Unfortunately I must be very brief today. I wholeheartedly recommend you read this article from Vice (the online magazine that brought us the wonderful Guide to North Korea video series) on the media's voyeuristic obsession with the death throes of Detroit. The city is rotting and as the author notes it has become something of a rite of passage for journalists and media outlets to do the stock "Detroit is being abandoned, here are some pictures of how decrepit it is" story. My favorite part aside from the endless stream of non-local media asking local writers to take them on tours of all the best depressing spots is the fact that Time was so lazy that they sent a 24 year old kid to do their token Detroit Is Sad piece; not only did he have all of six hours in the city upon which to base his prose but he was too young to rent a car and had to be dropped off downtown by a taxi.

I guess if Brazilians can sell "Favela tours" to white Euro/American tourists there's every reason for our media to believe that we'd be entertained by a superslum in our own backyard.

6 thoughts on “SADNESS TOURISM”

  • This sounds to me like an echo of New Orleans in the post-Katrina media. There were "devastation tours" there for a while, too.

  • I recently saw a report on French television about the tours they're doing of the Dehli gettos where they filmed "Slumdog Millionaire". Big money in it for some really poor areas.

    "Hey, rich foreigners… come see our slums so you can be shocked by the poverty and touched by the vibrance missing from your own materialistic lives."

    Kind of a morally-queasy stew there.

  • Wait a minute – I thought the media's voyeuristic obsession was with the death throes of Michael Jackson – who btw is STILL dead.

  • About as tasteful as those taxi tours of Belfast hot-spots (sites of notorious Conflict-related shootings / particularly vicious sectarian graffiti) that boast that the driver is a 'former political prisoner'.

  • This is like the conundrum of zoos: even the nicest ones are prisons for the animals, but they do promote awareness and affinity for wildlife, and propagate some breeds. The wealthy tourists cluck and coo and have their pictures taken with the shanties (and leave), but they do shake loose cash while visiting, and promote awareness and affinity for the adorable poor.

    It works best when the rich people don't speak the language, or they'd have tours of Butte, Montana.

    Could Detroit be declared a World Heritage Site?

  • If you really want to be depressed about Detroit's future, you should check out the "nice" part of town and observe how empty it is. I just got back from staying at the brand new MGM Grand Detroit, one of the nicest hotels I have ever been in. I think there were maybe 12 other people staying at the hotel. The casino, however, was full. It was painful to witness and says more about the city's economic prospects than the blighted areas.

    P.S. Vice is awesome.

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