Thursday, September 15, 2005

blackmail and the reinforcement of stereotypes

Funny, while I was distracted with events concerning Doonesbury, more important things were happening over at John's excellent Shot By Both Sides blog, which is - now - sadly defunct. Having caused offence with a particularly bleak bit of satire, John found himself in hot water because some scumbag decided to take up the issue with John's employers and tried to get him fired, which is clearly a completely outrageous and cowardly way to behave. Even the more temparate types over at Harry's Place have taken exception to this appalling behaviour. You can see John's goodbye message here, and keep up with him over at The Sharpener. Thanks to Andrew for bringing that to my attention.

With all his archives gone (please reconsider that, at least, John) the only way to acquaint yourself with John's writing (apart from on his new home) is to dig around in the google cache for SBBS, which is what I just did, and which is where I discovered a link to an intriguing article from last week's paper that I missed, which basically suggests that all those horror stories we heard after Katrina decimated New Orleans about raping, murdering and infanticide are largely - so far - unsubstantiated. It doesn't take a great leap of the imagination to speculate that much of the information spread around the US media pandered to two reliable desires; that for a good, gruesome story, and the desire to reinforce the idea that poor people and black people revert automatically to an innate savagery as soon as the opportunity presents itself.

Here's the article:
Gary Younge - Murder and rape - fact or fiction?

It's clearly the case that looting and criminality were rife in New Orleans in the days after the crisis (incidentally, hardly anyone mentions how the city's drug addicts were deprived of a fix while they were stranded, which explains much of the looting of pharmacists and hospitals) , and history does has countless examples of how men abandon convention and submit to their basest instincts in certain circumstances (the unmentionable behaviour of Russian troops in the latter stages of the Second World War being perhaps the best example; Anthony Beevor describes them 'regarding women almost as carnal booty'. Abu Ghraib springs to mind, too). But it is shocking how badly and how half-heartedly they attempted to correct the vastly negative impression first given. Which makes you wonder, what do they want you to think about black people?

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