When Are Haitians Looters and When Are They Just Hungry?

By: Natalie Hopkinson
January 17, 2010 – theroot.com

Haiti“Nearly five years ago, when you could see photo captions of white Hurricane Katrina survivors side-by-side with black survivors, the racial double standard in the news media covering a catastrophic tragedy were obvious. Hungry, desperate white survivors were “finding food” while hungry, desperate black survivors were “looting” for food.”

Looting vs Searching for food
Dueling Photo Captions:
“A young [black] man walks through chest deep floodwater after looting a grocery store in New Orleans…”
“Two [white] residents wade through chest-deep water after finding bread and soda from a local grocery store after Hurricane Katrina came through the area in New Orleans…”

Full Article : theroot.com


The Looting Lie

In the wake of Haiti’s earthquake, the media is widely reporting stories of looting. Didn’t they learn anything after Hurricane Katrina?

By Cord Jefferson
January 15, 2010 – campusprogress.org

It’s been three days since an earthquake measuring 7.0 on the Richter scale devastated the small island nation of Haiti, leaving tens of thousands dead and many survivors homeless. Sadly, the images and stories emerging from the disaster—including dead children and aid shortages—are all too reminiscent of those that followed Hurricane Katrina. So is an unfortunate media talking point: looting.

Already, tales of “machete wielding gangs” looting Haiti’s rubble are widespread, from news outlets on the left and the right. Similar stories surfaced after Hurricane Katrina, but we now know of a large body of evidence proving that the media greatly exaggerated reports of post-Katrina New Orleans being overrun with violence and theft.

To discuss this troubling media phenomenon, and to better understand what happens in the immediate fallout of massive natural disasters, Campus Progress spoke with Dr. Kathleen Tierney, professor of sociology and behavioral science and director of the Natural Hazard Center at the University of Colorado at Boulder.

Do you think that because the victims of both Haiti and Katrina were poor and black, the media approached the stories with a certain perspective?

Definitely. There is an institutionalized racism in the way these poor black disaster victims are treated. The victims of Katrina were treated with so much presumption, as if you could assume they were going to loot, because they were black. Just like we know that the people in Haiti are bad because they’re black. Black men especially are demonized. During Katrina, the media picked up on every rumor—whether it was raped 4-year-olds in the Superdome or people shooting each other. Actually, for a paper me and a couple of my graduate students wrote called “Metaphors Matter,” we found some transcripts of TV programs in which members of the media expressed regret. They were saying, “We really blew it during Katrina; we acted on all of these rumors.” I myself was on Jim Lehrer’s show, where they were asking about the looting [in Katrina], and I got into it with a police officer, and he ended up agreeing with me that it was a myth. It’s not real. I thought the media would have learned something after Katrina, but evidently they haven’t. Here we go again.
Full Article : campusprogress.org


When the Media Is the Disaster: Covering Haiti

by Rebecca Solnit

Soon after almost every disaster the crimes begin: ruthless, selfish, indifferent to human suffering, and generating far more suffering. The perpetrators go unpunished and live to commit further crimes against humanity. They care less for human life than for property. They act without regard for consequences. I’m talking, of course, about those members of the mass media whose misrepresentation of what goes on in disaster often abets and justifies a second wave of disaster. I’m talking about the treatment of sufferers as criminals, both on the ground and in the news, and the endorsement of a shift of resources from rescue to property patrol. They still have blood on their hands from Hurricane Katrina, and they are staining themselves anew in Haiti.
Full Article : truthout.org


The myth of Haiti’s lawless streets

To withhold aid because of the ‘security situation’ is a miserable excuse for agencies’ failure to deliver desperately needed help

By Inigo Gilmore
January 20, 2010 – guardian.co.uk

As a member of the media covering the tragedy in Haiti, it’s with a sense of alarm and astonishment that I’ve witnessed how some senior aid officials have argued for withholding aid of the utmost urgency because of sensational claims about violence and insecurity, which appear to be based more on fantasy than reality.

John O’Shea, who runs the well-known Irish aid agency Goal, has joined this chorus, telling the Guardian he couldn’t get his trucks from the Dominican Republic to Haiti because he had no guarantees his drivers wouldn’t be “macheted to death on the way down”. He added that Goal has no plans to deploy its much-needed doctors and nurses on the streets of Port-au-Prince.

From what I’ve observed, such chilling claims do not match the reality on the ground; and by trumpeting a distorted and sensational picture about the violence, some senior aid officials may be culpable of undermining the very aid effort they are supposed to be promoting. When I traveled into Haiti’s disaster zone last week from the Dominican Republic, I did so alone and on a bus, whose passengers were mostly Haitians, including some living in the US. Since then, whether on the road to Port-au-Prince or within the city, I have not witnessed anyone wielding a gun, a machete or a club of any kind. Nor have I witnessed an act of violence. (I have seen one badly wounded man who had been shot in circumstances which were unclear and who was eventually rescued by US soldiers after an American reporter sought help.)

Any violence is localised and sporadic; the situation is desperate yet not dangerous in general. Crucially, it’s not a war zone; it’s a disaster zone – and there appears to have been little attempt to distinguish carefully between destructive acts of criminality and the behaviour of starving people helping themselves to what they can forage. For Haitians and many of those trying to help them, the overriding sentiment is that a massive catastrophe on this scale shouldn’t have to wait for aid because blanket security is the absolute priority.
Full Article : guardian.co.uk

8 thoughts on “When Are Haitians Looters and When Are They Just Hungry?”

  1. Apart from the seemingly inconsequential criminal escapades that necessitated the introduction of an expensive overhead shy blimp, along with a few of Her Majesty’s elite Scotland Yards Police blokes , and the lifelong search of a COP exactly like the pre Scot Drug Report Randy Fox Burroughs, T&T has been relatively calm.
    Since Haiti is a failed state , no one is surprised that they resorted to such drastic survival measures. What however was our excuse in 1990 when Uncle Backer and the pseudo Islamic bunch staged their now infamous attempted coup in our nation’s capital, and citizens resorted to looting on Monday, then due to fear of possible prosecution , returned more than 80% of the items by Friday.
    No security , no justice , nor development , agreed?

  2. I take note of you no security, no justice, nor development at the end. Now would’nt you agree that by the US, ot anyone for that matter, needs to ensure that whatever aid is sent to Haiti, reaches those who NEED it, rather than to not send troops there and risk all out mahem by people who have for just over a week now have’nt have anything to eat. I am asking this in realtion to all the hype about US sending (taking charge) of the aid operation.

  3. Today’s pictures indicate its all still piled up at the airport, while poor people are being moved to the countryside. Is the Aid going to get to them then? Pictures also of UN Peaceekeepers beating Hitians. Horrible.
    Those who ate food in the supermarket they were trapped in, took it illegally. Why are they not looters also. This is a media circus.

    1. Hey you can’t honestly think that this is a fair comparison, I would think it’s fair game – I mean you are trapped and the only way to get something to eat is to make do with what you have and can find – which is TOTALLY different with those on the outside, who can conduct themselves in a civilised manner and await the aid.

  4. It’s nice to have this awareness, but now that the U.S. is in control, what can we do. This is a tragedy on many levels. However, we have enough on our plate in our nation and shouldn’t be over consumed by Hatian issues. I know that sounds rough on the edges, but let us not lose site of whats going on in sweet TNT.
    The media is using Haiti to distract us non haitians from our issues. The global media is doing that respectively in every country.
    I’m not saying that there shouldn’t be coverage. I would like to see some coverage of local events and issues.

    1. Hey Curtis, I share your thaughts, but we must look at this situation in Haiti and understand that it can happen here too. And yes, this tragedy has taken away from what is happening right here, but it’s all good.

      1. I think that there is room for both. If we are going to learn from this, let’s start a dialogue about construction codes in TNT. What level of earthquake or Tsunami should new buildings be able to withstand? Shouldn’t the government erect new or enforce old laws pertaining to structures used as houses? We should be looking at Haiti and talking about how we can work to prevent that sort of devastation within our power in TNT. What has happened in Haiti has already happened. We cannot do much about it unless our government is going to contribute more money or if they are going to allow Haitians to temporarily live in TNT on some sort of natural disaster visa. What else can we say or do about it? I’m not saying lets tune out all together. We just shouldn’t tune out what’s going on in TNT also. Nothing is all good with our politics. We have to always have an eye on them. This isn’t called “trickydad” for no reason.

  5. OK guys , let’s be a bit careful, and don’t get carried away as it were in our attempts to do what we believe is the right thing for our regional Francophone brothers and sisters in needs. Countries like Senegal could afford to showboat with their empty land allocation -even if they cannot provide for their own folks – gestures.
    This is good old T&T however , and we do not want our lofty policy wonks , tribalistic social advisers , and politicians with grandeur aspirations ,to get their knickers , and jockstraps all twisted, as they try to bite off more than they can chew , agreed?
    Short term aid and relief is one thing , but remember , we already have poor , desperate, Afro Trini folks living in their PNM encouraged rats overrun ,drugs infested and gang ladened Brazilian like favelas ,while their Indo Trini counterparts are likewise suffering daily in UNC ignored , incest riddled , one room stick houses in the frequently flooded rice marshland barrios of Central , and parts of South , and business is going on as usual in LaLa land as both leadership fight to solidify their stranglehold on power within the enclaves, yes?
    To have the richest country in the English speaking Caribbean compound such stupidity , as they jump into what one of our more learned blogger so eloquently described as a “pissing contest,” is not the way to move at this time.

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