Wednesday, March 26, 2008

What is Truth?

I woke up this morning and like every day for the past 10+ years I flipped on the Today Show on NBC. Normally their light hearted humor and informative take on the morning news gets me going with out the jarring effect of CNN.
This morning was different and I must say I was disappointed with my favorite news anchor Ann Curry who unlike most mornings was hell bent to create an issue out of thin air with her ram rod questioning of CNBC's Donny Deutsch and humorist/TV commentator Nancy Giles about the Lebron, Gisele Vogue cover. My commute to work on the train was filled with a sadness as I began to realize that it wasn't just this cover issue but several issues of the past few days. I ruminated all day on weather I would break with the format of my blog to vent on some these disappointing moments of humanity. So here I am...let me move this off my chest for a second.

So here it is, this months Vogue cover of Lebron James and supermodel Gisele, the image was taken by celeb photographer Annie Liebovitz. Showing her typical style of capturing the essence of both of her subjects, a pro basketball player (large by virtue of the sport) and the high fashion model. When I first saw the cover in passing I knew she had taken the image... I can pick people styles as easily as I can see my own. As I flipped through the magazine that I ended up buying...there were several other parings of models and athletes in the spread, though none of the other images had the same visual impact as the cover... This morning I wake up to this punishing interview and controversy where Ann Curry seemed hell bent on promoting that we now see it as the embodiment of racial and sexual stereotypes, that it's a depiction of an aggressive, black man in a King Kong-like pose, embracing a white woman, a Fay Wray-like "damsel in distress." I wanted to punch my TV!!! worse yet I was disappointed in Ann Curry. First Lebron was captured in a typical Lebron style as a competitive sportsman and Gisele (smiling) looked nothing like a damsel in distress!

While I am all to aware of the representational issues being expressed here I was saddened by the lack of common sense and the presses need to create news through contrived controversy. I am disappointed in our inability as humans to find our way out of this racial abyss that has no end, and I am forced to realize that many people have a vested interest, personal and financial on both sides of the issue to make sure the abyss is never traversed safely.

On to the next story... As I have repeatedly said I am not here to sway anyone politically, and I have always posted stuff as things to inform ones own mind... but there are some things that I just don't understand.

Apparently this is Hillary running for cover from snipper fire after leaving the relative safety of a C17 in Bosnia.

Now I am not going to pass judgment on anyone about the use of hyperbole, everyone could and would be found guilty of its use from time to time. Myself included! My disappointment comes at her arrogant response to her story about the sniper fire she so vividly remembered and described repeatedly in chilling detail to buttress her claims of foreign policy “experience” that never happened. "I say millions of words everyday, I simply mispoke myself" Basically get over it "I was tired" After initially dismissing the controversy over her comments as a "minor blip", she told a Pittsburgh radio station: "You know I have written about this and described it in many different settings and I did misspeak the other day. This has been a very long campaign. Occasionally, I am a human being like everybody else." She insisted it was the "first time in 12 years" she had spoken inaccurately about the trip. But her Bosnia anecdote has been a regular feature of her stump speeches. On the trip, the then First Lady and her daughter Chelsea, then 16, emerged smiling from a C-17 transport plane to be met by Emina Bicakcic, eight, who told them: "There is peace now because Mr Clinton signed it. All this peace. I love it."

I have always believed that several elements of civility have fallen since the late sixties/early seventies. We are confronted by truths that had long gone covered up by the civilized sensibilities of the 50's Carl Bernstein was at the epicenter of one those seminal moments - Watergate.... we have all seen the world different from that moment. Ironicly he weighs in today by quoting some passages from his Hillary biography A Woman in Charge: "Hillary Clinton has many admirable qualities, but candor and openness and transparency and a commitment to well-established fact have not been notable among them. The indisputable elements of her Bosnian adventure affirm (again) the reluctant conclusion I reached in the final chapter of A Woman In Charge, my biography of her published last June:

“Since her Arkansas years [I wrote], Hillary Rodham Clinton has always had a difficult relationship with the truth… [J]udged against the facts, she has often chosen to obfuscate, omit, and avoid. It is an understatement by now that she has been known to apprehend truths about herself and the events of her life that others do not exactly share. ”

“Almost always, something holds her back from telling the whole story, as if she doesn’t trust the reader, listener, friend, interviewer, constituent—or perhaps herself—to understand the true significance of events…”

The Bosnian episode is a watershed event, because it indelibly brings to mind so many examples of this tendency– from the White House years and, worse, from Hillary Clinton’s take-no-prisoners presidential campaign. Her record as a public person is replete with “misstatements” and elisions and retracted and redacted and revoked assertions…

To further deflect she further inflamed the Obama campaign with "He would not have been my pastor," Clinton told a gathering of the campaign press corps, repeating a line she used earlier in the day on a Pittsburgh radio program. "You don't choose your family, but you choose what church you want to attend." A seeming retraction from her comments last week.

Again I am saddened by the race card being engaged by Hillary, wasn't Bill the "first black president?" I guess not. And what of the picture of Bill and Hillary and Reverend Wright all about?

Civility, Truth, Morals, Racism all churning into one big mess.. Finally I am wounded by the events in Detroit the past few weeks. Kwame ... 44,000 text messages??!!!

Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick being arraigned in 36th District Court in Detroit on felony perjury charges.

The Carges stem from text messages he had between himself and his former Chief of Staff Christine Beatty whom he had an extra marital affair. The content of the text messages clearly show that he lied in a civil case between him and some Detroit City employees who had been let go with out cause. That case settled out of court for millions that Detroit had to pay and woefully needed to stay afloat.

Detroit has for three decades tried, sometimes clawing its self out of the racial abyss of the riots of the 60's. I wonder if the police who busted the blind pig(speak easy) all those years ago ever thought that their actions would propel Detroit into one of the biggest race riots in American history and into a subsequent hole so deep that we would still be struggling in 2008 to get out? I wonder if Carl Berstein thought by outing Richard Nixon that America would slide slowly down the proverbial slope to the place it sits today?

Honesty seems subjective when it should be objective... Race remains the millstone around Americas neck with both sides adding to the weight and drowning together in the process. My hometown sliding into the Detroit river because of lies and deception.

It used to be better, even if it only seemed better... will it ever get better?

I'm done rambling, thanks for letting me vent.

All photos and some text by AP(uncredited)& Annie Liebovitz.
Note: All images and text (not specified) is copyrighted by Christopher Cushman. This site does not specify or denote the sexual orientation of any model and as such please post your comments accordingly.


Lewis said...

Hey Baby Boy,

While I can agree with your rants on Hillary & Kwame, I think you miss the point of the Vogue matter. If anything, the debasing cover (as a black man who is aggressive in my line of work I was insulted) spoke to the lack of diversity which still exists at the top echalons of many publishing houses. Perhaps, had there been more Blacks on the editorial staff someone just might have said "Hey guys, even though it's not intended to be, couldn't this be reasonably interperted (sp?) as King Kong like."

So Chris, Ann Curry was NOT making a big deal out of nothing. The image of the Black man was an issue when Newsweek darkened O.J. to make him look more menacing (though not intended to have racial undertones . . . ha!) and it is an issue here. Neither of which should be easily accepted or easily dismissed.

You refer to Giselle as not looking like a damsel in distress, well I'm sure the white woman that Emmitt Till whistled at wasn't in distress either and we see what that led to.

As always,

Mad Love & Respect,


EpiphanyNoir said...

Lewis! wise beyond your years... Simply put the photographs were showing the visual contrast between the aggressive nature of sports and the passive world (at-least on the surface;-) of modeling.
There is a 3 point litmus test one should apply in all cases 1. Did the photograph show willing participants who had been briefed on the concept? 2. Was there a malicious attempt on the part of the photographer to issue a negative racial remark with the work? 3. How big of a controversy was it in hindsight? In this case the magazine had many athletes and models doing their respective things actin aggressive and passive but never towards each other. (this is an important nuance not mentioned by Ann) I'm positive Labron knew what he was doing and as he is well educated I'm equally sure he would know when he was being mis-represented in a photograph.. and has agents who would tell him if he didn't. Second Annie Liebovitz is anything but racist and has taken the portraits of many people of all colors and not once did she mis-represent them in her work, I cant conceive that she would start being insensitive after years of work. And third, the controversy seems to have lived and died on the Today show.... It did not seem to make it out to the rest of the world who seemed to take it with the same common sense my remarks asked for. No Jessie Jackson, or any of the myriad of other pot stirrers... So not perceived by to many as being important.

Your example of the OJ picture is an apple orange comparison to the extreme. What they did WAS premeditated, with out the knowledge of the participant and was a major deal. The magazine owed up to the lack of taste and sensitivity. In hind site it becomes somewhat ironic given that he was guilty and has as much admitted it in a book which was equally insensitive in nature to the families of the victims....

I am very sensitive to these issues and was not trying to dismiss it out of hand, I simply wanted people to think about it first instead of acting on emotions which cloud reality in some cases. Still love Ann as she is normally a fab-u-lous human being.... Again Labron is not Emmitt and she is not friends with the KKK...she clearly seems to be having fun having her picture taken with a successful basket ball star!

Thanks for posting your comments, I have allot of respect for you and your thoughts... Always think positive about others intentions....

Love ya back! Christopher

Lewis said...

Hey Chris,

Just wanted to address 2 things in your response.

1) It was a BIG deal here in the States, there were articles in the LA Times, the Detroit Free Press, and Lebraun & Gisselle discussed the matter on Oprah (I think, I heard that).

2) I never said it was intended to be racist(thus negating your litmus test). However, perception is reality. And all this is colored (no pun intended) by years and years of misrepresentations of Blacks in the media and entertainment arenas (i.e., Sambo, Al Jolson). Unfortuantely, those images, and any likeness thereof, still hurt and offend. It is not enough to simply say "Opps, didn't mean it." In my experience it's always the actions of those who didn't mean to be racist that hurt the most.

Lastly, I really want to underscore the major point of my previous post: There needs to be more diversity where decisions are made in the corporate world. It is only then that these fiascos and hurts can be avoided.

Love Ya,


P.S. We have to discuss the definition of "highly educated" being that Lebraun went straight from high school to the pros. ;-P

P.P.S. Love the blog, I read it at least once a week. Keep up the great work.