If you care about state politics of the type that spills into national news, you may have heard that the Army Corp of Engineers blew up a levy and flooded a bunch of farmland down in Missouri to save Cairo, Illinois (Pronounced “Kay-row;” remember, we are talking about the Midwest). If you are a visual learner:
Ultimately, Cairo is safe, but the farmers won’t be run over by the elderly at the farmer’s market.
Since we all have shortened attention spans, here is ABC’s video explanation of the matter:
You probably noticed:
A. The farmers interviewed are universally white, and the Cairo residents are black, and this comports with the actual demographics of the area.
B. See the formation of a potential racial issue here, or at the very least consciously process this possibility.
C. ABC is ignoring this and choosing to cast this issue as a socio-economic story of divided wealth—even though “wealthy” is seldom used in the same sentence.
D. A secondary focus of the fact that Cairo has been steadily hemorrhaging its population. But then again, it’s a narrative that dovetails nicely into this whole, “everyone is poor and unemployed” thing which is extraordinarily.
CNN decided to report on this too… six days later.
This was made six days after the ABC story; probably because the CNN desk had gone on a bender for the week and promptly forgot that it was a 24 hour news network. And they wonder why journalism is dead.
Shot for shot, interview for interview, the CNN video’s presentation of the facts is the same: same report, same interviewees with the same differences — right down to our intrepid reporter wearing an open-buttoned blue button-up walking down the street (because roaming among the proles is the expressway to a Pulitzer)– the conclusion is completely different. CNN goes for the socio-economic narrative with the subtlety of a debt collector putting re-bar to a knee cap.
I didn’t bother to check the narrative for Fox News. Five dollars says it is something about Obama being an Illinois politician and hating Missouri farmers and “something,” “something” “birth certificate.” I take PayPal.
Our 90 (white) farmers presumably grow crops or take farm subsidies to not grow crops. Between the crops, the land and the ability to collect government subsidies, the farmer’s had around 300 million dollars in this horse race.
Cairo, Illinois used to be a hub of steamboatin’ and barge-sailin’ with a high water mark of 15,000+ inhabitants. There are currently 2891 people living there. Estimated per capita income in 2009: $14,538. 47.0% of those under the age of 18 and 20.9% of those 65 and older are living below the poverty line. The median house value is $29,260, and trust me folks, I didn’t leave off a zero there—and I bet there weren’t many ARM mortgages pre-2006. I am also pretty sure the Williamsburg hipster trust fund contingent isn’t looking to gentrify this area anytime soon. What? They are?”
On the other hand, 61% of the population is black, so if you re-read the above paragraph it means something completely different.
In other words, there are hard numbers that support either narrative.
Let’s take a deconstruction multiple-choice exam. What is the reason CNN changed its narrative:
A. CNN is trying to differentiate its brand.
B. It forgot that electing Obama means we are in the post-racial world, even though every news agency neglects to define what exactly this means.
C. Something changed in six days which wasn’t either our cultural ADD or Lupus.
There is data to support either narrative
D. All of the above.
I’ll wait for you to bubble the scantron.
The answer is D.
At 1:30 in the video, we have our “you’re doing a good job, Brownie” moment. A state politician, in this case the speaker of the state house, ensured that he won’t be running for Governor or U.S Congress in 2012.
“Have you ever been to Cairo?” Just what the hell was he referring to? Or the better question to direct his way; “Do you suffer from some kind of neurological impairment?”
Whether his comments are referring to the fact that Cairo is poor, black or some combination of the two is immaterial to the situation; hell, he might just hate the town because he got food poisoning. Regardless, how can any politician, even state level ones, forget the first commandment of politics?
Thou shalt not be or in any way appear to be racist unless you are Robert Byrd or Strom Thurmond.
Too bad they can’t vote in Missouri.
Going back to entire point of this article—Why did the narrative change? Because a state politician said something profoundly stupid, reminded the press of the Super Dome and allowed CNN to change the narrative. Regardless of electing a black president, race is still the most important sensitive sociological and political issue in the U.S, and by the extension, the politician’s comments allowed CNN to maintain its brand of “being unafraid to tackle the controversial issues.”
Then again, all of this is a trick question. If you watched the video closely you might have also noticed that the decision to flood the farms to save Cairo was made in 1927.