October 08, 2005

Bashing the Victims



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Snopes.com, the arbiters of urban legends, has commented on one of many false accusations regarding the New Orleans evacuees. Since the first days of the debacle where Bush and FEMA left the people of that city to fester for the better part of a week, right-wingers have been quick to shift blame to everyone else--and the victims of that disaster and of Bush's negligence have been prime targets. Early reports of lawlessness in the flooded areas, combined with the fact that many trapped in New Orleans were poor and black, sparked the imagination of the wingnuts, sending them on a spree of completely bogus claims regarding their behavior. Note that the email uses this story specifically to excuse Bush and FEMA:

Like everyone in this nation, I watched as the news media blasted FEMA and President Bush for the "poor response". While everyone on TV saw nothing but people being let down by government, I saw people letting down people. ... FEMA did not fail them. ... I have always said New Orleans was a toilet; now everyone has proof that not only was it a toilet, but a toilet long overdue for a flush.
The idea is that if the victims can be blamed, then sympathy is less and Bush doesn't look so bad. People either knowingly propagate these rumors, or readily believe and disseminate them as they play into their own political desires.

Here's an example of that phenomenon in action, a copy of the claim that Snopes investigated and found to be utterly false. The claims are that evacuees who were taken to Utah brought with them an epidemic of crime, including drug use (claimed to be immediate after deplaning), rape, and the formation of violent gangs. The evacuees were depicted as lazy and ungrateful.

While many commenters weren't taken in, obviously many people were. The state governor, however, felt it necessary to dismiss rumors early on; on September 8, he released a statement that included:

Guests on the base have displayed exemplary behavior and been cooperative with volunteers and law enforcement. No major crimes or incidents have been reported at Camp Williams since the arrival of our guests.
And yet, here we are, a month after the events in the letter were officially noted as false, and still it persists. Right-wing blogs have been picking it up, needless to say. And this is just one example--there have been many other such fake claims. It is sad. It is racist. It is political. And it is quite notably right-wing tactics, to blame anyone--even innocent victims of a horrible natural disaster, people whose lives have been ruined--so as to divert blame from right-wing politicians. This is about as low as you can go.

Posted by Luis at October 8, 2005 10:43 PM
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