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Amid Jokes, Hidden Intentions…
Recently Conan O’Brien, the latest host of NBC’s The Tonight Show, reflected on New Jersey’s largest city, Newark, as a joke. Essentially he said: "The Mayor of Newark, NJ wants to set up a city-wide program to improve residents’ health. That’s good, the health care program would consist of a bus ticket out of Newark."
Cory Booker, Newark’s current Mayor then posts a You Tube video, mocking O’Brien’s comments by alluding to the ‘fact’ that the city is a fast growing city, and we then see some of the Mayor’s chosen vistas: a construction site, some residents sitting on the stairs of their home which has steel bars on street facing windows, a motorcycle cop whizzing by the camera on a downtown street, and what appears to be a Newark police press conference. We then are graced with an ex police chief, supposedly appointed to ‘other duties’, gallivanting through the halls of Newark’s city hall with a microphone, a la Larry King, asking some supposed Newark residents what they thought about O’Brien’s comments: what do we see?
One ‘resident’ responds: ‘Conan who’? And another makes like Muhammad Ali with ‘let me at him’, while being held back by two other African-American men posing as Newark natives.
Mayor Booker then concludes the video with some parting comments; in a straight face, he says to all the boys and girls out in the audience of You Tube Land: ‘Conan, I am officially putting you on the Newark New Jersey Airport’s, ‘No Fly List’, try JFK buddy!"
Truly, I am not making this up; you can see the video here. All jokes aside, let us consider some points:
With so many problems that the city is facing, its Mayor feigns shock at a comedian’s joke about Newark’s long problem with resident safety; Putting aside the consideration that the Conan quote is a ‘non-issue’, the Mayor of New Jersey’s largest city uses valuable time and resources to create a You Tube video that focuses on:
a) a home with steel bars on its windows;
b) a police press conference;
c) a motorcycle cop whizzing through a city street;
d) a Newark resident who obviously is either not a Tonight Show viewer, or is on a different plane of reality;
e) a group of African-Americans playing on the pugilist theme, of ‘let me at him’; or perhaps believe the way to settle an argument is by using violence;
f) and finally a Mayor who plays with the notion that people can be placed on Homeland Security No Fly Lists, enemies of the state lists, at the drop of the hat… The fact that a supposedly Democratic Mayor gests in this manner is quite troubling and should give voters and civil rights activists food for thought.
You be the judge, what does all this say about the City of Newark, and its main politician?
I think this whole scene is more than it seems, it is the exploitation of a non-event to focus a national public light on the city, but why?
Could there be some other intentions behind the scenes? Perhaps… but amid rampant poverty, unemployment, and crime in this city, its Mayor instead decides, more than once to parade the stages of comedians (Colbert, Maher, and now O'Brien) to pander to a national public about how sincerely concerned he is with ‘his’ city… with scenes that to most viewers reinforces a ‘city under siege’, replete with stereotypes of less than average people… perhaps the overall impression is that this truly is a joke of a city.
You can view the Mayor's video here: www.youtube.com/watch?v=NIMRIQh7BJk
Victor M. Saraiva
Posted October 05, 2009
URL: www.thecitizenfsr.org SM 2000-2011
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