Monday, September 12, 2005
Note: Refer Everything to the Public Information Officer
Shot on Sunday, 9/11/05, almost two weeks after the hurricane hit, the story was about a dead human body that has been laying in what appears to be a vacant lot in Algiers, part of the greater NOLA area, since the day of the hurricane. Despite constantly notifying everyone possible, the body remains in the open, decomposing in the tropical heat. Algiers, located across the river from NOLA, never flooded to my knowledge.
The following is part of exchanges Amy Goodman had with several military and police officers who just happened to be driving past the area and had time to stop and talk to a reporter. The story is called New Orleans Activist Points to Neglected Corpse as U.S. Military Passes Off Blame.
At a different point, someone identified in the transcript as a New Orleans Lieutenant Police Officer but dressed in military camo and I believe military of some sort, says: "No. That's not really in our jurisdiction. We can't do any police work. So, that's not for us to handle we can only report it and hope that the cops take care of it, but we can't do anything."
AMY GOODMAN: As Malik Raheem was speaking, as if on cue, every level of authority he mentioned drove by. There's a dead body right here. Is -- who are you with?
SOLDIER: We're with 5015.
AMY GOODMAN: Which is?
SOLDIER: The cav.
AMY GOODMAN: Army?
SOLDIER: Regular army.
AMY GOODMAN: There's a dead body right here. Can you guys pick it up?
SOLDIER: You don't think we can pick it up, but we can call the local authorities to come pick it up.
AMY GOODMAN: This gentleman who lives in the neighborhood said that they have been trying to get -- here, let me ask these guys, too. Excuse me. Excuse me. Hi. There's a dead body right here. Can Louisiana State Troopers, can you pick it up?
LOUISIANA STATE TROOPER: You need to talk to the public information officer, Ma'am.
AMY GOODMAN: It's been here two weeks. We have filmed it last week, and gentleman over here said he has been trying to get it picked up for two weeks. Louisiana State Troopers, the Police, the Army, no one has responded. We're looking right over at it right there.
LOUISIANA STATE TROOPER: You need to talk to the public information officer and contact him at the troop.
AMY GOODMAN: Your name is?
LOUISIANA STATE TROOPER: You need to talk to the public information officer.
AMY GOODMAN: Do you know about the body?
LOUISIANA STATE TROOPER: You need to talk to our public information officer.
AMY GOODMAN: [speaking to trooper driving car] Sir, do you know about the body over there.
LOUISIANA STATE TROOPER: Ma'am, you talk with the public information officer.
This makes a little sense to me. In a normal situation, generally police have to be called to process a dead body and view the scene. Perhaps not always but generally. And I think there needs to be some protocols for handling the dead in the situation so that information related to where, when and how they were found can be attached to particular corpses. But this is not a normal situation and the police are probably physically incapable of handling the sheer volume of bodies. Therefore adaptions need to be made to procedures.
As Ms. Goodman said at the top of the quote, at least four different branches of police, military, and Homeland Security passed by while shooting the story. At least two groups stopped long enough to talk with her and didn't appear to be in any rush going anywhere. They seemed to be on very routine patrol and not engaged in rescue or recovery efforts.
The public relations approach to crisis management is so obviously on display here which is why I particularly note the officer saying "You need to talk to the public information officer." Why can't reporters get info from the actual officers in the street? Because there is too much chance of them saying something embarrassing or contradicting the "official" story. It's not about what efforts are actually happening. It's about what "authorized" official sources say is happening, about the narrative they spin, about the story arc they outline.
When official sources are the main sources of stories, we will never be told the truth. We will be told "good progress is being made," and "the situation is improving hourly." That's the official lie.