creators.com opinion web
Liberal Opinion Conservative Opinion
David Sirota
David Sirota
24 Oct 2014
In Legalization Battles, Alcohol Defines the Politics of Marijuana

When Colorado voters in 2012 approved a ballot measure legalizing marijuana, the state did not merely break … Read More.

17 Oct 2014
Fracking for the Cure?

Helping find a cure for cancer or "pinkwashing" carcinogenic pollution? That is the question being raised … Read More.

10 Oct 2014
How Big Brother Can Watch You With Metadata

Why did Bradley Cooper and Jessica Alba fail to record a tip when they paid their cabbies during New York … Read More.

Our Addiction to Disaster Porn

Comment

The black t-shirt — so tight, so come-hither. And oh, those safari button-downs — joke-worthy on Eddie Bauer mannequins, but on news correspondents, so ... enticing.

America missed these sartorial seductions, pined for their sweet suggestive nothings. And now, finally, a nation of television addicts can thank its disaster pornographers for bringing back the lurid garments — and the lustful voyeurism they evoke.

Yes, thousands of miles from the San Fernando Valley's seedy studios, the adult entertainment business is alive and panting in Haiti. This year's luminaries aren't the industry's typical muscle-bound mustaches of machismo — they are NBC's Brian Williams pillow-talking to the camera in his Indiana Jones garb, CNN's Sanjay Gupta playing doctor and, of course, CNN's Anderson Cooper in that two-sizes-too-small t-shirt "rarely missing an opportunity to showcase his buff physique," as The New York Times gushed. They are all the disaster porn stars in the media with visions of Peabodys and Pulitzers dancing in their heads.

And We the Ogling People drink it in.

Like any X-rated content, this smut is all flesh and no substantive plot. The lens flits between body parts and journalists pulling perverse Cronkite-in-Vietnam impressions (at one point, CNN showed Cooper and his t-shirt saving a child). But there is little discussion of how western Hispaniola was a man-made disaster before an earthquake made it a natural one.

Though neighboring the planet's wealthiest nation, Haiti has long been one of the world's poorest places. It sports 80 percent unemployment and a GDP smaller than the annual executive bonus fund at a single Wall Street bank. The destitution is tragic — and a reflection, in part, of colonial domination.

For much of the last two centuries, Western powers used embargo threats to force the country's population of erstwhile slaves to reimburse their former European masters for lost "property." As Harvard's Henry Louis Gates recounts, America aided these efforts from the beginning because President Thomas Jefferson feared a successful black republic would "inspire slave insurrections throughout the American South."

Crushed by this oppression, Haiti was then assaulted in the 1990s by American "free" trade policies that destroyed its agriculture economy and tried to turn the country into the world's sweatshop.

In recent years, as the menace of Western-backed coups lurked, Haiti has at times been compelled to pay more interest on its debt than it received in foreign aid.

This is the real story of Haiti that the black t-shirts and safari button-downs (and, alas, their viewers) have never cared about. They've only noticed the country when a cataclysm provided more telegenic images than the daily death and despair of the island's pre-earthquake squalor.

Even now, as the casualty count rises, disaster pornographers barely mention the macabre history. They know that doing so would break unspoken rules against holding up a foreign policy mirror to America and against riling the politicians and business interests that contributed to Haiti's demise.

Rather than reporting on what made Haiti so poor and therefore its infrastructure so susceptible to collapse, we get clips of Haitians momentarily cheering "USA!" as food packages trickle into their devastated capital. Rather than inquiries about how poverty made Haiti so ill-prepared for rescue operations, the disaster pornographers instead obediently follow George W. Bush, who self-servingly says, "You've got to deal with the desperation and there ought to be no politicization of that."

"Politicization" — so that's the safe-for-TV euphemism they're using these days, huh? Evidently, it must be avoided — evidently, nothing kills an audience's heaving passion faster than "politics" or (God forbid) contextualized news.

Anything like that — anything beyond the exploitation of raw disaster porn — well, it might ruin the money shot.

David Sirota is the author of the best-selling books "Hostile Takeover" and "The Uprising." He hosts the morning show on AM760 in Colorado and blogs at OpenLeft.com. E-mail him at ds@davidsirota.com or follow him on Twitter @davidsirota.

COPYRIGHT 2010 CREATORS.COM



Comments

3 Comments | Post Comment
I think it's a spot-on analysis to say that the infotainment industry's coverage of Haiti is exploitation.

One photojournalist boldy took a picture of a rescue worker tossing a dead child by his feet into a pile of dead bodies. I don't care what bold ennobled purposes that journalist thought he was serving by taking that picture and distributing it to news agencies - it was a sick picture, and extremely insensitive.

That aside, Haiti's poverty can't solely be attributed to mere outside interference in local politics - there are just too many things involved altogether in making Haiti the mess it is. It wasn't just one thing that made Haiti a mess, it's dozens of disparate things barely related that materialized all in one place. The very first rulers of Haiti had a policy of racial genocide against both coloured people and whites in order to create a fully black Haiti. The rebels still preserved their tribalistic voodoo African animism, and adorned skulls of killed enemies, cannibalising them on victory. It's been a culture of violence imported from West Africa (the more violent part of sub-Saharan Africa) combined with hatred of oppressive white slavers, and combined with a reinforcement of that culture of violence through many years.

Everything is responsible, both Haitians and what outsiders did to Haiti. A saying goes that we do not live in the past, but the past in us. And Haiti is always enslaved by its dark history, always preserving that inhuman brutality inherited from ethnocentric feuds between mulattos, blacks, Christians, voodoo shamans, and so on.
Comment: #1
Posted by: Prateek Sanjay
Sat Jun 19, 2010 10:23 AM
Why does anybody permits hate speech in this place? As the one that this Prateek individual spits.
Comment: #2
Posted by: Andhaira
Sat Jul 17, 2010 12:26 AM
Hello - my name is Joseph Nicholson and I would like to address David Sirota directly about this article.
I am a 3rd year English student studying at Falmouth University currently writing my dissertation. Part of which discusses the presence of Disaster Porn in Literature. I Would really appreciate If I can get in contact with you to discuss your opinions on the matter and whether you agree with me or not.
Or if anyone has any other means of contacting him, please let me know.
Thank you,
Joseph Nicholson
Comment: #3
Posted by: Joseph Nicholson
Thu Nov 7, 2013 4:08 AM
Already have an account? Log in.
New Account  
Your Name:
Your E-mail:
Your Password:
Confirm Your Password:

Please allow a few minutes for your comment to be posted.

Enter the numbers to the right:  
Creators.com comments policy
More
David Sirota
Oct. `14
Su Mo Tu We Th Fr Sa
28 29 30 1 2 3 4
5 6 7 8 9 10 11
12 13 14 15 16 17 18
19 20 21 22 23 24 25
26 27 28 29 30 31 1
About the author About the author
Write the author Write the author
Printer friendly format Printer friendly format
Email to friend Email to friend
View by Month
Marc Dion
Marc DionUpdated 27 Oct 2014
Lawrence Kudlow
Lawrence KudlowUpdated 25 Oct 2014
diane dimond
Diane DimondUpdated 25 Oct 2014

4 Apr 2008 Confessions of an Economic Hit Man

21 Dec 2012 Coaches Over the Common Good

3 Aug 2012 In Face Of Emergency, We're Still Asking, 'Where's the Beef?'