Monday, September 19, 2005

Nation of Islam leader's conspiracy theory about Katrina levee bombing spreads

A conspiracy theory surfaced by Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan - that the New Orleans levees were destroyed on purpose during Hurricane Katrina to destroy black neighborhoods - is gaining credibility among ordinary citizens.

It's a case study of how a demagogue can take advantage of people's hardships and predispositions by raising questions that his audience will accept as fact.

In an audio recording broadcast last week on the Fox News Sean Hannity Show, Farrakhan said, "I heard from a very reliable source who saw a 25 foot deep crater under the levee breach. It may have been blown up to destroy the black part of town and keep the white part dry." He gave no indication of the source.

A Washington Post columnist says he's "stunned" that the conspiracy theory is gaining legs of its own as "reasonable" people in New Orleans believe it and are spreading it.

Eugene Robinson, a racial affairs columnist with the Post, said on the Sunday NBC News program "Meet the Press" that:

I was stunned in New Orleans at how many black New Orleanians would tell me with real conviction that somehow the levee breaks had been engineered in order to save the French Quarter and the Garden District at the expense of the Lower Ninth Ward, which is almost all black.

The conspiracy theorists "are not wild-eyed people" but are "reasonable, sober people who really believe that," Robinson said, adding that he does not subscribe to the theory.


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