Wednesday, February 04, 2009

I learn a new phrase 

I was reading on Bill Easterly's new blog about Refugee Run. It reminds me of a long-ago time here at SCSU when various multicultural student groups would take a day to turn the student union building into apartheid South Africa. White students would be asked to show their passes (student ID) and perhaps questioned. I believe one year they tried to separate where the white students could eat lunch. There was then to be discussion groups to take advantage of this consciousness-raising exercise. I had always wondered what the students of color who acted as the guards that day; did they learn Acton's Law, for example?

Refugee Run is basically that, except replace white students with Davos attendees.

But that wasn't the most important thing I got. Easterly writes:
Alex de Waal in his equally great book Famine Crimes (and continuing writings since) writes about �disaster pornography.� He gives an example of a Western television producer in Somalia in 1992-93 who said to a local Somali doctor: �pick the children who are most severely malnourished� and bring them to be photographed.
"Disaster pornography", as Sam Kinison famously lampooned, continues to this day. At the Super Bowl party I attended Sunday someone wondered where Sally Struthers is. (It was a guy, so I let his ignorance of Gilmore Girls pass unremarked. Until now.) We all take advantage of it -- there are conservative talk show hosts that use the image of starving Haitians to raise money to send money as well as the more liberal Sachs-Stiglitz types who think the U.S. aid budget is too stingy.

Disaster pornography is what killed the Bush presidency in New Orleans. What will be the DP image that weighs down the Obama popularity rating? You may think the MSM would never do such a thing, but what bleeds, leads, and the Obama presidency will be dull soon.
In the time since his inauguration, Mr. Obama has been on every screen in the country, TV and computer, every day. He is never not on the screen. I know what his people are thinking: Put his image on the age. Imprint the era with his face. But it's already reaching saturation point. When the office is omnipresent, it is demystified. Constant exposure deflates the presidency, subtly robbing it of power and making it more common.
Before long, some cameraman will be looking for the doctor in some faraway place to hold up the sickliest child to the lens.

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