Looting in Haiti

If it were to emerge that the press were bribing Haitians to loot for the cameras, my eyebrows and jaws would remain stonily unmoved such is the extent of their barely suppressed excitement at the prospect of looting.

For some unaccountable reason best known to themselves they've been less keen to call attention to the impressive efforts Haitians themselves are making to deal with the catastrophe. Whilst I realise rioting and looting is a good deal sexier than folk forming neighbourhood committees and pooling their meagre resources, a bit of balance would be nice and perhaps a degree of imagination about what it must be like to find oneself in such a terrible, chaotic situation.

The US Ambassador in Haiti states that the vast majority of people are going about their business in a 'calm and peaceful manner'. Similarly this aid worker hasn't seen any looting at all. This article is headlined 'Haiti earthquake: looting and gun-fights breakout', yet when it runs out of violence and looting to fill up the space, goes to report ordinary Haitians heroically doing their bit to help each other.

Linda Polman writes in The Times about the harmful effect this unfair and negative portrayal of Haitians is having on the aid effort. An article which ends with this short and very moving paragraph; 'Let’s hope that the food distributors worrying about their safety know that yesterday hundreds of people in Port-au-Prince dropped to their knees praying outside a warehouse where workers for the agency Food for the Poor had announced that they would be distributing rice and beans. The crowd allowed children and the elderly to go first in line without having guns aimed at them first.'

I am not suggesting that violent incidents should not be reported but given the negative impact such reports are likely to have on public donations, it's irresponsible of the media to pay such scant attention to the decency, bravery, and generosity of so many Haitians in the face of appalling tragedy.

To be fair to the media I doubt they're being swamped with complaints over this and naturally assume everyone is happy with their coverage. 25,000 people in this country were happy to spare the time to unleash Twitter hell over an insensitive, ill timed unpleasant Daily Mail column on one dead pop star. Is it asking too much for a bit of that outrage to be utilised in defence of almost ten million Haitians against this damaging and biased reporting?

Donations to Haitian disaster relief can be made here.



vavatch said...

It's reminiscent of katrina, and in particular looting vs. finding.

Clairwil said...

I couldn't help but notice the 'finders' were of somewhat paler comlpexion to the looter in that link. What can it all mean?