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Katrina Rumors, Spike Lee and the Media

The NY Sun reports today that former New Orleans police chief Eddie Compass admits that he exaggerated post-Katrina crime — exaggerations that spread through the media and contributed to an atmosphere of fear and chaos:

In part due to the trumped-up crime reports, officials in a neighboring town — fearing the chaos would spread — responded by ordering police to shoot any evacuee who attempted to cross the Crescent City Connection bridge into the city of Gretna from New Orleans.
“I’m going to tell you that during that storm, the national media reported rampant rumors that have now turned out not to be true. … And people were terrified,” Louisiana’s lieutenant governor, Mitch Landrieu, says in the film.
“In my estimation, that Gretna thing was a way overreaction to rampant rumors that were being pushed in the mainstream media,” he adds.

Compass and Landrieu spoke for the new Spike Lee documentary with the grandiloquent title, “When the Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts,” which premieres tonight on HBO. In an otherwise positive review, New York Times film critic Stephen Holden writes:

Mr. Lee’s documentary boils with anger and a degree of paranoia. Was it really necessary to bring in voices who suggest that the levees were dynamited, when no tangible evidence is offered beyond people who recall hearing sounds of an explosion during the storm?

Holden fails to mention that Lee himself is one of those “voices who suggest that the levees were dynamited.” Last October the Washington Times  reported:

When asked about the levee conspiracy theory, which apparently has gained credence among some New Orleans blacks, Mr. Lee said that “it’s not too far-fetched to think that, look, we got a bunch of poor black people here. We got to save these other neighborhoods. What we got to do, dump this in this ward, boom. I believe it.”

Holden – who agrees with Lee’s conclusions about Katrina’s heroes (Ray Nagin, Al Sharpton) and villains (George Bush, the Department of Homeland Security) — frets about Lee’s decision to “bring in voices” who endorse the wild-eyed conspiracy theory that New Orleans was intentionally flooded. Doesn’t Holden know that Lee included those voices in his film because he’s with them?

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