Friday, December 26, 2014

Self-Righteous Jerks

Note: I'm only using this picture since Tuohy has already posted it publicly on Facebook and Instagram
and it's been reposted in a thousand different places. 
If you're going to be kind, be kind. Don't film yourself, post the results everywhere, and pretend that you're only doing it to prove a point.

Scenario #1: Leigh Anne Tuohy is not anyone who has ever been on my radar. I knew she was the subject of a book and of that Sandra Bullock movie, but that's all. I knew there was some talk about how that movie was basically "heroic white woman saves troubled black youth," but I'd never seen it so I couldn't say.

But then she did this.

In case you haven't been following the story, here's the gist. She owns a restaurant. Two black teenagers came into her restaurant and apparently, were acting in a way that some would find suspicious. Here's the way she describes the scene on her own Facebook page:

We see what we want! It’s the gospel truth! These two were literally huddled over in a corner table nose to nose and the person with me said “I bet they are up to no good” well you know me… I walked over, told them to scoot over. After 10 seconds of dead silence I said so whats happening at this table? I get nothing.. I then explained it was my store and they should spill it… They showed me their phones and they were texting friends trying to scrape up $3.00 each for the high school basketball game! Well they left with smiles, money for popcorn and bus fare. We gave to STOP judging people and assuming and pigeon holing people! Don’t judge a book by its cover or however you’d like to express the sentiment! Accept others and stoping seeing what you want to see!!! #LeighAnnesSundaySermon #BelieveInOthers


To sum up: two black kids were sitting together. Her friend says "they're up to no good." She says, oh no, you're wrong. And then she goes over, sits next to them, and demands to see their phones to prove they're not doing anything wrong!!!

Then, after they prove their innocence, she hands them some cash and then takes a picture with them!! The caption might as well be "look at these poor little black children whose lives I just turned around!" Gross exploitation.

Scenario #2: This video has been going around the social networks lately. Another "heroic" person who decided to give $100 to a homeless person.

No strings attached? Ah ha, not quite. He proceeds to record the guy's actions secretly to find out how he spends the money!!

Watch the video. It's clear that they're filming this man without his permission, at the beginning. At one point, he even tells his cameraman "just don't let him see you." At the end, once they prove to themselves that he's using the money in the right way, he admits to the poor man that he's being secretly recorded.

Would he have admitted it otherwise? This guy, Josh Paler Lin, is a guy who makes ugly prank videos on YouTube - the Bad Dad prank, the Vegas Mafia prank, the Chloroform Kidnapping prank. He thrives on exploiting people's reactions and then making money on them (via YouTube ads.) It's easy to imagine he could have filmed this man's behavior and secretly uploaded it, and never told hm at all. That's what he does.

But instead, he posts it as a feel-good story. Who's feeling good? Paler Lin has gotten 22 million hits on this video. He's making money from ads and his name gets spread all over the internet. Oh, but he's launched an IndieGogo account to raise some money for the homeless man, too.

Think about that. He found a homeless man, decided he was one of the "good" homeless people, and now he's raising money to help him out. But his message is "never judge a book by its cover."

He originally expected to film the man doing something bad - buying alcohol or drugs, maybe. In the description of the video itself, he even says "I wasn't expecting to get this kind of footage... to be honest, I thought this video would be more an exposing homeless people video at first."

Exposing homeless people? These are people on the bottom rung of society, and he's out to expose them??? This man is a bottom feeder. Shame on him for exploiting another human being for his profits. Shame on Leigh Anne Tuohy for exploiting two strangers for her own glorification.

Monday, December 01, 2014

Death and 'Serial'

I'm not listening to Serial.

I'm a voracious podcast listener. This American Life, Snap Judgment, Too Beautiful to Live, Nightvale Radio, loads of NPR podcasts. I'm the key demographic for this show.

Except I won't listen to it.

It's about a murder, as I understand it. Someone murdered someone - or maybe he did, maybe he didn't. The show digs through the evidence, interviews witnesses, and considers whether the person actually committed the crime. It's supposed to be riveting. It's supposed to be great radio. It's supposed to be a revolutionary way of using the medium.

I can't listen to it.

I've been there, you see. I've sat in a courtroom while the prosecution presented the autopsy pictures of my brother; described the wounds that were inflicted on his body; described how he died.

I've been there in the courtroom when the defense tried to challenge evidence, cast doubt as to the real killer, declared the fine character of the man accused of killing my brother.

That's just me. I don't read murder mysteries. I don't watch movies like Pulp Fiction that glorify killing and treat dead bodies like punch lines.

Interestingly, This American Life did an episode about this tendency, about how the families of murder victims end up hyper-sensitive to popular culture with references to murder. I never forgot that episode, because it nails it perfectly. Not all survivors of murder feel this way. But many of us do.

I wish nothing but the best for Serial and I hope it has a long and successful future. But I hope the next story is about robbing a bank. Or kidnapping a pig. Or stealing a piece of art. I don't want to hear about murders presented for entertainment, no matter how seriously the subject is taken. I can't be entertained by it, and I'm not the only one.