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Metaphors Matter: Disaster Myths, Media Frames, and their Consequences in Hurricane Katrina


It has long been understood by disaster researchers that both the general public and organizational actors tend to believe in various disaster myths. Notions that disasters are accompanied by looting, social disorganization, and deviant behavior are examples of such myths. Research shows that the mass media play a significant role in promulgating erroneous beliefs about disaster behavior. Following Hurricane Katrina, the response of disaster victims was framed by the media in ways that greatly exaggerated the incidence and severity of looting and lawlessness. Media reports initially employed a “civil unrest” frame and later characterized victim behavior as equivalent to urban warfare. The media emphasis on lawlessness and the need for strict social control both reflects and reinforces political discourse calling for a greater role for the military in disaster management. Such policy positions are indicators of the strength of militarism as an ideology in the United States.

Publication Information

Full Citation:

Tierney, Kathleen J., Christine Bevc, and Erica Kuligowski. 2006. "Metaphors Matter: Disaster Myths, Media Frames, and their Consequences in Hurricane Katrina." The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science (March): 57-81. https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/0002716205285589

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