Disaster pornography: Hurricanes, voyeurism, and the home television viewer

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... These studies are mainly descriptive in nature, however. Researchers who use a deductive approach examine the occurrence of a previously defined frame in the news (e.g., Bates and Ahmed 2007;Semetko and Valkenburg 2000;Tierney et al. 2006). Because our main purpose is to illustrate the plausibility of an interest-group interpretation, and because we have indentified one possible frame or theme (i.e., extreme violence as a reason for the paralysis of local officials), we use a deductive approach. ...
In the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, rescue and evacuation efforts were slowed by rumors of extreme violence in the flooded city of New Orleans, including reports of rampant murder, systematic rape, and gangs of armed thugs taking control. Moreover, public officials solidified these rumors by presenting them as fact to reporters. In this article, we examine the contribution of public officials to false news reports. Drawing on the sociology of rumor, we argue that, in part, their descriptions of extreme violence served as rationalizations for organizational and institutional paralysis. We illustrate this “interest group” interpretation with official statements and show how it can shed additional light on the role of class and racial stereotypes, the stigma experienced by Katrina evacuees, and the evolution of the New Orleans chaos narrative. Implications for rumor control and disaster management are discussed.
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