Monday, August 9, 2010

A Low Blow to Wyclef

In a New York Times article entitled, "Haiti's (Would Be) Hip Hop President", author, Charles M. Blow took a few cheap shots at Wyclef Jean, echoing the now-consistent phrase among quite a few bloggers and pundits that Wyclef is "incoherent". I already knew he was trying to start something with the title of his piece, although sometimes editors choose titles, so it would still mean they were trying to start something, especially upon the heels of the disastrous, Kwame Kilpatrick, former "Hip Hop Mayor" of Detroit. That's another blog topic for another day but the association is purposeful and clear.

I learned from Mediahacker's article, "Wyclef Jean: Haiti's Sarah Palin" that the above picture is the first picture that comes up when anyone googles Clef. Mind you, I have never seen this picture before but you know somebody paid to have that listing pop up first, to showcase all of the hedonism, conspicuous consumption and narcissism that has come to define Hip Hop---and is oh so American!

As I wrote in my previous blog, I disagree with the charge that Wyclef is incoherent; but what bothers me about the accusation is the unfairness of it.

First, there is this description of Wyclef's interview on CNN:
CNN’s Wolf Blitzer put the question to Jean on Thursday on “Larry King Live.” Here is the sum total of Jean’s rambling, somewhat incoherent, answer: “Well, after Jan. 12th, I would say over 50 percent of the population is a youth population. And we suffered for over 200 years. Now that our country has a problem, it’s a chance to rebuild from the bottom on up. And I don’t even say I’m trying to be president. I’m being drafted by the youth of Haiti. Right now is a chance for to us bring real education into the school, infrastructure, security and proper jobs. So this is some of the reasons that I’m running.”
Wow! Let’s just say that he’s no Demosthenes.
No, Wyclef may not be Demosthenes but he's also not the bionic man. There were sound/connection problems from the start of the interview, to the point where Wolf had to stop it and come back to Wyclef. Further, you could hear the chanting and cheering of the people behind him, as he struggled to hear the question and there was a clear delay. Yes, that paragraph, seems "somewhat incoherent" as WRITTEN; but it also seems like the attempt to start (or restart) a few independent thoughts that were being interrupted by background noise during a live interview (such as why he's running, what made him run, what the people seem to want, Haiti's history and what he wants to fix). This was clear to anyone who watched the interview. Look, Wyclef is not dumb, so if you don't want him to run for President, then just say that.

Wyclef is not Barack. But he's not Sarah Palin either.

Another unfair and rather slick editing job came with the description of Wyclef's troubles with Yele Haiti. After repeating the whole $400,000 allegation (something which has never been proven, no fines, no fees, no penalties), Blow then writes:
Jean has denied any wrongdoing and stepped down from the foundation on Thursday.
It's interesting. Both of these statements are fact and, yet, Wyclef denied any wrongdoing when The Smoking Gun first accused him of improprieties with Yele Haiti---in January 2010! It is now August and, for the purposes of running for President of Haiti, Wyclef stepped down from the foundation. Two separate and unrelated facts, seemingly put together to throw even more shade upon Wyclef.

As I've said, it's entirely fair to hoist a mountain of scrutiny and questions upon Wyclef. After all, he asked for it and it comes with the territory. I just expect for people (especially journalists) to be fair.

Having said that, Blow's last paragraph definitely struck me and it is something that has been weighing on my conscience for a while now. Yes, I am excited about Wyclef's candidacy in the same way I was excited about Al Sharpton's candidacy for President of the U.S. At the time, things were so bad, I did not care if Sharpton was simply clamoring for attention and raising his political profile (and therefore, speaking engagements, relevance, etc.) but the fact is, unlike Sharpton running for President of the U.S. with little chance of success, Wyclef has an actual chance at becoming the President of Haiti, so when Blow offered this final thought, it has echoed what others have shared regarding their concerns and I have to admit that it scares me, too. Blow stated:
Jean seems sincere, earnest and eager. He wants to help, and that’s noble. And the country has had so many poor leaders that it’s tempting to simply say: “Why not Wyclef?” But now is not the time to gamble. Haiti needs a serious and seasoned leader at this critical juncture — someone dedicated to the difficult and unglamorous work of applying the principles of good governance on a daily basis. In addition to rebuilding from the earthquake, Haiti’s next president must have the commitment and know-how to build viable health, educational and security infrastructures to support the country’s citizens, nurture domestic industries and attract foreign investment. It’s hard to see Jean as that leader. A Jean presidency could not only prove unwise, it could prove disastrous. And the last thing Haiti needs right now is another disaster.

That hurt...because it's true. Now is really NOT the time to gamble and, yet, I would greatly appreciate learning more about the other candidates that have the experience Haiti needs.

These latest articles, posts and challenges have inspired another post on what is NOT being asked about Wyclef or his Presidential run, that I think should be asked. As usual, if you want something done right, you have to do it yourself.

Stay tuned... and see you on Twitter! (#haiti #wyclef)


Anonymous said...

Great post. Grabbed my attention being of Haitian decent but not a fan of blogs I appreciate your objectivity. Keep up the good work.

Choqlate said...

Whoever dug-up that picture of the anti-Wyclef, man... I have trouble visualizing Wyclef without a guitar. It would be interesting to find the original intention/audience for the picture.

Dr. Goddess said...

@Anonymous, thank you so much for reading, even if you're not a fan of blogs!

@Choqlate That WOULD be interesting to find the initial intent for the article. I'm sure we can, let's get on it! and like you said, it's hard to picture Clef without his guitar but then again when you're trying to cast him in one, particular light, then of course this picture is the perfect choice.