Bush's comment about how everything is working out suggests how far we have to go as a society.

If you've been attacked one time out of every twenty you've seen such a group of young men, I'd be shocked.
Jeez, me too. If I was getting jumped that often, I'd never stop running.

I don't know about the rest of you, but if I ran into a bunch of white kids walking down the street dressed in "gangsta clothes", I would be rather less than terrified. "Like f'in House of Pain is gonna do anything!"

I think I react the same way to black kids in "gangsta clothes". But if I ever don't, then it'll be racist and that's all there is to it.

People are writng about fashion choice as if the wearers had absolutely no concept of the stereotype invoked by their fashion choices--but, in my experience, people do know what images they are projecting. My experience is with high school students in a multi-ethnic urban high school. The students who choose "thug wear" aren't usually real thugs (the real ones don't go to school) but they know darn well what the stereotype the look evokes. They also know how to put on the facial expressions, adapt the body language etc. They imitate their favorite rappers, tease each other about wearing gang colors, express admiration for gang culture and so on.
However, that doesn't keep them from complaining about how unfair it is when people treat them like thugs.
I'm not particularly sympathetic toward a person who adopts a thug look and then objects to being like a thug by strangers who have nothing but appearance to guide their judgement. It's self-marginalizing behavior.
I'm also not sure that has much to do with the way the NO folks were treated since most of them, at least judging by pictures, were to old, too young, or the wrong gender to be thugs. They got mistreated for some other reason, not related to clothing style. I think Hilzoy is right, race had a lot to do with it. How else explain why a group of armed police officers would turn back a group of unarmed civilians, many of them elderly or young, some in wheelchairs, on the grounds that they might loot and pillage?

I meant "objects to being treated like a thug..."

I just wanted to note that one can save oneself a lot of effort by forming one's snap judgments based on how people act rather than how they look.

A bunch of kids dressed in a weird way are not a problem if they are leaving space for others on the sidewalk, not obviously intoxicated or otherwise impaired, clearly aware of their environment at least enough to avoid getting run over, and so on. They might be talking more loudly and more rudely than I'd care for, and playing their music ditto, but if they're not in my way, they're basically not a problem.

Conversely, a group of businessmen my own age and race are a real problem if they're clearly drunk and/or high, pushing people out of their way, not bothering to check for oncoming cars, and the like. Particularly if they're belting out the bigoted slurs as they go.

This standard applied to New Orleans would have quickly settled a lot of things, because people waiting in line and cooperating with the rudiments of social order needed for evacuation aren't a problem no matter how weird they look. The same is true for people trying to cross a bridge without weaponry, in some good semblance of order, and attempting to cooperate with the authorities.

Actions, not appearance. Your key to selecting happy outcomes.

Now that I have emerged from kitty email land, I wanted to address slarrow's point: "Hinderaker seems to me to be suggesting that anti-Bush bias was another filter in operation, a thesis also with explanatory power about results and actions", where the anti-Bush bias led people to report news stories that involved violence and looting, since that would show that "Bush has lost control".

-- The thing is, I don't think that the stories about looting actually did hurt Bush. Rather the opposite: they tended to distract from the main story, which was "the coast guard is doing a great job of picking people off roofs, but there are all those other people in the Convention Center and Superdome stranded without food, water, medicine, etc!" And in addition to distracting, they added the suggestion that those stranded people were not nice innocent abandoned victims, but largely lawless criminals and thugs, and that the reason the decent people among them were not being rescued was not incompetence, but unanticipated lawlessness.

That's why I didn't buy the 'unconscious bias' version of Hindrocket's point: I thought that not reporting the looting would have hurt Bush more. YMMV, of course.

I think this is one of those discussions in which many seemingly contradictory things can all be part of the truth. Yes, behavior should be a be clue in how one judges others, the biggest clue, probably. However, people don't always have the chance to get acquainted. I go camping by myself and my rule is Never Be Alone With a Man. I don't care what he seems like because I don't stick around long enough to find out. If I am by myself and a man appears, I leave. In some situations there are some odds I don't feel like playing. On the other hand I know my students well enough to know they aren't any more thuggish than I am, hence my annoyance when they pretend to be thugs and when they get upset with strangers who believe their act. People do need to think about how they are presenting themselves and be willing to accept the responsibiity for the reactions they dress to provoke. The Goth kids play this same game: "Just because I wear black and have three face piercings doesn't mean I'm weird!" No, it means you are pretending to be weird so why get upset if someone believes it? On the other hand one has to be carefully about over-generalizing or over-reacting: clothing messages can be misread.
But I can't see that NO situation was about that sort of appearance issue. I don't think there would have been rampant rumors of violence if the trapped people had been mostly middle class tourists.

Lily, I'm not talking about acquaintances - I'm talking about what you can see in seconds and respond to immediately.

I do agree with your last bit, though.

You know, the use of the phrase "Bush lost control" is very interesting. I wonder if this is a marker of the separate realities we live in. I mean it never occurred to me to think, about any of the NO coverage, that Bush had 'lost control' of anything. I never expected him to be 'in control,' and don't think he's got control over NO in his portfolio in any meaningful way. Only if FEMA was rioting and/or looting houses would this phrase have meaning.

I did think, though, at the time, that the sight (and exaggerated rumor) of people of color running wild had a bigger affect on many in the Base -- and hence the Admin -- than the sight of people suffering.

It finally occurs to me that this is because the message the Base was getting was that 'Bush lost control' -- a loss they find frightening, not incidentally because of the fear so many white people have of black rampage -- and which is only a coherent thought because they have different expectations of what a President can/should do.

(To be more accurate, I think Bush 'lost control' of the narrative, not of black people in NO. This, though, is not what slarrow and others are talking about when they indict the media of pushing the storyline that Bush has lost control).

As is often the case, Lily's voice is wise through the darkness. But I can't see that NO situation was about that sort of appearance issue. The question of whether a seemingly middle-class white person should feel a twinge of danger when seeing a group of thuggishly dressed young black men--at night, and alone--has very little to do with the topic hilzoy raised, and I'm a little disturbed that the thread has wandered in this question-begging direction.

(Are there any people of color who read ObWi?)

Excellent point, Jackmormon, and Lily deserves more props than she gets. That these discussions can get sidetracked by the mere flashing of gang colors could probably stand as much of an indictment as anything else.

Of course, a lot of back-getting-up is probably over the notion that this is an American problem. While no one has pulled the point out yet, this IHT/WaPo op-ed sketches some of the problems in France.

However, I think the ObWi peanut gallery acquitted itself rather well on the looting front (talking about it, not doing it) as I don't think that the question of looting really entered into our discussions. Well done, folks! (hey, I'll take my silver linings where I can get them)

I agree: kudos for Lily!

Dunno if it's reliable, but I had read there were groups of guys with knives at the Dome, but that they were enforcing order - whatever my source was said that there had been fights between these men but that the knives had been set aside for the confrontations. If true this would I think suggest both some reasons for an observer to have been concerned and more reasons for an observer to have noticed the crowd was calm and non-threatening.

I imagine the record will show the violence story line came from standard rumor generation, sensationalist reporting, poor press access, racism, and the desire to make the plight of those in the Center understandable and vivid so help would be more likely to come.

"If you've been attacked one time out of every twenty you've seen such a group of young men, I'd be shocked."

That isn't what I meant for my speculative statistic to mean so I guess I should be clearer.

Take a group of young guys who are actually in a gang. Let's say they beat the bejeesus out of people once a week. (That is probably quite a bit high, but for purposes of my point a high guess is only going to help my case). Even if they are beating people once a week, they probably have hundreds of little interactions with different people that they don't actually beat up. Nevertheless, if you knew for a fact that they were beating people up once a week, you probably wouldn't take a risk in the proverbial dark alley that your personal interaction with them was one of the hundreds of non-violent ones.

When I estimate 5%-10%, I mean 5%-10% of groups of young men intentionally dressing as thugs are among the group of regularly dangerous people. I certainly don't mean that 5%-10% of all interactions with young men dressed as thugs will end in violence. I mean that I estimate that 5%-10% of all interactions with men dressed as thugs are interactions with dangerous young men (who are acting out violence on a fairly regular basis--say as a wild-ass guess 4 or more times a year. I would certainly think of that as dangerous). Taking extra caution around people who engage in violence four or more times a year certainly seems fair to me.

I also think this discussion definitely does have to do with New Orleans. If there are media reports that there is complete lawlessness and that rescuers are being attacked, it is perfectly reasonable for individual rescuers to feel very nervous and be more cautious about going in to unknown situations than they would be in other natural disaster situations. It is bad enough that you are risking your life to the water. I wouldn't blame you for wanting to be careful when you start hearing reports that people much like you have been attacked while engaging in rescuing. That is why the (now seen to be false) media reports were so unfortunate. They ended up making saving people an even scarier prospect than it already was.

I've been trying to find that report that rilkefan referred to, and I haven't seen it. However, I remember that it was an elderly woman who was pointing this out.

However, this turned up via google.

This Sunday Herald (Scotland) article Some of the grafs of notice (all snips)
The National Guard threatened to shoot dead hungry refugees who were looking for food in the kitchens of the convention centre – another of the hellish refugee holding pens in the city. Donald Dudley, a seafood merchant, said: “They pulled guns and told us we had to leave that kitchen or they would blow our damn brains out. We don’t want their help. Give us some vehicles and we’ll help ourselves out of here.”

---

Algiers was once an affluent New Orleans suburb. Today it is a war-zone. In one incident, a gun battle broke out between a group of residents keeping watch on the streets and three armed men turning into the road. “They estimate that 25 shots were fired,’’ says Daryl Holmes. She used to live in Algiers and has many friends and family trapped in the area. Holmes is now acting as a point of contact between residents and the outside world – and trying to highlight their plight. ‘‘Of the three guys, two were hit – one in the back and the other in the shoulder. All three got away.

“What’s happening in Algiers is a microcosm of the rest of New Orleans. It is total social breakdown. It is very, very, very scary for everyone. To me, it is less a racial issue than a conflict between the haves and the have-nots. On top of that there is screaming panic – a sense of ‘who cares what happens, we are all gonna die’. It is out of control.

“There are small groups of armed residents walking the streets in Algiers. I understand completely why they would want to do that, but it’s amplifying the anxiety. There are armed looters walking openly on the streets, and they are facing them alone.

---

Fergie Lewis, who lived in Algiers and is now trying to get help for her friends still trapped in the area, says some 100 people are now having to face down and kill armed men on their own doorsteps. “The residents still left are now under siege from the mob,” she says, adding that they had to “kill four people in an attempt to protect property and life”. She asked the international press to send this message out: “Please get the state police in!”

Race war, class war and pure unadulterated anarchy have now gripped New Orleans – despite the eventual arrival of the military. When the National Guard did finally roll into New Orleans on Friday, Lieutenant-General Steven Blum, commander of the National Guard, declared: “The cavalry is and will continue to arrive.” He said 7000 Guardsmen would be in the city by last night.

At least a thousand corpses, some being eaten by rats, are floating through the city’s drowned streets. Wealthy whites are shooting indiscriminately at blacks who they believe to be murder gangs and looters; women, children and grown men are being raped and killed in alley-ways; cops are running away from the frontlines and telling survivors that it’s now a case of “every man for himself”. People are killing themselves in despair. Rescuers, heli copters and hospitals have been sniped at.

One of the first places looted was a Wal-Mart store which had its arms and ammunition stocks emptied. In downtown New Orleans, screams could be heard from tenement blocks as men wielding stainless steel baseball bats – knee-deep in a toxic stew of floodwater, effluent and chemicals – methodically beat their way inside the buildings. Some flooded streets bubbled with gas escaping from beneath the water.

---

Some 88 police officers retreated when confronted by an angry crowd at the convention centre, while they were trying to investigate rapes and beatings. Mayor Ray Nagin later issued a “desperate SOS” and ordered 1500 police officers to suspend their search and rescue missions to restore order in the city as reports of murder and mayhem mounted up. Then the National Guard were issued with orders to shoot to kill. Louisiana’s governor, Kathleen Blanco, said that among the soldiers were 300 “battle-tested” guardsmen: “They have M-16s and are locked and loaded. These troops know how to shoot and kill and I expect they will.”

With the last graf, note how the message by Nagin is juxtaposed with calls for NG troops to make a more vivid picture.

Also, from Matt Welch at alternet
this

Relief efforts ground to a halt last week after reports circulated of looters shooting at helicopters, yet none of the hundreds of articles I read on the subject contained a single first-hand confirmation from a pilot or eyewitness. The suspension-triggering attack--on a military Chinook attempting to evacuate refugees from the Superdome--was contested by Federal Aviation Administration spokeswoman Laura Brown, who told ABC News, "We're controlling every single aircraft in that airspace and none of them reported being fired on." What's more, when asked about the attacks, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff replied: "I haven't actually received a confirmed report of someone firing on a helicopter."

That we are trapped in a prison of our prejudices is probably the scariest thing to emerge from this.

Finally, this Rick Perlstein piece, which was not picked up by anyone, appeared at Atrios. I paste about half of it, and the last paragraph I paste is something that I have not heard

A white friend who's volunteering in refugee shelters on the Gulf Coast tells me the kind of things he's hearing around the small city where he's working.

A pastor is obsessed that "local" women not be allowed near the shelters: "At a community meeting they said these were the last evacuees, the poorest of the poor"--the most criminal, being his implication, the most likely to rape.

My friend says: "There were rumors that there were basically gangs of blacks walking up and down the main drag in town harassing business owners." The current line is that "some of them weren't even evacuees, they were just fake evacuees trying to stir up trouble and riot, because we all know that's what they want to do."

He talked to local police, who report no problems: just lost, confused families, in desperate need of help.

Yet "one of the most ridiculous rumors that has gone around is that 'the Civic Center is nothing but inmates. It's where they put all the criminals.'"

I immediately got that uncanny feeling: where had I heard things like this before?

The answer is: in my historical research about racial tensions forty years ago. I'm writing a book against the backlash against liberalism and civil rights in the 1960s. One of the things I've studied is race riots. John Schmidhauser, a former congressman from rural Iowa, told me about the time, in the summer of 1966, he held a question and answer session with constituents. Violence had broken out in the Chicago ghetto, and one of the farmers asked his congressman about an insistent rumor:

"Are they going to come out here on motorcycles?"

It's a funny image, a farmer quaking at the vision of black looters invading the cornfields of Iowa. But it's also awfully serious. The key word here is "they." It's a fact of life: in times of social stress when solid information is scarce, rumors fill the vacuum. Rumors are evidence of panic. The rumors only fuel further panic. The result, especially when the rumors involved are racial, can be a deadly stew of paranoia.

In the chaotic riot in Detroit in 1967, National Guardsman hopped up on exaggerated rumors of cop killers would descend upon a block and shoot out the streetlights to hide themselves from snipers. Guardsmen on the next block would hear the shots and think they were under attack by snipers. They would shoot at anything that moved. That was how, in Detroit, dozens of innocent people were shot. In one case, a firefighter was the one who died.

And now, a similar paranoia has turned deadly in New Orleans too. The early report Sunday was that police shot at eight suspicious characters at the 17th Street Canal, killing five. On Monday the report was clarified: the victims were contractors on their way to work to fix the canal.


Perlstein's last paragraph is powerful and makes me wonder why op-eds on Louisiana politicians as looters appear and this doesn't.

One of the most riveting early accounts of conditions in New Orleans was an email sent around by Dr. Greg Henderson. "We hear gunshots frequently," he wrote. It wasn't long before that got transformed, in the dissemination, into: doctors get shot at frequently. An Army Times article reported that desperate evacuees at the Superdome, terrified that losing their place in line might mean losing their life, "defecated where they stood." Now, it's easy, if you take a moment to think about it, to understand that happening to people, perhaps elderly and sick, under unendurable conditions of duress. As circulated on the Internet, however, another interpretation takes shape: these people are not like us. Them. Savages that, if they come to your town, might just be capable of anything. Even if they are just lost, confused people, in desperate need of help.

We can do better. We must do better.

Sebastian Holsclaw - the reason you cited on your blog for refusing to serve in the war you support is no longer operative.

You need to read a bit more closely. The article you quote states:

Kim Waldron, of the U.S. Army Forces Command at Fort McPherson, told the Washington Blade newspaper: "The bottom line is some people are using sexual orientation to avoid deployment. So in this case, with the Reserve and Guard forces, if a soldier 'tells,' they still have to go to war and the homosexual issue is postponed until they return to the U.S. and the unit is demobilized."

Waldon's comments confirmed the suspicions of Aaron Belkin, director of the Center for the Study of Sexual Minorities in the Military (CSSMM). Belkin noted that before Waldron's acknowledgment, representatives often denied that the military intentionally sends gays and lesbians to fight despite the existence of a gay ban.

"The military has claimed for years that allowing openly gay and lesbian service members to serve in uniform would undermine unit cohesion. During wartime, however, when cohesion is most important, the Pentagon retains gays and lesbians," Belkin said

This suggests that gay people are not immediately sent home, but are still discharged when in the US. But thanks for keeping me informed on the issue.

Also:

"There is no evidence what Ms. Waldron said is being implemented," he said. "SLDN has not heard from any officer in the field that this new policy is being implemented."


"We have assisted gay and lesbian service members who served in Iraq and Afghanistan who were brought home and discharged specifically because they were gay and lesbian," Ralls continued. "I cannot underscore this enough to gay and lesbian service members that 'don't ask, don't tell' is still in effect."

Max, your comment is irrelevant to this thread, and there's an open thread up at the head of the page.

The NYTimes has the story on the Guard units based in the convention center.

Of the 222 there, almost none were trained in police work or riot control. Many did not have weapons, said Colonel Mouton, the engineers' commander. "We didn't expect a martial law situation," he said. "We were building levees."

Thirsty, hungry civilians began banging on the doors. But commanders decided opening them would pose a danger of a stampede.

"We understand we're soldiers," Colonel Mouton said. "But what we had at the convention center was a partially armed group of engineers, ready to operate equipment," - and with enough food and water to anger 20,000 people.

On Sept. 1, he withdrew the engineers to the Superdome.

Yes, excellent, lily. I work with a guy who's still (after a couple of decades) working off the image that he's just a surfer. He's actually a brilliant guy, outstanding in his area of expertise who's well-read in history, raises hundreds of orchids, grafts his own roses onto rootstock, makes his own furniture, brews outstanding beer, etc. And the thing is, he actually was a surfer. Having dressed and behaved as a surfer, "he's a surfer" stuck in people's heads, and it's very, very hard to dislodge the label once it's firmly affixed. I know this isn't even approximately related to thugware, but it's the same kind of result: people treat you as if you're who they think you are, even after evidence to the contrary piles up.

I knew someone almost exactly like that at my work, Slart. Except that he was from Hawaii and actually cultivated the whole "dude!" image. The fact that he was an incredibly sharp and well-educated guy working in the IT industry was beside the point.

The question of whether a seemingly middle-class white person should feel a twinge of danger when seeing a group of thuggishly dressed young black men--at night, and alone--has very little to do with the topic hilzoy raised, and I'm a little disturbed that the thread has wandered in this question-begging direction.

Well, speaking in my capacity as, uh, myself, I'm theorizing that fear of black people that masquerade as thugs and the well-founded fear of the true thugs themselves rubs off on all black people, period. It would partly be a conflation, and partly a percentage game, along the lines of "Well, there's 10,000 black people down there, you just know that X of them dudes are running around packing heat." Especially when these same authority figures are telling each other and everyone who will listen that there are rape gangs and snipers roving about.

Otherwise, we're left with some basic fear of old black women in wheelchairs*. That doesn't make sense. I guess you could say that many authority figures don't care about old black women in wheelchairs, but I have trouble accepting that. In otherwords, I'm asking that if there weren't an overtly threatening culture that has gained acceptance by blacks in the last 20 years, would NO have gone differently? And then I tried to find analogues to white culture, I found a few, and I don't see anyone here disagreeing that a city of poor white people with a signifigant biker culture would be treated any different by police or the military. I'm kind of hoping we've made a little progress lo these many years.

At any rate, I'm puzzled as to why that's too disturbing.

* "Old black woman in wheelchair" is a stand in for any other non-threatening figure you'd like to mention: Mothers with children, guys sitting on the curb in jeans and t-shirt, old man with cane, etc, etc.

Jackmormon: (Are there any people of color who read ObWi?)

I'm one (although I'm Canadian, so my experiences as a person of colour probably differ from my yankee brethren.)

Shall add my two cents later this afternoon once I'm home from work.

I really have no idea what you heard, but you must realize that this is why, in a nutshell, so many people have such a low opinion of what you write here.

Juan Williams interviewed Donna Brazile on NPR, and what I wrote is exactly what I heard Brazile say, LJ, and it was exactly in the context that I bracketed (cite). You're applying those same old double standards again, condemning the person who heard her repulsive words and playing CYA for the liberal Democrat who said them. Your low of my writing is equaled by my low opinion of those liberals--such as yourself--who have written consistently hypocritical statements.

Second thing. Excuse me for writing "race-baiting". Race card is more accurate, but it doesn't make what any of those folks said any less inexcusable or poisonous.

Lastly, I find it disturbing that not one reporter asked the pertinent question after interviewing all these folks who passed along these rumors, and that question was: "Show me the dead people." This episode reminds me a little of what took place in Jenin, when media played up the "massacre" angle, until the facts started rolling in.

Whole-head-on-fire OT: "Either break him or destroy him, and do it quickly." Rumsfeld on the guy from the 82nd as quoted by Andrew Sullivan. Bring the revolution bob mcmanus-style if this is true.

Ah, yes, the Jenin massacre angle. There weren't hundreds of civilians killed, only 22. Including an old man in a wheelchair run over by a tank, another paralyzed man in a home bulldozed as the family members begged to be allowed to bring him out, and a nurse shot while wearing her uniform. Good example, Charles, if you're trying to demonstrate how one lie is often replaced, not by the truth, but by an opposing lie--no large scale massacre doesn't mean there weren't major war crimes committed by Israel in Jenin (and many other places in the West Bank during that invasion).

End of tangent. I didn't bring it up.

I'd say Jenin is reasonably apposite (and I agree with CB's take) but likely to set off the usual flame-war and I'm already past upset about Fishback.

Juan Williams interviewed Donna Brazile on NPR, and what I wrote is exactly what I heard Brazile say, LJ, and it was exactly in the context that I bracketed
which was:
"They [the Bush administration] let us [black people] die."

Let's take a listen, shall we?

After the sponsor info is given, they open a portion of the Bush speech in Jackson Square, followed by the introduction of Juan Williams and the topic.

Juan comes on and introduces the typical NPR on-the-scene clip, which is a woman lamenting that they were just left with no food or water.
Immediately after that (it is only recording quality and a different voice quality that tells you this is a new person speaking) here is what Donna Brazile opens with at 1:16

Look, as someone who grew up in poverty, it pains me to see that the poorest and the most vulnerable of our citizens were treated the way they were treated. I'm not yelling racism, I'm not doing the politics stuff because my family, my people are hurting and I want to help them. [Juan Williams gives a thumbnail bio of Donna Brazile] We thought that the government would come down and help us, I mean, what has scared the living jesus out of everybody is that they let us suffer, they let us...down.

I do not doubt that you thought you heard 'die', but what she says is down (as a linguist and an English teacher, I have spent a fair stretch of time transcribing languages, so I am certain of this, and I welcome anyone else to listen to it) I could analyze it through voice spectroscopy, but for this first pass, I will simply point out that Brazile's comment occupies the prototypical 'first slot' of an NPR broadcast that sets the stage. Brazile comes on immediately after the on the scene woman, then the two positions (the first (suggesting that racism played a role) by Abel Bartley of Clemson University and the second by John Barry who says that the suggestions of racism are wrong) So it is further evidence that the typical structure of an NPR report would not put an inflammatory statement at the beginning, (and you might realize this if you weren't so eager to score cheap debating points), thus underlining the fact that Brazile said 'down' and not 'die'.

I am totally unsurprised that you would think that Brazile would say 'die', and it merely confirms that there is really no external evidence which would make a difference for you, because it would be diced, sliced and julieanned by your inability to conceive it any other way. If you read that op-ed that I cited, a commentator with an even slightly tenuous grip to reality might wonder 'how could she say that, yet write so glowingly of Bush's speech?' But for you, the question never enters your mind. More's the pity.

I could analyze it through voice spectroscopy

Maybe you should -- it sounds much more like "die" than "down" to me, and the context is more appropriate for the former (the dramatic pause, the natural affinity of "suffer" and "die", the previous speaker talking about people dying).

At any rate, what is clear to me is that accusing Charles of deluding himself on this quote is completely unjustified.

Hello, fodder.

Way OT, but I've got less time and way fewer brain cells than the minimum posting quality standards require.

It sounds like "die" to me.

Of course, she says "the government", not "the Bush administration". And she says "us", not "black people" (she's a native of New Orleans, so "us" could as easily mean the people of that city).

Looks I was way behind the power curve. Well, no surprise there.

Slart, see the open thread above - I just linked to JMM there saying DeLay has stepped down from his leadership post temporarily.

Timestamps need seconds.

Of course, she says "the government", not "the Bush administration". And she says "us", not "black people" (she's a native of New Orleans, so "us" could as easily mean the people of that city).

Agree with the former; re the latter, the topic is race, so it's probably fair to guess she means "the black people of NO". Anyway, it seems clear to me that she was trying to convey the emotional response of that community rather than make a genuine accusation, so I definitely wouldn't take it the way Charles does.

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