New Orleans, Louisiana is the location of one of the greatest
disasters to occur in modern times. On August 29, 2005 a hurricane hit land and began its destructive movement north. The hurricane's official
designation became 'Katrina,' and will be remembered as the most expensive natural disaster to occur in United States history at roughly 86 billion
dollars. Whole island chains were obliterated, as evinced by satellite photography, and nearly 80% of New Orleans ultimately ended up flooded.  The
meteorological nature of hurricane Katrina is but a small piece of what actually happened, however; the real disaster began after landfall. The
political action, or inaction, by the government is viewed by a wide array of people as a chief failure of current executive power. Therefore, various
failures in government reaction have been the main focus in the public consensus. However, the proactive quality of engaging in illegal activities by
the government should be viewed with far greater scrutiny. Indeed, could it be that the media coverage was manipulated in such a way as to mask the
true nature of government infringement on rights? These and other issues are of prime importance to this essay and will be supported by evidence from
the public forum held at Chester University, October 23, 2007.
The Chester University Public Forum
In the opening sequences of the forum, a few issues seemed to dominate the discussion; chiefly, the notion of evidence through media coverage as
factual or fictional. Although one of the speakers claimed that media sources are almost always right, scrutiny needs to be given to this subject. The
media exists to provide people, some of which may have little or no direct contact with the covered event, with objective data reporting. However,
media does tend to have an agenda.
Richard M. Cohen, former Senior Producer for CBS political news, illustrates this concept quite well when he reportedly stated that, "We are going to
impose our agenda on the [media] coverage by dealing with issues and subjects that we choose to deal with." A universally unbiased media outlet seems
to be something of a nonentity. Why were the Katrina survivors and "refugees" not considered as such, as a whole, but more so as separate groups;
blacks, whites, looters, gang bangers, criminals, and survivalists.
Thereupon, an assortment of media providers were covering the event for the entire country, and world. There stories, implications, and captions were
powerful indeed. Unless one had physically experienced the events in New Orleans following hurricane Katrina, media was likely the exclusive source of
Racially Inflammatory Rumors Delivered as Fact
Forum member Larry Kesterson, staff photographer of the Philadelphia Inquirer, referenced the supposed rape of a six year old female in the Superdome
as being entirely fabricated. The Superdome acted as a post disaster relocation and detainment center for New Orleans refugees; it is the apparent
epicenter of several rumors of murder, robbery, assault, and rape, many of such claims remain unsubstantiated. These rumors became news as this
information was recorded, synthesized, and then broadcast to millions of listeners worldwide. Therein, the margin for a substantial disparity existing
between the factual occurrences of a besieged New Orleans and the reported news is rather large.
What might the motives behind the rumor propagation and falsification of stories be? One unidentified student attending the forum asked the following
question of the forums leaders, "Why do you feel the abuses of civil rights were so underreported; rights such as protection from illegal search and
seizure, and the right to keep and bear arms?" Indeed, this raises questions. Why was their so much emphasis on highlighting the dangers of looting
and the obvious roles of the various classes and races of the refugees? According to musician Kanye West, "You see a black family, it says,
'They're looting.' You see a white family, it says, 'They're looking for food." This quote illustrates the quality of the situation, wherein
various roles and designations where given to certain groups of "refugees" by the media.
Few people seem to have noticed, immediately anyway, the broad scope of what the government accomplished in this time. While the media seems to have
been focused on the relief effort in general and various criminal activities, the government was carrying out broad sweeping violations of the Bill of
Abuse of Power by Government Representatives
There are numerous reports of blatant disregard for the 2nd amendment through illegal gun confiscation. Deputy Chief Warren Riley publicly announced
that "No one will be able to be armed. We are going to take all the weapons." In one dramatic incident Patty Konie, an elderly but well stocked and
prepared civilian homeowner, was attacked by heavily armed police for possessing a pistol. Furthermore, Patty Konie was not in the immediate disaster
zone and her life was not in danger. A substantiation for confiscation of her weapon remains unseen.
In ABC World News coverage, Konie goes on to explain how the police, "punched [her] in the face" and she ultimately believed that, "...they were
going to kill me."  In addition to the 2nd amendment, the 4th amendment was simultaneously violated by the seizure of her property (pistol) and
the search of her home. In the same report, Robert Zas, a civilian firearm owner, claims that the police seized his legal firearms and promptly
destroyed them on the spot following an illegal search of his vehicle. The abuse of power by the government is incongruent with the with any legal
method for seizing one's property or revoking the right to keep and bear arms, these were law abiding and peaceable citizens, not criminals.
An Opportunity for Treachery
The obvious and gross abuses of inalienable Constitutional rights of citizens may represent phase 1 of the governments denial of civil liberty. Race
issues were well documented by media as well, and may represent another facet of the government's treachery. The assertion has been made repeatedly
that the failure of the government to respond to refugees was due to race related issues. Institutional racism, as mentioned by Annette John-Hall who
works as the metro columnist for the Philadelphia Inquirer, is defined as a step beyond individual racism where racism exists as policy or de facto
norm. However, it does not appear as though racism can directly be associated with the improper action of FEMA and the government in general.
The issues at hand with the incident of Katrina deal with everyone, people of all races, and they represent a gross violation of civil rights as
delegated by the US Constitution. Racism does exist in the United States, perhaps even on an institutional level through biased and politically
motivated reports as noted earlier by Kanye West. Yet Katrina represents a far more universal attack on rights, people of all races have been
Government Hired Private "Security" Forces As A Means Around Posse Comitatus
Of a more frightening nature, however, is the use of force by private entities. Why are there reports of private property owners being allowed to
defend their stake with weapons? Journalist Jeremy Scahill rights:
"As business leaders and government officials talk openly of changing the demographics of what was one of the most culturally vibrant of America's
cities, mercenaries from companies like DynCorp, Intercon, American Security Group, Blackhawk, Wackenhut and an Israeli company called Instinctive
Shooting International (ISI) are fanning out to guard private businesses and homes, as well as government projects and institutions. Within two weeks
of the hurricane, the number of private security companies registered in Louisiana jumped from 185 to 235. Some, like Blackwater, are under federal
contract. Others have been hired by the wealthy elite, like F. Patrick Quinn III, who brought in private security to guard his $3 million private
estate and his luxury hotels, which are under consideration for a lucrative federal contract to house FEMA workers." 
Thus, individual citizens were disarmed leaving them subject to the whim of criminals, who by definition do not subscribe to the rule of law, and
mercenaries, some of whom had recently been deployed to Iraq for combat. The Posse Comitatus act forbids the use of US troops to police citizens or to
be used as law enforcement. Using mercenaries may be a way around this regulation without having to declare martial law.
The Media Distortions Masked Wide-Spread Rights Violations
This has all happened within the United States. Civilians have been killed by mercenaries, police have murdered civilians, and one must let the
unreported or undocumented incidences speak for themselves.  Lawlessness and a breakdown in society has occurred before in the 1992 Los Angeles
riots, it occurred in New Orleans in 2005, and the threat of it happening anywhere in the United States again is very real. It seems clear that in
times of emergency the prevailing ideology is to look to government for safety and sustenance, this mindset must be challenged. Violations of humans
rights go virtually unchallenged unless a stable system of government exists to prosecute those infractions of the law; however, this is taking into
consideration that a stable government will at some point restore the rule of law and order. If such a disaster were to be extrapolated to account for
a multi-city disaster situation, the blatant violations seen in Katrina would return with ruthless similarity. The chances of further meteorological
disasters in cities on the eastern seaboard does not seem obvious as yet; however, the events of the hurricane Katrina disaster produced a critical
lesson for those meaning to survive in the 21st century.
-survival is self proclaimed and not assured-