New Orleans 2006
Many people seem to be surprised by the lack of looting in Japan in the aftermath of an earthquake and tsunami. Isn’t that normal human behaviour to become looters after a disaster? Some say that there are several Japanese articles about looting by Japanese looters that the western media didn’t pick up. Others say this is Japanese discipline, contrary to for example American reactions to disasters.
It reminds me of New Orleans 2006 where we had an international diversity conference in the months after Hurricane Katrina. We studied the role of the media in the aftermath of the disaster. After Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans in August 2005, the levees broke and the water came into town, mixing with factory chemicals and other polluting materials. This is why survivors broke into supermarkets; bottles of drinkable water could be found only there.
What the media showed was two things:
1. black people entering and leaving supermarkets: ‘looters who were profiting from temporary non-surveillance’
2. white women with kids entering and leaving supermarkets: ‘victims left on their own, searching for healthy water for their children’
Both social workers and the army were influenced by the media and acted accordingly which aggravated the suffering of black victims. It was strange to be at that conference and analyze this just a few months after the disaster: so recent, so real!
Are the Japanese more disciplined and less looters than the Americans are? Maybe this is true. However maybe not just the Japanese but also the media are more disciplined in Japan than they were in New Orleans.