So angry at 60 Minutes and its Africatown debacle
Last edited Mon Nov 20, 2023, 09:47 PM - Edit history (2)
In case you didn't see it, CBS news show "60 Minutes" revisited Africatown, near Mobile, Alabama, to cover a meeting between descendants of illegally imported African captives and the contemporary members of the Meaher family whose ancestors broke federal law (and were never duly prosecuted) to smuggle in those unfortunate souls then enslave them. Journalist Anderson Cooper and the segment's producers also let the Meahers off the hook during the coverage.
They allowed the Meahers, represented by one member who is an accountant and another who is an attorney, to pass on blame for Africatown's 150 years of mistreatment to one ancestor, long since dead.
The transcript can be found here:
What Cooper omitted were accounts easily found in news reporting of how the Meahers raked in mountains of money through leasing to toxic industry that surrounds and riddles Africatown. They were chiefly slumlords to a sizable portion of Africatown residents, then demolished those ramshackle homes rather than bring them up to the minimal level code required. And the property they didn't outright own, they poisoned with the industry that stuffed their pockets.
It's in this article:
All that money became generational wealth for the Meahers while they spoiled what morsel of generational wealth belonged to the families of the Africans they transported here. Cooper mentioned none of it.
There were also follow-up segments posted to YouTube:
What Cooper omitted in this instance was that the building the Meahers sold for "a fraction of its appraised value" was then assessed by inspectors to be in such a state of dilapidation that it would require demolition at a cost that would exceed its newly re-estimated value. Cooper never inquired how a building in disrepair could be so highly over-assessed initially. Nor did he ask the accountant and lawyer if the family was able to claim the sale as a tax deduction in any way.
It is possible the Meaher family was able to make good p.r. from this roundabout donation that not only saved them the cost of demolishing a building unsuitable for lease, but actually saved them a little scratch in taxes. The money the Meahers made from the sale was also likely the equivalent to what the attorney's parents frivolously spent on her months-long party as queen of the local debutante posse some 15 years ago. Nor did Cooper ask the attorney why her initial foray into Africatown included a camera crew that apparently joined her, or if she had been there since.
Everything Cooper left out in order to make the Meahers look better is easily accessible simply through online searches.
Nor did Cooper point out that the Africatown neighborhood he was shown walking with Joycelyn Davis, Lewis Quarters, was surrounded and marginalized by a lumberyard that had even gone so far as to consume an old graveyard that used to be there. Not only did that lumberyard make its own toxic contributions with chemicals used for wood treatment, but Mobile's current mayor is a scion of the timber family who ran that company and only recently sold their business for tens of millions of dollars.
especially if they have three stories they normally do. Id bet they will have a follow up on the story in the future where maybe they can go into more detail. Thanks for the synopsis.
added onto their standard hour show. They had plenty of time and the obvious follow-up questions wouldn't have eaten up much of it.
... one has to suffer through offensive corporate advertising as well.
Television news and opinion is a poor reflection of reality at best, a heap of lies and deception at its worst.
I used to watch television news and opinion, my wife never did. Sometimes she'd get home from a long day at work and ask, "Why are you watching that crap?"
I guess I watched it because my dad did. I grew up with it. Whenever we had a working television he'd get home from his union job, pop open a beer, and watch the news on our local CBS affiliate. He'd also watch 60 Minutes.
My opinion of television news and opinion became entirely negative after 9/11/2001. That's when I quit watching. A few years later my wife and I quit cable and broadcast television entirely, and our television became a DVD player. That's all it did. Our kid, who was home from college, later set us up with Netflix. These days we usually subscribe to two or three commercial-free streaming services.
Here's the problem with television news and opinion: It frequently sneaks past our critical thinking skills. If I'm reading news and opinion, say in a local paper or on a news site I subscribe to, and I run across something that doesn't smell right I can stop reading right then and there and ask myself why. Maybe I'll exclaim "this is bullshit!"
Unfortunately television gets us in the habit of letting things slide, it makes us anxious that we might miss what comes next. Discerning bullshit on television, as you did here, is not easy. The easiest thing to do is soak it all in, maybe thinking about it later, maybe not.
There has even been a movie about the place. https://www.imdb.com/title/tt10265906/ and a documentary https://www.netflix.com/tudum/articles/descendant-documentary-trailer
Which gives Cooper and his research assistants less excuse for missing all these salient points. Everything I mentioned is easily accessible online. It isn't hidden information.
of it. Yes the story sure made the Meahers family look reasonable, made them look actually courageous for allowing themselves to be confronted. I had no idea what the real story was and now I'm disgusted the way it was told. They had the whole last half hour to do a better job or they shouldn't have bothered at all. I'm going to read about this on my own obviously can't depend 60 Minutes ... Thanks for the information.
The first is Nick Tabor's book "Africatown." It is exceptionally well done and provides subtle insights only available from the "inside" of Mobile's labyrinthine and somewhat anachronistic social system.
The second is Sylviane Diouf's "Dreams of Africa in Alabama." She wrote this seminal work in 2007.
or even question the Meaher family members on, members who I remind you are an attorney and accountant.
The credit union building has been abandoned for the past 15 years, boarded up and mothballed off Bay Bridge Road across from Kimberly Clarks industrial property.
During the June news conference, the buildings sale drew activists and Africatown supporters. The citys Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funds were used to purchase it.
Within 90 days, a food bank was supposed to be up and running inside it. The newly formed Africatown Redevelopment Corporation (ARC) was supposed to follow and set up an office adjacent to the food bank. None of that happened because of the buildings condition.
When you know the fair market value of a building, and it was around $300,000, had the (estimates) come back at that, it mightve made sense, said [Mobile County Commissioner Merceria] Ludgood about a renovation project. But to do more than double its value in renovations, and then you are stuck with the same (building) footprint, (renovation did not make sense).
The Meahers sold the building to the city of Mobile for $50,000. Also a reminder that Mobile Mayor Sandy Stimpson is old buddies with the Meaher clan. They have mutual interests in the timber business and share memberships in many of the same exclusive social organizations. Stimpson's family owned the lumberyard that encroached on Lewis Quarters, a historic Africatown neighborhood.
So what it looks like is the Meahers got to unload a building that would have cost more than its current value to renovate -- maybe claim it as some sort of charitable tax deduction? -- then use the good p.r. to defray public criticism for their longstanding role in the exploitation of Africatown.
There's a reason former Mobile County Superintendent of Education Douglas Magann called Mobile "the last great plantation" back in the 1990s.
This is an excellent documentary, mostly because the Clotilda descendants are front & center telling THEIR stories.