Category Archives: cringeworthy

More ‘hardcore’ journalism

This post really set me off yesterday.

@Graham_Bowley of @NYTimes Gets His Story. I Want to Throw Up.

Read it.

People are not props. This whole ‘being a journalist in a difficult place’ is not an excuse to ignore the fact that people, even poor people, yes, even poor people living in difficult places under difficult circumstances or in situations that a journalist finds atrocious, are human, with emotions and feelings and rights. And one of those rights is the right to privacy.

What gives a journalist the excuse to further violate the rights of someone who has already been through some kind of abuse or tragedy?

Individuals, especially children, especially especially children, especially especially especially children who have been through horrific experiences, are not objects or props to be insensitively identified, photographed, used and showcased for the glory of a journalist’s hot and hardcore career.

Did it ever occur to Graham Bowley that people may have been trying to protect the girl that he wanted so badly to get to so he could write his story? Did it ever occur to him that her life and her recovery were more important than his story?

It’s not up to a journalist to decide that the story of someone who survived something terrible should be used as an example for the world. It’s up to the individual to make that decision. And guess what? A person who has just suffered something horrific is often not in the best condition to make an informed decision. Especially if that person is a child.

It’s one thing if a person makes a conscious and willing choice to become a symbol or a spokesperson. It’s entirely another thing if someone else decides that a person who survived something terrible should be a symbol or spokesperson about an issue, without the agreement or informed consent of that person.

Can we show a little respect, please?

HT @elsnarkistani who Storified the whole case here.

Update: If you want to do more than be pissed off about this, Wronging Rights has more on child rights, working with trauma survivors, and a cut and paste letter you can send over to the New York Times Public Editor to let them know how you feel.


The Clanging Chimes of Doom – Bandaid Remade and Remixed

Reposting to get you in the holiday spirit…. The original post appeared on Nov 20, 2010…. Enjoy! 🙂

This is perhaps one of the most impactful and damaging songs in history. I heard it on the radio today and got pissed off like I do every time I hear it.

Apparently the image of Africa and Africans hasn’t changed much since 1984. Twenty years later comes Band Aid 2 — because every multi-celebrity charity pity song needs a remake…. Love the intro sound of a crying starving child and the astonished yet highly concerned British commentator.

I don’t even know where to start on the stereotypes and disservice that this song (and similar charity marketing and sensationalist journalism) has done to the image of Africa (the Continent) and Africans themselves. I’ve spent quite a bit of time in African countries and I could post photo after photo of rivers and rain there. And things growing.  I never heard any clanging chimes of doom while there. There are lots of people who are not looking out their windows onto “a world of dread and fear”. Many of my African friends won’t celebrate Christmas because they are Muslim, not because they are starving to death. And many others will celebrate Christmas, but not American or Euro style. Not everyone is sitting underneath the burning sun. Africa is not a giant desert. Can we please not show famine in Ethiopia and pretend it’s representative of the entire continent? There won’t be snow in Africa? So what? Gahhhhh!

Luckily there is the glory of social media to take the edge off the fury…. If you don’t like the original version, there are plenty of re-makes to be found on YouTube. I’m not sure whether to laugh or cry. Here is a selection of the, uh, finest. You be the judge on whether these are worse than the original…. Taking votes in the comments section.

Feed the World with Friends (I wish this were a joke) Version. Wow. Just wow. E for effort. C for caring. D for Do Gooders. But the singing makes me doubt the potential for quality in anything crowdsourced.

Bad 1980s Sponsorship Organization Commercial Photo Montage Version. The original didn’t have enough pictures of crying children and flies in the eyes so this kind person overlaid some of the best of the worst charity photos on to the video to encourage us to care.  (Commenter: So, there won’t be snow in Africa this year? And you say the only gift they’ll get is the gift of life? So, no shoveling, and no commercial holidays? Sign me up.)

Singing Cartoon Turkeys Version (aka PETA Version?)

Dance Aid – Do they know it’s Christmas (Rave Mix) Instrumental so you can dance at your Christmas Rave without feeling guilty because of the lyrics.

Winnipeg Tea Party Version? “Dedicated to the poor children of Winnipeg School Division 1. Children whose childhood is less happy because schools run by tyrants will not say the word Christmas….  Christmas… A holiday so terrible according to commies that it can’t be named….” Special appearance poster by the Folsom Street Fair (the grand daddy of all gay male leather events) whose attendees “mock your religion while demanding that you get rid of the word Christmas…” ends with “glad this baby (Jesus) wasn’t aborted… stop the ACLU”.

2006 College Version complete with a lot of bare midriffs and self absorbed cleavage and blowing hair and dramatic effects which turn into…. a drink infested Christmas party… which ends up in a teenage mums against war protest slash terror attack… and ends with… um. Well if you make it through to the end maybe you can tell me what the point was?

Chris Brown feat. T-Pain laid over Karaoke Instrumental Version (?!?!)  I’m still not sure which lyrics are more awful — these or the original…. this is as bad, maybe worse, than the homemade versions– hard to make it through til the end.

High School Christmas Concert Version with uh high quality filming. (comments section: 3 letters is all this will take. OMG. And 2 words: bloody awful)

1985 High School Talent Show Version. Has that Risky Business feel to it. As a child of the 1980s I’m digging the outfits:

Canadian Version with lots of Tim Horton promos in the background…. “In 1984 the top recording artists across Canada gathered to raise money from the famine in Africa… when the public viewed Canada’s version, the world decided it was best for Canada to just make a fincial (sic) donation instead.”

Hipsters in a Mansion Version (TV Allstars) (“Bless ’em, they seem to think the clanging chimes of doom are something to be cheery about.”)

People in a Toystore with Tambourine and Ukelele Version? Commenter: “Sick! Sick and WRONG! I LOVE IT! My favorite lines: “There won’t be snow in Africa this christmas” (nor in LA, nor Hawaii…???) and “Thank God it’s THEM instead of You” ??? and “Here’s to them underneath that burning sun” – the stupidest lyrics ever !! YOU GUYS ROCK”

Status Quo Video Vault Version (anyone else love and remember The Young Ones? “All the homos in the place goin’ mental now….” “HomeOwners you mean, don’t you….”)

The Clanging Chimes of Doom are Back and Better than Ever Version. Voice and video don’t sync. There’s a dude singing in a shower. There’s a fake adopted black baby. Make it stop.

I’m happy that at least some musicians in the 80s were on the ball.  High 5 to Chumbawamba.

Feed the WorldPictures of Starving People“In 1986, the anarchist band Chumbawamba released the album Pictures of Starving Children Sell Records, as well as an EP entitled “We Are the World”, jointly recorded with US band A State of Mind, both of which were intended as anti-capitalist critiques of the Band Aid/Live Aid phenomenon. They argued that the record was primarily a cosmetic spectacle, designed to draw attention away from the real political causes of world hunger.”


Update Nov 29, 2010: And hey, it seems like Bob Geldof would totally agree with me on this post! I’m starting to gain a little respect for him. According to this Nov 29, 2010, article in the Daily Mail. Geldof, who penned the song 26 years ago together with Midge Ure, says: “I am responsible for two of the worst songs in history. One is Do They Know It’s Christmas? and the other one is We Are The World. Any day soon, I will go to the supermarket, head to the meat counter and it will be playing. Every ****ing Christmas….” The former Boomtown Rats frontman, 59, added: “Sometimes I think that’s wild because I wrote it. Or else I am thinking how much I want them to stop because they are doing it really badly.”

“Unwatchable” …and pretty “Unhelpful”

I can kind of say I “know about” rape in the Democratic Republic of Congo. I’m not an expert on DRC by any means, but I’ve certainly read enough to know that it is happening.

Does “knowing about” rape in the DRC make me very sad? Yes.

Does “knowing about” it make me feel like the world is an evil place sometimes? Yes.

Does it blow my mind that humans endure or perpetrate this type of brutality? Yes.

Does it make me wonder what is underlying it, why it happens and what are all the complexities that surround it? Yes.

Does it make me wish that there were a way to help make it stop? Yes.

Has anyone offered a viable solution for someone like me to help stop it? Not really.

“Knowing about” and “caring about” don’t equal “having identified the right thing to do about.”

A new short film is out called “Unwatchable.” This film assumes that the reason people don’t do more about the situation in the DRC is that they don’t know about it or don’t empathize with it because it is happening to people in the DRC.

To remedy that, “Unwatchable” re-enacts a true story that happened to a family in the DRC, setting it the UK. The premise is that if we watch the same horrifying things happening to a white family in the UK, we will “know about” what is happening in the DRC, and then we will “care about” it enough to “do something about” it by signing a petition to “stop rape minerals”.

So, does watching a horrific short film about a white British family being brutalized help me empathize with families in the DRC? No.

Does it help me better understand the situation in the DRC? No.

Does it move me to do something about violence in the DRC? No.

Does it offer me a solution or a viable way to help stop violence in the DRC? Not really.

To start with, I actually can’t even remember who the organization is behind the film. All I remember is  some helicopters, a man with a bloody groin, lots of screaming and men in military gear, a teen-aged girl in a school uniform forced back on the kitchen table with flour all over her face being gang raped with a gun, and a little girl in white running in the fields with some flowers.

And another thing – no matter whether the people portrayed in the film were Brits or Congolese or from wherever, I would have been disturbed by the images. So if the goal of the film is horrifying the viewer by showing something that is “unwatchable,” then yes, goal achieved.

But am I better informed? Do I empathize now? Not really. Instead, I feel alienated, traumatized and I want to look away. I feel hopeless.

Will a lot of people watch the “unwatchable?” Probably. (Especially since it’s getting a lot of criticism right now.)

Does it make a solid connection between this violence and “rape minerals”? Not really.

No sane person would approve of rape as a weapon of war. But the difficult part is knowing what is the best way to end it, and knowing if there is really a way that someone like you or me can do anything about it.

Is legislation against “rape minerals” the best way? Who knows? There’s certainly enough questioning about the recent advocacy work and legislation that achieved a ban on them to make you wonder if banning is anything like a real solution.

The thing is, you can “know about” what is happening in the DRC and be “against rape” and still not be convinced that a petition or a boycott or Dodd Frank  is the best way to end it.

So does “Unwatchable” add anything relevant to the debate or identify real solutions? Not really.

In addition to being unwatchable, I found it to be pretty “Unhelpful.”

Supermarket Sigh

Go Big G cereals! Go America!

The Week in Badvertising (aka ‘scuse me while I vomit in my mouth)

I’ll start by saying I have an extreme aversion to commercials. I pretty much do whatever I can to avoid them, along with malls, Disneyland et al. and Hallmark holidays. So maybe this is just hitting me a little hard since I haven’t built up enough immunity to tasteless PR gimmicks.

But seriously. Seriously? Seriously?!?!?!?

Exhibit 1. Kenneth Cole. The ever suave and edgy designer thinks it’s OK to promote a new spring line off the backs of Egyptian protesters. Oh come on, he implies, it was just a joke. Lighten up. Wake up, asshat. Not funny.

Exhibit 2. Groupon. Well I have never heard of them before, so I don’t know if they are supposed to be funny or edgy or what. They bring together two totally unrelated things, and try to make some kind of joke out of it. Sorry. Didn’t get it. Didn’t find it funny at all. I’m probably not worldly enough to appreciate this high art.

Exhibit 3. The Girl Store. Yet another example of how to dehumanize people and use them as props to further your (and, in this case, supposedly their) cause. That sleazy intro is just a gimmick, you know, an attention grabber. It’s OK to use a child trafficking theme if it’s for a good cause, right? What? “Buy a girl before someone else does?” Um. Resounding “no.” No. No. No.

Apparently bad taste is better than no taste. Stay classy, folks. All of you. Glad I never bought any of your stuff.

(Going to go re-read “This is for my Corporates: #4 People are not Props” out loud while I sulk in my little corner). Gaaaaah.

Kings of Leon get their Aldous Snow on?

Someone who knows I dig old Kings of Leon quite a bit played this video for me. He said, ‘You’ll probably hate it… and you are rubbing off on me because now when I see this stuff, it just seems wrong for some reason. ‘

(Unfortunately copyright laws don’t allow the video to play here on my blog so you have to click through to YouTube. And I apologize that there’s an annoying commericial that you have to sit through before it plays).

What could be wrong with that video? Well, I found a fabulous discussion of just exactly what is wrong…. starting with this comment and going on with a few other select ones I cut and pasted here. See the entire comments section here on this site for the full context of the comments. (Some people didn’t see anything wrong with the video at all)

Now, if you’re not getting the references to Infant Sorrow and African Child let me build your capacity here by sharing this killer video with Aldous Snow…. And then go see Get Him to the Greek which does unfortunately have Puff Daddy in it but is still a fabulous movie.

Again, apologies that you have to click through to YouTube to see it — Don’t forget to come back to finish up reading this post – I know how it can get once you start following links if you have a digital native’s poor attention span and lack of focus….


Is there really any ill will?

Why assume the kids are “poor black kids?”

Not to get all Uncle Ruckus on you…

You can also hear Kings of Leon themselves talk about the Radioactive video here (good news is no clicking through to YouTube on this one)

My favorite quote from the interview is:

“After my grandma sees this video, she definitely won’t think we’re going to hell as fast, you know, as she did think we were going….”

So, are you also understanding that the Kings of Leon won’t go to hell as fast now because they spent some time running around in the sunlight with Black children in the South? Right.

Or am I being mad sensitive and uptight and he means because they are going back to their roots and including gospel music in the song? I’m not nearly as irritated by this video as many other things I see, but there is still something that bugs me here, as subtle as it might be.

Well, at least we know now that you don’t have to go all the way to Africa to get your Aldous Snow on.