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Aug 31, 2005

On The Sidelines of the Sidelines


In the face of the horrendous tragedy in New Orleans, the news images carry with them a countless number of fateful themes. 

Beginning with the weekend evacuation, one unstated subtext running through much of the reporting involved the disparate prospects between rich and poor.  In many accounts, for example, the more well-to-do were securing refuge by way of upper-floor hotel rooms, or escape via rental cars and long-haul taxi rides.

On the other hand, those of modest mean mostly headed for the football stadium.

In looking through the painful photos coming out of this ravaged city, I was particularly struck by the scenes shot at the New Orleans Superdome -- which seemed to have transformed, almost overnight, into the world's largest disaster shelter.


Besides people trying to adapt to the building as living quarters, what I found ironic was the fact that  this was the only way the lower income evacuees -- not to mention the needy or indigent -- would ever get close to these field level seats. 


As I publish this blog, I think every day about those things I constantly see in news photos but rarely see in the news.  In the face of a disaster of this magnitude, who can imagine the kind of blow Katrina administered to those who were devastated already?

(Note: If you found this post via search engine, I have a more recent entry with additional Katrina Superdome images and commentary here.)

(images: Eric Gay/AP.  Around midnight, August 28, 2005.  New Orleans Superdome.  At YahooNews.)


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Drove my chevy to the levee--
but the levee was nigh.

If it is true that this administration failed to provide critical funding when asked, then they should be made to pay a political price. If the aid is not so well-coordinated and not long-term enough because the people in New Orleans are African-American and poor, then they should pay an even higher political price. If the neocons start to talk about the end times, I swear to God that I am going to ask the Saints to march in and send them straight to hell.

Republicans are not all demons--most of us care vehemently about our beliefs and about our fellow citizens. I pray that the democratic governor of Louisiana can get what she needs to serve her constituents. I have given. You should all do the same. Give up what it costs for internet access for a year. Then do it again.

--the 'Jacksonian' Red

"If it is true that this administration failed to provide critical funding when asked, then they should be made to pay a political price."

Dude, it's true.

"It appears that the money has been moved in the president’s budget to handle homeland security and the war in Iraq, and I suppose that’s the price we pay. Nobody locally is happy that the levees can’t be finished, and we are doing everything we can to make the case that this is a security issue for us.

-- Walter Maestri, emergency management chief for Jefferson Parish, Louisiana; New Orleans Times-Picayune, June 8, 2004."

Okay, I have what may be some dumb questions.

I've heard varying numbers on how many people were at the Superdome. Mostly I heard the number 10,000, but I also heard this morning that 20,000 were there. So why are they crammed on the field-level seats? Why aren't they in an upper bowl or camped out in walkways outside the seating areas?

Did people instinctively head for the "good seats" as if a football game were going to be played?

Wouldn't they be better off at a higher level?

A read a good deal, but have found little about the situation inside the Superdome. Anybody got a good link?

That should be "I read a good deal..." in my last paragraph. Sorry.

What I noticed was that the playing field remains unused. No tents, nothing. After all, it is football season, and the games must go on......

I believe the field is wet due to holes in the roof as the hurricane passed. They moved people into the dry areas.

In the pictures I see masses, but no helping hands.
More than 3,000 members of the Louisiana National Guard’s 256th Brigade along with Mississippi (3,500) and Alabama (2,000 + )Guard contingents have been sent to Iraq along with high water vehicles, humvees and generators. These are the missing pieces for help and recovery. When will the survivors and Governors express their outrage?
Bush has been successful in creating one wasteland in Iraq and with Katrina's help, his removal of guardians and making millions for the contractors in Iraq, he will now supply condolences, and pennies to the victims. contains a startling comparison of "looting" vs. "finding" in New Orleans with the unsurprising racial bias.

I was startled to learn that the prison in New Orleans had not been evacuated. Not that I would know what to do with this scenario, but my reaction was that this particular "oversight" was rather inhumane. Not everybody in that facility is on death row.

Regarding Superdome: I would say that the higher in the Dome the seats were, the hotter it would be- so people would want to stay relatively low.

However, I don't think that under any circumstance, but especially when it is hot and humid, would people crowd together as shown in the photos. It looks a little like these refugees are being treated like cattle.

But that is always the way with refugees.

Here is a question: Why would people live in a city that is below sea level, when it is surrounded on three sides by tidal water? And every year hurricanes come bouncing around in the area? It was just a matter of time. And it'll happen again. Guaranteed. Now add in the impact of global warming.

I also find it a bit bizarre that they crammed everyone into that one section. What bothers me more now is hearing reports of deaths within the superdome- at least one believed to be the result of someone diving off of a balcony at some level of the stadium. While it makes a little bit of sense that they wouldn't put people way up top (after all, they did say the roof was beginning to rip off in some areas) it seems almost poetically tradgic that these people were filed in to watch an empty show.

I want to know if they opened up the sky boxes for the refugees.

i find the BAG's attempt to take advantage of the national tragedy of hurricane Katrina, and the terified, huddled masses inside the New Orleans SuperDome ~ for partisan, political purposes ~ to be shameful.

Wow, MonsieurGonzo, I am shocked at your response.

I don't believe for a moment that Michael would "take advantage of the national tragedy" in the way you propose.

You seem to have missed the point.

If anyone is taking advantage of this national tragedy, it is the oil companies. Gasoline is reportedly $4.99/gal in Atlanta GA, I guess which is due to proximity. (CNN)

Oh, and Bushie is taking advantage of this as well, speaking from a clean, dry, well-stocked, fueled, safe locale and trying hard to act like he cares when he made his little "toss a bone to the dog" speech.

You should know that he took his sweet time getting back to the White House (from which he will again escape to his Vacation House in Crawford), to say anything about this distaster. It's just like 9/11. He can't deal with PROBLEMS. In 9/11, he flew around like a lost tamed bird trying to find its cage, and this time, he dicked around in Kaulifournia with some musicians learning how to play the guitar. I was amazed to see the photo of him strumming a chinese made guitar that bore the Presidential Seal. WTF?

Then he took his casual cruise back to Washington DC and "asked the pilot to fly over Louisiana" which is a quote. (CNN)

I am so disappointed in your comment, Gonzo.

The Usual Crowd (mirrored file)

Read the accompanying comments to these two images. H


Black People Loot

" It seems to have sunk in a bit more, but it was truly amazing watching our clueless media for the first couple of days not being able to comprehend that some people just did not have the resources to evacuate. "


...the shelter of last resort for thousands of people in the New Orleans SuperDome was about SURVIVAL of folks facing imminent and horrific consequences otherwise.

for god's sake, Michael ~ they've lost everything ~ leave them with their dignity intact.

commenting on these images is rather like peeping into the Underground during the London Blitz; or, peering into a crack in the wall of the Warsaw Ghetto : these people don't give a flying f___ where they're sitting in the stadium ~ they're just thanking god that they've survived !

meanwhile, the MSM indulges us with nothing but images of "disaster porn"...

...if you die horribly on television, you will not have died in vain : you will have entertained us.

" Taken altogether, this is what I fear will happen: The victims of the flood will be portrayed via racist stereotypes as criminals and idiots. This will predispose the audience to disliking them. Then, after everything settles down, a few right wingers will start implying that the dead brought their own fate on themselves by being too stupid and/or criminal to evacuate. This focus will distract the pundits from discussing the real issue at hand, which is why the fuck we didn't have the resources on hand to evacuate a city that has Hurricane Target written all over it.

Before you know it, it'll be a wingnut bonaza of people both gleefully indulging in the most racist tendencies while simultaneously claiming that the only reason one might end up dead in a hurricane is because one doesn't have "personal responsibility". But my guess is that the people who are dead mostly didn't have transportation out of the city. Watch the media bury the truth of what happened so fast it'll make your head spin. "


They need to do those polls more often. Kind of a dumb question but it let's you know that there is public opinion about how the media images sculpt views.


I somewhat agree with your comments, since I feel that all living creatures (people, animals, plants) should be treated with dignity, until by their own actions they have forfeited it. ie: innocent victims need some respect, while corrupt politicians need to be revealed for their veniality and meaness.

But this set of images also opens up discussion and comparisons. Here is another view of a person in a seat:
Bush flying over the disaster area on his way back to the White House. Safe, warm, dry, coddled... the darkness of the cabin is almost womblike. I bet he has bottled water served in crystal and the air conditioning set to his preferred temperature. Meanwhile, he peers out from a remote distance, far from any of those faces below. Do the faces of people in need trouble him? His own expression is vacant.

A month of what he spends in Iraq would have paid for improving the levee system... keeping a million people safer and protecting the refineries. Those people would still have homes.

It has taken him 4 days to react. Some leadership. Maybe if he actually had to walk into that arena and smell the fear and foul odors, he'd get a real sense of the human cost. This isn't a matter of political parties, but of doing the right thing at the right time for the *people*. Responsibility.



These questions immediately come to mind: 1.) What about the issue of privacy/dignity in the depiction of Iraqi "victims?" 2.) Would your reaction be as strong if I hadn't added the seating chart graphic? (I admit it is somewhat irreverent.) 3.) Are you saying these pictures should not be shown in the name of protecting the dignity of these refugees? 4.) Would you feel differently if they weren't primarily indigent? 5.) Does the use of the images override the fact that my commentary advocates for the recognition of the disenfranchised -- for a change? 6.) Doesn't your concern come with a double edge? In other words, wouldn't a moratorium on these images essentially perpetuate the invisibility of people who have next-to-nothing (and, collude with the government, which has essentially erased the poor already)?

I don't find BagMan's photos and comments to be at all out of line. In fact, it is important to keep an eye on this part of the whole disaster.

For many of these people the situation is going to get worse. The US suddenly has tens of thousands of refugees-- how will this be handled? How will it be covered? Will it be discussed?

Nationally shouldn't this be just the beginning of an examination of how our nation deals with the disenfranchised, the homeless, the indigent-- those who are so poor that they can't move out of the way of an oncoming disaster.

After all, 18% of the children in the US live in poverty. Imagine that. Picture that.

Would your reaction be as strong if I hadn't added the seating chart graphic ?


you were cool until you went there.

Katrina is a far greater disaster and National Tragedy than 9/11, imho. we've lost an entire city. Osama could not have intentionally hit us to greater effect, than here at this soft underbelly coast of America.

that the Nation has still not come to terms with the enormity of this disaster, both its human and treasure toll ~ is clearly to some extent the fault of our political leadership. why W has not called for immediate rationing of fuel, air-drops of troops and supplies, and official days of mourning ~ remains a mystery.

this is a big, big hurt; i say again, imho Katrina simply dwarfs 9/11. we don't draw images of where the executives and washerwomen were in the rubble of the World Trade Center, and we don't draw pictures of desperate refugees sitting in "the cheap seats" in the New Orleans SuperDome, OK? {whew} OK, i go cry now.

Gonz, you wrote: why W has not called for immediate rationing of fuel, air-drops of troops and supplies, and official days of mourning ~ remains a mystery.

It's not a mystery.

W does not care. He has no capacity for empathy. He is a sociopath. When I watched his exclusive interview (golly gee) with Diane Sawyer, I got the very distinct impression that he was somewhat enjoying the images of the destruction. Although he saw the disaster from his plane -- which again symbolizes for me his detachment from reality -- 40,000 feet is the closest he'll get to this nation's crisis. He's got a life to live, you know? Golf games to play, fundraisers to attend, the Iraq war to sell. It's hard work being a president.

I am watching CNN (1 pm EDT) and I am seeing images of dead people in the SuperDome. One of an older woman who died in her wheelchair, they put a blanket over her head and pushed the chair up against a wall. There are bodies on the floor with white towels covering them.

I am watching people die on live TV. This is insanity.


As the situation in New Orleans worsens, especially at the Superdome, I have a much more acute appreciation for your critique. My accompanying illustration was plainly and simply inappropriate, and I've taken it down.


Michael, if you have any fault at all, it is your beautiful, burning passion pour la justice.


(born and raised in New Orleans, 1950~1962)

I cannot bear to watch anymore. The pain of these people is so terrible, the response of our government, our president, so awful. It breaks my heart to see the spin doctors at work even here. Oh, my god, they are sacrificing us. They really are. We are next. We mean nothing to them. Oh, God, help us. Help them. Does it mean nothing anymore to be a good person, to work hard? Does the right have no moral conscience? Do they really have the networks locked up so that no black person gets to tell her or his story? Dear Jesus, I am asking for a favor. I am asking for you to bless America, since these Republicans have cursed it and you too in abandoning these poor people, who are truly you, who are the body of Christ. It is not their fault. It is not their fault. It is OURS. We have let the right occupy the moral high ground until there is no high ground left. Come, Holy Spirit.


Now I think I better understand your "French connection." I have never been to New Orleans, and it's a place I've always wanted to go. When my eldest son was much younger, we went to many Jazz concerts together. I think I took it for granted that N.O. was in our future. But then, he grew up and "this week" happened.

My regards and regrets to you.

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