Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Baltimore questions

I’ve written nothing here about events in Baltimore or Nepal. No one needs a post here to be reminded of the first noble truth.

But I want to voice three questions about Baltimore. The observer effect can work in non-scientific contexts too: the act of observation can change what’s observed (as when a principal visits a classroom). Is live television coverage in Baltimore meant to help bring about the violence that we now see on CNN? Is it too cynical to acknowledge that broadcasting such stuff serves broadcasters’ interests? And is it too cynical to suspect that broadcasting such stuff serves to strengthen a larger narrative about color and criminality?

Part of what makes me ask these questions is the constant commentary on CNN yesterday about what “they” were doing: "Now they’re looting”; “Now they’re throwing rocks.” Those statements make me recall the stranger who turned to Elaine as we left a store and whispered conspiratorially, “They’re everywhere” — meaning people of color. (There had been two women of color in line in the store.) Elaine was too stunned to give the stranger a piece of her mind.

As my high-school contemporary-politics teacher Albert Kornblit always reminded us, it’s smart to be wary of anyone who refers to people as “they” and “them” — and that includes CNN.

comments: 3

Richard Henderson said...

Whenever I encounter the over-convenient 'they,' a nifty verse of Roy Blount Jr.'s pops into mind. I hope I've recalled this correctly:

It's not a matter of what 'they' say
But rather, who are 'they'?
When cannibals say they had a gourmet meal
It means that they ate a gourmet.

Anonymous said...

Pogo comes to mind in a paraphrase.

We've met them and they are us.

Fresca said...

Hey! Having just posted about Pogo and that quote, I was going to say that too:
They 'R' Us.