Disaster porn and elite panic: the militarized lie of savage disaster aftermath

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44 Responses to “Disaster porn and elite panic: the militarized lie of savage disaster aftermath”

  1. incipientmadness says:

     Went through Allison and Ike. There was no panic in these real disasters. Houston was a major host to Katrina refugees. Reports of rapes and other violence were greatly overstated, and New Orleans itself didn’t have  as much violence as you heard about.

    Rita was total panic, though it didn’t directly hit us. We were spooked too much by Katrina. Still, in spite of all the mayhem on the highways, we managed, and also learned.

    People do not riot during disasters. They pull together and share.

    • Stephen Karlruhe says:

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3RVHDlPqZWE
      Wealthy people don’t loot, rural people don’t loot.  Historically, urban poor do.

      • Ygret says:

        “[T]hey loot the minute that there is a breakdown in authority in an area densely populated with urban poor”.  

        No “they” don’t.  In NYC we had a serious 2 day blackout in 2003.  There was no looting and very little crime.  In fact, people all came out to help each other so that the very young, old and disabled did not die or become sick.  On 9/11, aside from downtown Manhattan, the city was totally peaceful.  You are repeating what amount to racist lies.  Racist because “urban poor” is a common trope for black & hispanic, and “the minute there is a breakdown…” is an extremely fearful assertion that these are monsters who will savagely attack the minute the leash is taken from their necks.Perhaps there was looting after the Rodney King verdict, but you cannot believe every news story you read, as the Katrina coverage, which stated widespread looting as fact, and for which there was no proof, belies.  It seems that black Americans in poor ghettos occasionally get really angry when one of their leaders or just a regular person is treated in a horrendous or murderous way by a brutal and viciously racist overclass.  All of which is at least understandable given the treatment of black citizens in this “free” country.Also, riots and looting do occasionally happen but for you to say that rioting is good and looting is bad is rather perverse.  Its safe to say that neither is good but if I had to choose one I’d take looting because rioting tends to harm people while looting only “harms” money.  It seems you think money is more important than people, which is a common belief these days (though most who feel that way don’t say it directly):  technocrats and government-by-banker are the immoral and inhumane results.

        You would occasionally riot too if you were the constant object of random brutality and economic and physical violence and your class was invested with all the ills of a society that places money above humanity.  But loot?  Nah, you would never do that.  That’s a bridge too far.

        • millie fink says:

          Word!

        • Stephen Karlruhe says:

          “You would occasionally riot too if you were the constant object of
          random brutality and economic and physical violence and your class was
          invested with all the ills of a society that places money above
          humanity.  But loot?  Nah, you would never do that.  That’s a bridge too
          far. ”  I lived a hardscrabble life in New Orleans, My home was robbed, I was mugged twice, and my girlfriend got raped right before I left in ’93.  My motorcycle was stolen, and my cars side window was shattered repeatedly.

          But no, I would never consider looting.

          • Ygret says:

            I’m sorry to hear your girlfriend was raped, that is horrible.  Truly horrible.  I myself have been mugged a couple times, stopped a rape from happening in my building’s elevator, and I’ve seen my share of beatings and hooliganism living in NYC my whole life.  I think that living in a big city has its risks in that there are so many people piled on top of each other it is almost a certainty we will either see or be the victim  of some type of violence at some point.  That really has nothing to do with rioting and looting though.  And I don’t think you answered my point about looting being preferable to rioting, except that you seem to agree with it now.

      • Haven’t the rich been looting the planet as best they can for millennia? 

        • Sekino says:

          That’s it. The wealthy’s methods of looting involve them primly sitting at their desks, sipping a drink, not breaking windows. Hardworking innocents still suffer brutal setbacks and lose their livelihood because of them but they’re so relaxed and well-dressed that nobody minds or cares.

          • EH says:

            It all depends on what definition of “disaster” is used. Never is the contemporary economic environment called one.

      • GlyphGryph says:

         The Rodney King riots and the aftermath weren’t a “disaster”m and looting following a public expression of anger by those who feel abused and disenfranchised is exactly the sort of situation where I’d imagine destruction and stealing to be more common. There’s a lot of anger at those who’ve done wrong but who can’t be held responsible because THEY are powerful and out of reach. And even then, only a relatively small portion of the people are likely to end up looting.

        Natural Disasters, or even man-made ones, are nothing like that at all. Sure, criminals might already exist and many will see opportunity, rationalizing “well, the stuff will be destroyed anyway, might as well take it” or something like that. But overall? There’s no evidence of widespread or persistent looting and violence being a real thing that MOST people, or even a significant number of people, engage in, not even the “urban poor”.

        • Preston Sturges says:

          There’s a good documentary on youtube about how the LA riots were also the result of an open feud between the mayor and chief of police, where the mayor was practically encouraging the anti-police riots and the Chief pulled out all the cops to let the city burn. 

      • Navin_Johnson says:

         “breakdown in authority”

        I think you meant “beat-downs by authorities”

      • cubicblackpig says:

        The Rodney King riots were the product of people acting on (perceived) legitimate grievances, which we humans are prone to believe legitimise illegitimate acts. (Well,  the usual tribally situational conflation is “our legitimate grievances sanctify  our actions; their heinous acts delegitimise their grievances.”) If you want people to commit crimes, actrocities, antisocial acts, help them think that they’re doing God’s work. The absence of the thin blue line has sod-all to do with it; in fact, often the actions of coppers are a fine example of how believing one is on the side of the angels will justify unethical acts.

        Even more to the point, the King riots were about the longstanding breakdown in the social contract within an authoritarian situation – not the absence of authority. What disaster led to King’s beating in the first place, or the copland jury letting the perpetrators walk?

  2. Boundegar says:

    I think the privileged feel very threatened in a disaster, because everything that supports their privilege is threatened and could be swept away. They imagine what they would do if forced to survive with nothing but their strength and skills, and all they can imagine is violence.

    The rest of us know what survival feels like. It doesn’t feel like looting – it feels like community. Maybe the most privileged of us don’t know what it feels like to share. And so even as people dig each other out of the snow, or bring fresh water, we are treated to a zombie apocalypse narrative.

  3. FoolishOwl says:

     I was slightly acquainted with Larry Bradshaw and Lorrie Beth Slonsky, when they briefly caught national attention for [url="http://www.apha.org/membergroups/newsletters/sectionnewsletters/comm/fall05/2019.htm"]their account  of a self-organized group of survivors of Hurricane Katrina[/url]. Among many other details of note: after having scavenged supplies and made a relatively secure encampment, they were raided by police who seized their supplies and broke up the camp. They tried to leave New Orleans by a bridge, only to be halted on the bridge by sherriff’s deputies brandishing shotguns.Larry later remarked that journalists were eager to interview him, because he was white; that made his accusations of police racism credible, while accusations of racism by black people were generally dismissed by journalists.In the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy,  I was hearing regular, detailed accounts of relief efforts organized by veterans of Occupy Wall Street, who applied their experience to launch Occupy Sandy and related projects. Meanwhile,  I scarcely heard anything about government and traditional charity relief efforts,  aside from incessant demands for money from the Red Cross. As far as I could tell, the anarchists got right to workWhile I have long understood the primary purpose of the state to be armed repression, I had always believed that the state was at least fairly effective at auxillary tasks, like disaster relief. But I look at how governments and traditional relief agencies responded to these major disasters, compared to the effectiveness of ad hoc groups, and I’m left to wonder if the state has any moral justification at all.

    • Boundegar says:

      It’s worth noting that Clinton really beefed up FEMA, and put experts in charge of everything there. Then, Bush gutted the agency and gave the top jobs to cronies. And yet people say both parties are exactly the same – the people of New Orleans would beg to differ.

  4. gracchus says:

    It’s a feature of our current stage of capitalism that, in order to make the quarterly numbers, the stats must be juked so that reality is forced to fit the model. Why should it be any different for disaster capitalism?

  5. Marc45 says:

    I really wish people would quit using the word “porn” to describe images.  There’s no sex in disaster pics.

    • anansi133 says:

       http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/pornography

      The second definition is about what people find objectionable in porn. It’s not the sexual content so much, as the atavistic titillation. War porn, consumer porn, car porn, those all annoy me the same way most sex porn does.

      • millie fink says:

        Thanks, yes. Especially for “atavistic titillation.” El perfecto!

      • Gulliver says:

        Can’t have people getting their atavism titillated. That might lead to a break down in social order.

        If the objection is pedantic, welcome to semantic drift of a living language and good luck shouting at the wind.

        If the objection is moral, I can see why some people don’t care for the use of the term porn regarding war, but I question the moral reasoning behind objecting to it’s use in other categories.

        Being titillated by war = unhealthy.

        Being titillated by sex, food, clothes, engineering, nature or pretty much anything else = healthy.

        Atavistic titillation is a normal part of being human and nothing to be ashamed of as long as what titillates you isn’t coercion. Notice I said coercion and not violence, because boxing is not the moral equivalent of war and if getting whacked in the face is what you’re into, I say carpe diem. I enjoy hurling myself from airplanes and cliffs and love watching others do the same.

        Let your freak flag fly, I always say. YMMV.

        • ocschwar says:

           It’s poor form to get your atavism titillated by people who are not voluntarily titillating your atavism and who are not making money in so doing.

          • Gulliver says:

            That’s what I said. In case it wasn’t clear, this disaster porn is really a form of war porn. Specifically it’s “civilization collapsed and we had to send in an army to restore it” porn. Same crap with Katrina. News agencies weren’t getting ratings because people were enthralled by suffering. The press fed the public a narrative of “lawless violence in a poor southern city rife with racial tension” and kept filling the trough. A week after the West, Texas fertilizer plant explosion or the Oklahoma tornadoes the country had moved on. But send in the National Guard or the UN and that story can be milked for months.

  6. Eark_the_Bunny says:

    Yes, disaster scares the rich since the poor might get out of control.   So the poor must be trampled upon to keep them polite.  If push really came to shove all the troops and weapons will not save the so called “elite”, it will just make it bloodier.  The reason China has such a large army is not protect the nation but to protect their “elite” from their people.

  7. hadlockk says:

    Is this the same Jon Katz that got run out of Slashdot for writing sensationalist stories? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jon_Katz#On_Slashdot

  8. ffabian says:

    Somehow you have to justify all the guns you have under your pillow…

  9. millie fink says:

    The reason you always think there are fires at riots is because that’s the only place at the scene of the riot where there is enough light for the video camera. Actually, maybe the fire is only something happening near the riot…incidental to the riot. Someone’s trash is on fire or someone is having a barbeque near the riot but not as part of the riot. But that’s why you think there are always fires at riots when sometimes there aren’t any fires at riots, or in any case, not at every riot.

    –Laurie Anderson, Words in Reverse (Top Stories, 1979)

  10. Maj Variola says:

    Best part is, the UN troops (from Africa) brought typhoid or dysentary to Haiti after the quake, which caused massive epidemics the Haitians would never have had without the ‘help’.

    Look it up

  11. Preston Sturges says:

    The idea of human waves of looters after disasters is ingrained in the prepper/survivalist mentality.  They are convinced that after Katrina  the residents of NOLA were slaughtering each other in the Super Dome and trying to shoot down Coast Guard helicopters, when it was actually cops and white residents that were killing people randomly.  I’d be afraid to live next to some of these preppers because they are ready to go on a shooting spree the moments the lights flicker. 

    • ocschwar says:

       My inlaws were all in one farm house in Ohio in the Depression. When the refugees streamed by, they saw it as a challenge to their piety, not to their marksmanship.

  12. Thanks for sharing Katz’s great work — but where you link to the original material and site the source, could you please use the *original* source?  This article was published by the Ochberg Society for Trauma Journalism, in its online human rights magazine Acts of Witness.

    So the byline at the of this post should properly read “Jonathan M. Katz/Ochberg Society” and it should link here:

    http://www.ochbergsociety.org/magazine/2013/05/in-haiti-and-beyond-learning-to-look-for-resilience/

    Thanks for your assistance — we’re a new and small magazine, clearly doing something useful since so many people are interested, and we’ll so appreciate the referrals.

  13. Miles Farrell says:

    Charlie Brooker already did it

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aZRJtAED8uo

    Charlie Brooker is awesome

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