Rodkong posted the following link in a comment to Gone, Forgotten, Real. The article is about the way that journalists, reporting on stories of rape and murder in the Superdome, filled in the gaps in verifiable information with rumors, thereby magnifying and distorting the actual problems. A national guard spokesman is quoted, saying, "It just morphed into this mythical place where the most unthinkable deeds were being done." I think that the post I link to above provides a way of accounting for this morphing, this rendering of the unthinkable. More troubling in the story is the following"
Times-Picayune Editor Jim Amoss cited telephone breakdowns as a primary cause of reporting errors, but said the fact that most evacuees were poor African Americans also played a part.
"If the dome and Convention Center had harbored large numbers of middle class white people," Amoss said, "it would not have been a fertile ground for this kind of rumor-mongering."
So, we have an instance of the press blaming poor black people for its, the press's, bad reporting. Because the press listened to a reported poor African-Americans, it was reporting rumors and lies, rumors and lies that were 'mongered,' that is, that spread in an excessive, uncontrollable fashion.
And, what sort of if is at work here? When a bunch of middle class people are in a superdome, we call it a football game. When they are in a convention center, we call it, you guessed it, a convention. The hypothetical here relies on the image of white people in a dome or convention center at a time when they belong there. At such a time, one doesn't usually think of the people as communicating with each other. They may all be an audience, watching a game, listening to speeches. But their relationships are mediated, not immediate. No wonder it's hard to imagine a rumor circulating--the white dome is part of a different imaginary, one that figures as the opposite of what happened in Katrina, one that broke down.
If these structures are filled with black people, well, something is wrong. Literally: the poor African Americans were there, in a place they usually don't belong, unless they are the invisible cleaners and servers, because something was wrong. The structures of race and class that prevented the buildings from being seen as 'black' (as if the convention centers and domes were always already segregated or imagined or presupposed as segregated) were inverted in Katrina's aftermath. Middle class whites (and blacks) got out and the poor (white and black) occupied places previously defined by their capacity to exclude (one has to buy a ticket to get in, after all). The racist reversal of these terms tries to deflect our attention from the vast, unconscionable inequities of the initial division.