Sunday, January 17, 2010

The Looting Lie

What to say?

Read this:

"A deux ruines d'ici, une équipe de sauveteurs français -venus de Nice, de Lyon et de Guyane- ausculte en vain une dalle de béton. Sous cette toiture, devenue pierre tombale, une voix de femme s'est tue. Un peu plus haut, quelques rescapés ont pris place sous un arbre. Il y là Fritzner, un agent des douanes qui a perdu aussi son épouse. Jusqu'à mercredi, Miranda répondait aux appels ; depuis, plus rien. A ses côtés, le frère cadet de Philippe. Lui garde sous sa chaise un fusil à pompe, l'arme de service de l'aîné. « Dans l'état où il est, confie-t-il, ça vaut mieux comme ça. »"

Two ruins from here, a team of french rescuers from Nice, Lyon and Guyana vainly pound on a block of cement. Under this roof, become a fallen stone, a woman's voice has fallen silent. A little higher, some escapees have take up a place under a tree. There is Fritzner, a customs agent who has also lost his spouse. Up to thursday, Miranda responded to calls; since then, nothing. At his side, the little brother of Phillipe. He keeps a pump action shotgun under his chair, the service arm of his brother. 'In the state we are in, he confides, it is better like this."


Read this.

Kathleen Tierney: Social scientists began studying disasters in the late 1940s and early 1950s. A lot of this research was sponsored by the military and defense establishment, and the kinds of things they wanted to know about were related to nuclear war. They wanted to know how people would behave if Russia dropped the bomb on us—would they panic; would they engage in criminal behavior; would they engage in antisocial behavior; would they be able to pick themselves up and rebuild society? So, from the very beginning, researchers put a lot of emphasis on crime, deviance, looting—that sort of behavior—because that’s what their funders cared about. And there was a lot of field work done in disasters, where researchers go out in disaster areas and take a look at what’s happening. And what did the early research discover? If you go back to the 1950s and you look at some of those writings, a lot of it’s aboutdisaster myths—what people say happens in disasters versus what really happens. What these researchers discovered was that the media—even way back in the 1950s and 1960s—approached huge disasters with certain frames. When the media reports on disasters, they’re inevitably going to focus on the dramatic and antisocial, even if it’s one percent of the population committing these acts. And even back then, the looting myth always came to the fore of media reports.">Kathleen Tierney: Social scientists began studying disasters in the late 1940s and early 1950s. A lot of this research was sponsored by the military and defense establishment, and the kinds of things they wanted to know about were related to nuclear war. They wanted to know how people would behave if Russia dropped the bomb on us—would they panic; would they engage in criminal behavior; would they engage in antisocial behavior; would they be able to pick themselves up and rebuild society? So, from the very beginning, researchers put a lot of emphasis on crime, deviance, looting—that sort of behavior—because that’s what their funders cared about. And there was a lot of field work done in disasters, where researchers go out in disaster areas and take a look at what’s happening.

And what did the early research discover?

If you go back to the 1950s and you look at some of those writings, a lot of it’s aboutdisaster myths—what people say happens in disasters versus what really happens. What these researchers discovered was that the media—even way back in the 1950s and 1960s—approached huge disasters with certain frames. When the media reports on disasters, they’re inevitably going to focus on the dramatic and antisocial, even if it’s one percent of the population committing these acts. And even back then, the looting myth always came to the fore of media reports.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Roger, thanks for the link to the Kathleen Tierney interview. I hope that more bloggers on the internet link to it and and post it on mainstream media sites who are so focused on "looting".
The focus in Haiti, at the moment, should be, must be, saving lives. Rescue, medical care, food and water.
But this media coverage of "looters" is more than adding insult to injury, it is murderous. One can murder not only by putting a bullet through a head, but by abandoning people under concrete and rubble, leaving traumatized people without food and water and shelter, refusing to hear them. Apparently they are a security risk! These people who have had their homes and neighborhoods and towns destroyed, who have lost their near and dear, and who are trying with their bare hands to save people and help and survive. And calling out for assistance. But rather than listen to them, they are represented as victims and looters.
A video on the NYT says how 300 soldiers were needed to distribute aid to 3000 in a stadium in Port au Prince, in order to prevent disorder etc. So, it is security that is preventing the distribution of aid to these people because they are - such is the insinuation - poor, illiterate and black.

I'm sorry, I haven't said anything here that isn't patently obvious. But I think at times, one should scream, and hear the screams of others.

Amie

roger said...

Amie, i of course totally agree! To make the rescue into an invasion, and give it an action movie plot - how can I say how dumb this is? While Haitians have to be herded into a stadium to be given food - thus wrenching apart any of the natural connections between people and making them invidual, vulnerable nothings. Because of course, as a people, a community, they become adult, very much the equal of the American, French, Canadian rescuer. And that of course is intolerable, the narrative demands victims, passivity, high high high tech equipment that unfortunately gets to the scene a week too late.