Rutgers Professor Calls Rolling Stone Camden Article “Poverty Porn”

Photo: Wikimedia

Photo: Wikimedia

From Philadelphia Magazine‘s Victor Fiorello – The Rolling Stone article could have been different. It could have been a story about how, as a former Camden beat reporter put it for my class, Camden residents are “resilient.” How they’ve lived with injustice but found sanctuaries in local groups such as the Sophisticated Sisters, the Settlement Music School or the Concerned Citizens of North Camden’s baseball league. But voyeurism drives magazine sales, not hope, and dope fiends make for better pictures than local community members trying to get by.

The pattern of exploiting Camden’s misfortune doesn’t start or end with the media’s “shocking” stories. It is deeply woven into Camden’s history. The surrounding region dumps its waste into a plant in the Waterfront South neighborhood and a horde of predatory businesses have left the neighborhood facing an epidemic of asthma and blight.

When not literally dumping waste, the suburbs have metaphorically dumbed their poor into the city by signing agreements that paid Camden to meet their affordable housing requirements, thus outsourcing their responsibilities to the poor (a now-illegal work-around to the famous Mt. Laurel case which prevented discriminatory zoning to make sure low-income families had access to the suburbs).

Rolling Stone could have written this story, a story of injustice. It’s right there in the text, how power takes advantage of poverty. Taibbi shows how Gov. Chris Christie used Camden for state and national purposes, violently slashing municipal funding, leading to the release of hundreds of police officers, to manufacture a crisis. Now that Christie has gotten his way with the “regionalization” of the police force, he can both claim to have “helped” the city recover (from a crisis that resulted from his policy choice) and also claim nationally that he broke the union and is fiscally disciplined. Everyone wins, except those in Camden who saw the violent results of having their police force slashed to win political points, only to be restored when the city agreed to give up control.

Read more here.

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