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In which I continue to seek part time employment as the ruler of the world.

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Saturday September 03 2005

I suppose that whenever a mega-catastrophe hits, there is always someone who can genuinely claim to have said “I told you so”.  Today, at the Doc Searls Weblog, I encountered what may well turn out to be the I Told You So paragraphs for Hurricane Katrina.  Here they are:

The storm hit Breton Sound with the fury of a nuclear warhead, pushing a deadly storm surge into Lake Pontchartrain. The water crept to the top of the massive berm that holds back the lake and then spilled over. Nearly 80 percent of New Orleans lies below sea level‹more than eight feet below in places‹so the water poured in. A liquid brown wall washed over the brick ranch homes of Gentilly, over the clapboard houses of the Ninth Ward, over the white-columned porches of the Garden District, until it raced through the bars and strip joints on Bourbon Street like the pale rider of the Apocalypse. As it reached 25 feet (eight meters) over parts of the city, people climbed onto roofs to escape it.

Thousands drowned in the murky brew that was soon contaminated by sewage and industrial waste. Thousands more who survived the flood later perished from dehydration and disease as they waited to be rescued. It took two months to pump the city dry, and by then the Big Easy was buried under a blanket of putrid sediment, a million people were homeless, and 50,000 were dead. It was the worst natural disaster in the history of the United States.

When did this calamity happen? It hasn’t – yet. But the doomsday scenario is not far-fetched. The Federal Emergency Management Agency lists a hurricane strike on New Orleans as one of the most dire threats to the nation, up there with a large earthquake in California or a terrorist attack on New York City. Even the Red Cross no longer opens hurricane shelters in the city, claiming the risk to its workers is too great.

Doc Searls found those words, dating from 2004, here.

As a description of what happened, that seems to be remarkably good.

However, opinions may reasonably differ about what the human cost of all this will prove to be.  “Ted”, commenting at Samzidata on this posting that I put there yesterday, says this:

I was hoping that the current crisis in New Orleans might have been used as an opportunity by big media to be responsible but how wrong that has proved.

I have never seen such hysterical nonsense. Let me make a few predictions about the real figures that will emerge post Katrina:

1 Big Media : NO will be abandoned. Me: New Orleans will be up and running again in 12-18 months. In 6 months, the vast majority of the population will be back.

2 Big Media : death are in the thousands. Me: Death will number about 300.

3 Big Media: there are rapes going on, gangs of armed thugs run the city and babies are dying of starvation. Me: There will have been no evidence of rapes, gangs of armed thugs and no babies will die of starvation.

4 Big Media: there are sharks, alligators or giant snakes preying on hapless citizens. Me: none of this is happening at all.

5 Big Media: 80% of the city is underwater. Me: about 30% is ‘underwater’, but there is flooding in the city.

6 Big Media : this is about global warming. Me and vast majority of scientific community : there is no connection at all.

7 Big Media: There is vast ‘looting’ going on. Me: a minority is going into supermarkets and clothes stores and taking things. This is to be expected.

8 Big Media: there are building buckling and in danger of collapse. Me: rubbish. They have already survived Katrina itself.

9 Big Media: there is starvation, violence and rape at the superbowl. Me: rubbish. There is no starvation, no violence and no rape. However there is tremendous anxiety and frustration - understandably.

10 Big Media: millions will be homeless. Me : rubbish. In fact the insurance industry are not panicking at all.

I could go on and don’t want to make light of a disaster. However the people of NO, as well as concerned US citizens, not to mention millions of us outside the US, need better than this garbage. The media outlets have from the first sign of Katrina hoped for the worst as this helps ratings. They have deliberately manufactured an apocalypse from a natural disaster, where no such apocalypse exists.

Turn off the TV news and stop buying newspapers NOW.

Well, I heard that people were firing guns at helicopters, and that is surely not something you’d make up.  On the other hand, a few bad stories get around fast, and people think that one thing was twenty different things, what with the same thing being seen from different directions, and the same stories multiplying as they spread.

See Battle of Britain estimated numbers for aircraft shot down.  The numbers started out very big, on both sides, then fell steadily.

Remember how estimated deaths for 9/11 plummeted from around 50,000 to a mere 3,000.

Latest Big Media (i.e. tomorrow morning’s papers) guesses for the number of dead from Katrina seem to be at around 10,000.