"the pull of sentimentality away from reality’s hardness"
January 17, 2015 6:29 PM   Subscribe

On Sentimentality: A Critique of Humans of New York

Remove the Western Lens:
Humans of New York photographer Brandon Stanton’s “World Tour” involves traveling to 10 countries to showcase the Humans of the Developing World, or rather to answer the novel question: “Are there humans in the developing world?”
posted by kenko (44 comments total) 25 users marked this as a favorite
Reality isn't sentimental or hard. Both sets of concepts are strictly human inventions.
posted by saulgoodman at 6:36 PM on January 17, 2015 [4 favorites]

That said, the critique does have some merit.
posted by saulgoodman at 6:38 PM on January 17, 2015 [1 favorite]

On the contrary, reality is hard, as in, it is hard for us, the humans, to face real problems, even real people (our friends, etc., among them), as they are. Sentimentality in representations is one technique for not doing that, by enabling the viewer to look past the specificity of a situation or person (or by simply not presenting that specifity) and making it a pat opportunity to feel some general emotion and move on. It's a technique of avoidance. (And let's admit it, being face to face with the difficulty of reality (sorry, paywall) all the time would be pretty unbearable.)

To say that reality is hard isn't ascribing some human-independent property to it (what would that mean, reality is hard?). It's similar to saying that taking responsibility is hard, or having a frank conversation with a partner is hard, or that attempting, as a white man, to understand and live with the undeserved benefits one has received on the backs of others is hard (whereas just saying, say, "everyone's a little bit racist, you know? and it's systemic, therefore not personal", is easy—though that isn't an example of sentimentality).
posted by kenko at 6:48 PM on January 17, 2015 [4 favorites]

To say that everything Mr. Stanton presents is a fiction based solely on the fact that he is the person he is makes me wonder exactly what each of these authors believes "Humans of New York" to be. To me, it's an intensely personal photo blog by a single photographer, who is representing his New York, or his travels in the world. It's not presented as news photography in any way, but the popularity of it is apparently ruffling feathers of those who believe they alone understand what the "real' stories of the people in the photographs are about.
posted by xingcat at 6:59 PM on January 17, 2015 [21 favorites]

I've only been seeing a filtered view of HONY as people have shared it on Facebook. There is no doubt that Stanton's lens is smeared with vaseline to soften the world but I have seen a number of multiracial and cross-racial posts on HONY which may be down to the distributed curation network who provide it to me. I can see some merit in the critique but I do wonder if it would be possible to construct a project along similar lines, using similar methods, that would meet with the critic's approval.

Basically, an accusation of sentimentality is a guaranteed way to undermine the perceived value of an emotional connection. In Joyce's "The Dead", the rather weedy protagonist is steadily weakened to be shown as a man of sentimental values and, thus, little merit, when his major crime is being forced into the tortured sandwich of Irish melodrama and a Proust-sans-madeline moment of Universe-shaking recall that results in a epiphany that is almost a mehpiphany. Because sentimentality!

The quote from the first article reveals the critic's lens and why such a project could never satisfy: the sappy notion of shared worldviews and collective human progress, signals his participation in a vaster ideological project. How dare he! The fiend!

HONY has some issues about a first world-lens, yes, and comment censorship is wrong (unless it's truly disruptive), but to attack a personal blog trying to capture some brief human moments in a big city because it is personal, brief, and sentimental about humans... That's missing the point, for me.
posted by nfalkner at 7:06 PM on January 17, 2015 [18 favorites]

> Reality isn't sentimental or hard. Both sets of concepts are strictly human inventions.

Lately I've been thinking that the third concept in that sentence, "reality", is much more of a human invention than we routinely imagine.
posted by benito.strauss at 7:07 PM on January 17, 2015 [7 favorites]

Unsentimentality and cynicism are used manipulatively, too, though. I was referring to the idea of hardness as contrasted with sentimentality in the article. The self-identifying hard-nosed realists are often just as guilty of using their own conceptions of what it means to be unsentimental and clear-eyed to manipulate other people into accepting conclusions it's not in their best interests to reach.
posted by saulgoodman at 7:08 PM on January 17, 2015 [17 favorites]

I like Humans of New York. I don't have a problem with sentimentality now and again, and I have my own encounters with Humans every day, obviously not always good, and, yes, seeing a post on HONY can make me feel better about Humans. I guess checking Facebook is the very definition of avoiding the world while pretending to engage with it but it gets me through the day.

HONY is pretty successful, and the guy may have a lot of adoring fans, but does he really have that much power that he can define how we are all looking at the world?
posted by maggiemaggie at 7:08 PM on January 17, 2015 [2 favorites]

These critiques are interesting to me because HONY has, if anything, pushed to the front of my mind that every single human being you ever encounter has a full and rich life story as involved as your own. I've never seen them as reductive, individually. I haven't been paying attention to them in aggregate, though a friend of mine who could be described as a level 60 social justice warrior is a fan of it, so I'm hesitant to agree with the article. It feels like it was written by one of those people who just automatically hates anything that's popular.
posted by BuddhaInABucket at 7:13 PM on January 17, 2015 [37 favorites]

The secret sits in the middle and knows, benito.strauss, but I don't and it's really none of my business anyway. There is no alternative to reality. Unreality is a human concept that depends on the possibility of reality to remain coherent. In a universe with no reality, it doesn't make sense to speak of anything being unreal because there is no such thing as the real for the unreal to stand in contrast to.
posted by saulgoodman at 7:15 PM on January 17, 2015

It seems weird to call HONY "a personal blog". It supports its author (and I believe employees?), has sent him on multiple international trips (sponsored … by the UN), and has gotten him a book deal. It is a kitsch manufactory.
posted by kenko at 7:38 PM on January 17, 2015 [3 favorites]

The only thing that has raised HONY above the noise for me has been its faithful, blithe, and trite Facebook commentariat who write such audaciously optimistic encouragements to the subject of each photo that it makes me wonder if there aren't entirely different modes of living that I will never comprehend or engage in.
posted by johnnydummkopf at 7:53 PM on January 17, 2015 [4 favorites]

I dunno; I think the soulless exclamations and hyperbole of clickbait links are much more sentimental than HONY's pull. However, I admit that overall, HONY reinforces what I know of people, which is that there are a whole lot of heroes out there and that the reductive and cynical marketing/media image presented to us of a soulless, brutal, credulous, stupid, indifferent "norm" is just one more marketing tool.
posted by Peach at 7:54 PM on January 17, 2015 [9 favorites]

"When love for justice and loathing of imperium manifest in a committed resistance, sentimentality enters only as distraction. Where the two meet, they are invariably at odds."

I bet the author is a hit at parties.

And yet... and yet... and yet... What is it that I don't like about this article? HONY is definitely big enough to be worthy of critique. It is definitely supporting and encouraging a world view that is a bit limited. It's been used by those who hold power to reinforce their positions, directly and indirectly. The photographer/author behind HONY seems to shy away from the difficult questions and issues raised by his purported hobby, a fact I was unaware of until I read this article. So there are some good points in the article.

As BuddhaInABucket points out, HONY has its benefits. Revealing the innate personhood of individuals is nothing to sneeze at, as it were. And the tour, while certainly sentimental and funded as propaganda, woke many people to many different situations around the world. And the kids in the "today in microfashion" sections knock me out with their cuteness.

I think it's the humorless (and maybe occasionally jealous?) tone that the article strikes that galls. It feels like Lenin saying he shouldn't listen to Beethoven because it makes him, to paraphrase, sentimental. In these difficult times for those who seek justice, being told we must deny ourselves yet again, must retain our "committed resistance" in the face of anything touching, feels like yet another brick in the wall. What if we were to simply acknowledge that HONY is yet another imperfection, perhaps grander than some and more miniscule than others. Let us engage it with our eyes open, aware of the problems, but also taking heart in the occasional lift it provides.
posted by aureliobuendia at 7:58 PM on January 17, 2015 [23 favorites]

To me, the article read as though someone just doesn't like HONY and wrote a long article full of jargonistic justification of why no one else should like HONY either. Diane Arbus is held up as a paragon because she apparently critiques the normative establishment by opposing it with her photographs of deviant and marginal people. Or was she exploiting their difference, manipulating them by pretending to understand and empathise with them when in fact she was selfishly using them to make her own reputation as a photographer? It's all in the interpretation.

My point is, humans are humans and artists will have their own motivations as well. This is why we all have the privilege of not looking at art we don't like - even if it is incredibly popular art and makes us want to rant about its unjustified popularity while our own works which "prompt a reconsideration of our visual interactions and confrontations with the world" with their daring imagery languish in relative obscurity.

My other comment is that Smyth is reading an awful lot into both photos she likes and photos she doesn't, and I don't think it's a coincidence that the photos she likes seem to say things she approves of and the photos she doesn't seem to say things she doesn't approve of. Whether they say the same things to anyone else is questionable.
posted by Athanassiel at 7:59 PM on January 17, 2015 [5 favorites]

it makes me wonder if there aren't entirely different modes of living that I will never comprehend or engage in.

Was there ever any doubt?
posted by wemayfreeze at 7:59 PM on January 17, 2015 [2 favorites]

I only see it when linked, usually on Facebook. It isn't a style that does anything for me, but clearly people are finding meaning and connection there. I can see critiquing it but it's hard to imagine something that would both satisfy this critique and please the people who enjoy the current HONY.
posted by Dip Flash at 8:01 PM on January 17, 2015

Unsentimentality and cynicism are used manipulatively, too, though. I was referring to the idea of hardness as contrasted with sentimentality in the article.

I don't see "cynicism" as the antonym of sentimentality. The message of these essays is not "life is hell." James Baldwin is not painting a nasty portrait of humanity with that quote.

Revealing the innate personhood of individuals is nothing to sneeze at, as it were.

I believe the concept of "innate personhood" is precisely what they are critiquing. Of course we are all human. The media certainly dehumanizes many, which makes this response understandable. But surely we can go beyond the simplest refutations to the most egregious insults towards a richer understanding of the circumstances of the oppressed and our own complicity.

It's not total opposition to documenting street life. The first essay provides examples of photography they find suitably critical. The final sentence of this paragraph is probably the most contentious point, and if you disagree with it, the rest won't hold.

The idea that certain populations or individuals can be “humanized” carries, of course, the implication that they were previously less than or somehow other than human. Additionally, it maintains the godlike ability of those controlling discourse and representation to administer this transition from nonhuman to human. Whether the “humanizing” happens in New York City or in Vietnam, the activity of placing people in boxes to prove their humanity does more to reinforce their variance from the normative idea of humanity projected upon them. As dismissible as such dichotomies may be, they exist under the auspices of a hegemonic culture whose racist, heteronormative, patriarchic egocentrisms are directly serviceable to its global imperial schemes.
posted by gorbweaver at 8:17 PM on January 17, 2015 [1 favorite]

I gave up on HONY after this thing.
posted by Halloween Jack at 8:23 PM on January 17, 2015

Well, no, it's not strictly antonymical, but people have a bad habit of confusing their own cynicism for objective realism (zum beispiel, all the works of Ayn Rand).
posted by saulgoodman at 8:36 PM on January 17, 2015 [1 favorite]

I don't buy in to the author's presentation any more than I buy into HONY's. I am struggling with how to process this article in much the same way as aureliobuendia.

Take the Mr. Miyagi photo which she clearly calls out as 'casual racism'. Before I read the caption, my brain looked at that guy, and in the tiniest fraction of a second, the pattern-matching part of my brain tried to recognize it by going through every face I have ever seen. The result was: "no match found, but here are the people that I found that seem a close match." One of those people was Mr. Miyagi, though that had no significance compared to the other people in the results. So I read the caption, and my brain sees the name of Mr. Miyagi - suddenly, without any command, by brain calls up everything it can remember about that character, the actor, the films and TV shows, the celebrity bowling TV show from the 70s I saw him in a few weeks ago, and then calls up my opinion of him and what I associate him with. I then look back at the image, and the Mr. Miyagi association is reinforced, along with the various memories I have of him being a good, funny, and wise (at this point the fact that it is a character and not a 'real person' is not of high importance or relevance). So since it is a pleasant memory, my brain calls for chemicals to be released that are in response to pleasant memories, and I smile.

So I ask you, Melissa Smyth: Is what just happened "casual racism"? I have no idea who that guy is or what kind of person he is. It's a picture of a random old guy that had reminded me of this other old guy, and my pleased response was about the memory association and knowing full well that the random juxtaposition of it being the wrong identification. Is it because I didn't get to see him? I saw him, thought of Mr. Miyagi for less than a second, and then looked again at the guy in the photo, this time a much closer examination. "Yep. I don't know who that person is. Those bags look kind of heavy. I dig the goatee." Then I moved on. Who the old guy was, who that guy is as a person, was not relevant to the format of its presentation. If that's casual racism, then the fact that I don't stop and get to know every person I see on the street who looks like someone else for a fleeting second is also casual racism.
posted by chambers at 8:43 PM on January 17, 2015 [3 favorites]

Despite the seeming inconsequentiality of such a social media phenomenon, its irrelevance to the day’s real political matters make significant, and troubling, its incredible popularity.

Duuuuuude, UNCLENCH!
posted by jason's_planet at 8:50 PM on January 17, 2015 [3 favorites]

The idea that certain populations or individuals can be “humanized” carries, of course, the implication that they were previously less than or somehow other than human.

I think that's the heart of the problem with the critiques of HONY, though (as I recall them.) As much as we would like to think we regard every person as human, no matter their circumstances or culture, wide swaths of the world are presented to us in very generalized ways. Either they are enemies to be hated or victims to be pitied and showered with charity, gamepieces in the political games we play with each other, and that is the only way we ever see them. The protestations of "BUT YOU DON'T CARE ABOUT ____" always ring a bit hypocritical to me, because it seems that the kind of person who usually says that didn't care about ____ either except as an abstract emotional concept that furthers their own goals.

Which is why the international HONY piece struck a chord with a lot of people, myself included; it was revealing to see individuals from places that were merely defined by the behavior of their political leaders, or whether or not they were being killed in horrible ways, doing other things. Making stuff, going to school, having crushes on girls, being friends, telling jokes. The photos didn't shy from the peril they may have been in or the tragedies they faced, but instead of being another piece of agitprop, it felt like something that happened to someone you KNOW, in a way that it never had before. It broke through the fog of generalized compassion fatigue and actually hurt.

It's not bad, necessarily, to be interested in the Big Serious Ideas, but the simple little things, the quiet moments, are in a lot of ways far more important.
posted by louche mustachio at 8:53 PM on January 17, 2015 [16 favorites]

I thought that this Gawker article did a much better job of explaining why HONY can be problematic. But maybe it's because I'm not so good at speaking the normative language of the art academic. And I still think Smyth's criticisms sound more like jealousy than committed resistance born from the love of justice and loathing of imperium.
posted by Athanassiel at 8:59 PM on January 17, 2015 [4 favorites]

My opinion of HONY changed when I encountered a Facebook post in the series featuring a black guy from North Carolina (I think), and the transcription of his commentary used eye dialect, which is both a bugbear of mine and, I would think, antithetical to the photographer's own professed attempt to humanize everyone by providing a basically equivalent channel. I made the mistake of mentioning that directly in the comments, and found an army of respondents totally unwilling to even consider the racial framing of this. And no word from the list owner. Since then I have felt a little more detached from the values of this project.

It's the kind of thing - together with the fair critiques of this article - that makes you question things like Stanton's professed lack of editorializing and the entire project of rendering someone "human," as though an interlocutor is needed to do that. This piece is really good, in that it puts HONY in a much broader context (the analogy with The Family of Man is astute).
posted by Miko at 9:00 PM on January 17, 2015 [1 favorite]

There is such a thing as over romanticising reality as nothing but hard.

Smyth certainly does not come about this critique from a neutral pov, her primary interest is photography of conflict, which in of itself sounds pretty cool, but does make me wonder mildly how much of that bleeds over into how she perceives and critiques others work.

I think the linked article suffers a number of problems, perhaps the largest is laying the responsibility of not carrying the same torch as Smyth at the feet of Stanton because his project is in the spotlight right now. She really uses pretty hostile language at times that drives me away from whatever valid points she may actually have, and so it just reads as if 'he doesn't do it the way I would/it should be so it sucks'. It just seems too much a target of opportunity than of consequence.

I don't really follow HONY mainly because I resist the costalization that seems to infect a lot of America, and there is a lot of good stuff much closer to home,
posted by edgeways at 9:25 PM on January 17, 2015 [1 favorite]

Smyth: "James Baldwin’s words, ever salient, become particularly potent in times of practiced urgency, when the stakes for truth are most vulnerable to the cruel affronts of sentiment."

I would differ with Smyth's characterization that Baldwin's words have always been seen as "ever salient," though it's convenient long after his death to believe it. James Baldwin was frequently, especially in later life when he was no longer respected and feted by the elite, himself accused of putrid sentimentality, along with the more vicious accusation that he was no longer entitled to write about black America because he'd decamped to the French Riviera (even though Baldwin had lived both in the US and in France since he was 24) and no longer knew anything about the way black people lived, which makes his recent resurrection as a writer who had something especially trenchant to say about being black in "the white world" a form of poetic justice.
posted by blucevalo at 9:43 PM on January 17, 2015 [2 favorites]

HONY features a lot of people from lots of walks of life, and quotes them directly with their consent.

Is that sentimentality? Perhaps so, but as long as I don't see many other media outlets showing broad sections of humanity as, well, human, then I'm inclined to feel it's a net positive.
posted by iotic at 2:55 AM on January 18, 2015 [6 favorites]

This article totally reminded me of some of my graduate English seminars, where we earnest young scholars would apply our pet critical theories to tearing down (never building up) bourgeois whatevers. Along with stridency, irony was always prized. "[This thing] is the exact opposite of what it purports to be, precisely because [devastating critical insight]."

And, oh look, Melissa Smyth... is currently pursuing a Masters in Middle Eastern Studies at the University of Texas at Austin, with a concentration in visual culture and photographic representation.

Good for her. I don't begrudge her her opinion. But I do have $5 that says this article is adapted from her program work.

Which is probably neither here nor there, but it's what I wanted to say.
posted by Short Attention Sp at 7:32 AM on January 18, 2015 [5 favorites]

"The idea that certain populations or individuals can be 'humanized' carries, of course, the implication that they were previously less than or somehow other than human."

Yes, that population is called strangers. I don't walk around wishing ill on other people, but I don't spend a lot of time thinking about everyone's journey, either. When I wait on the subway platform, I'm not looking at people and thinking, "I wonder what the proudest moment of that woman's life was." Maybe everyone else lives with that level of empathy and human connection at all times? It's not that "people are interesting; yes, all of them" is a revolutionary concept, but I do feel like I read stories on HONY that I wouldn't hear otherwise.
posted by Charity Garfein at 9:39 AM on January 18, 2015 [8 favorites]

I do have $5 that says this article is adapted from her program work.

There's absolutely nothing wrong with that. Writing and thinking, and public scholarship, are part of academics' jobs. It's as legitimate for her to write about something she's working on as it is for an engineer, musician, or journalist to do so. Your skepticism for intellectual pursuits comes through clearly, but the fact that it's a piece driven by academic work isn't a reason in and of itself to decide what it's saying isn't valid (as I'm sure you know from your own graduate work).
posted by Miko at 9:54 AM on January 18, 2015 [5 favorites]

I hadn't heard about his defensiveness and supporting-the-"colorblind"-status-quo racism on his blog. I've mostly seen the photos shared on Facebook, where they have seemed fine but shallow. I do think it's worth remembering that the stories are not "This is this person's story" but "This is a story this person was willing to tell this particular person." Which, again, would be fine, but the context of the project is definitely presented as being much deeper than that. And I had not realized how commercially successful the blog was, let alone that he was being sponsored by the U.N. (!) to "humanize" people foreign to white Westerners. That level of visibility definitely requires different scrutiny than a small blog, not because we need to tear down people who achieve success but because the aims and claims of any project tend to get bigger as it grows, and aims and claims don't always scale up so well.
posted by jaguar at 10:17 AM on January 18, 2015 [1 favorite]

I do think it's worth remembering that the stories are not "This is this person's story" but "This is a story this person was willing to tell this particular person.

In addition, it's a story this particular person chose to edit out from a longer interview. People don't just blurt out these moments of clarity and insight the second he walks up to them.

Ran across this, too. If nothing else, the nearly open moderation ends up reinforcing a lot of neoliberal talking points and lazy cultural tropes. People read a lot into comments and images that stand alone, and the commenting horde can be incredibly nasty to anyone with a minority view.

I mean, he seems like a very well-intentioned guy, but now that the project is becoming semi-anthropological and even trending into international-relations propaganda, it may be time to scale up to having some critical and supportive advisers who can help guide him through some of the problematics.
posted by Miko at 10:27 AM on January 18, 2015 [3 favorites]

As far as the censorship of the comments, Stanton's actual explanation of it (which is only very selectively quoted in this article) is that any comment that attacks the subject of the photo is deleted. This includes racist comments about the subjects, but it also includes comments accusing the subject of racism, as in the example mentioned in this article. The reason for this is that nobody wants their picture to be taken if they think it's gonna lead to them being attacked on the internet, and HONY doesn't exist without people willing to have their portraits posted. Stanton doesn't necessarily agree with everything his subjects say in their interviews, but he also has an interest in not allowing them to be personally attacked for it.

I'm still not sure whether I believe this is a valid justification for censorship, but it does make a lot more sense to me than just "he's trying to prevent people from calling out racism."
posted by Soramke at 10:37 AM on January 18, 2015 [1 favorite]

>>I do think it's worth remembering that the stories are not "This is this person's story" but "This is a story this person was willing to tell this particular person.

>In addition, it's a story this particular person chose to edit out from a longer interview. vimeo People don't just blurt out these moments of clarity and insight the second he walks up to them.

Interesting video, which made me realize there's yet another layer on it: Each caption is a consciously-chosen bit of a story the subject was willing to tell to that particular photographer knowing it would be shared with millions of people.

Which doesn't make the stories or emotions untrue, just more highly self-aware and curated than generally presented.

And maybe just because I'm the type of person whom strangers approach to tell me about their lives, in addition to being a person who professionally talks to strangers about their lives, the captions seem less like people's actual stories and more like clever soundbites. "What would make a clever caption?" rather than "What's actually going on with this person?", and I think that motivation is highly apparent in that video.
posted by jaguar at 10:44 AM on January 18, 2015

Not every case of editing or not publishing content is censorship. The vastly overly generalized way we use words today makes it very challenging to constructively communicate. Deleting offensive comments on a public forum is not censorship, period. If it isn't some government or establishment entity deliberately suppressing the content for political reasons, it's just not censorship it's the editorial process as it has been understood for hundreds of years. You don't have to call something by a misnomer just to express disagreement with it. Why not just say you don't approve of the editorial choice to delete the comment instead of hyperbolically calling it something it isn't?
posted by saulgoodman at 10:56 AM on January 18, 2015 [2 favorites]

I didn't and wouldn't say it's censorship. I would say it's selection and framing, editing - still not a neutral act, but not the same as censorship, I agree.
posted by Miko at 11:03 AM on January 18, 2015

I gave up on HONY after this thing.
posted by Halloween Jack at 8:23 PM on January 17 [+] [!]

Huh? You "gave up" after he just quoted what this guy told him? That's pretty dumb.
posted by jayder at 5:51 PM on January 18, 2015

HONY has always somehow gotten to me. It bugs me for the same reason Andrew W.K.'s writing does. I know it's sort of an erm, bugbear or hobbyhorse or whatever of mine, but i still think it ties in to something one of my friends wrote a short rant about, the whole "ultra positive woah everything is really great if you look at it life is so inspiring and awesome!".

It's this sort of fake-deep super positive thing that's framed up in such a way that anyone who takes any issue with it, or doesn't think it's awesome, is like some grinchy scrooge hater whose just too pessimistic to enjoy the amazingness of humanity.

I guess the best way to articulate what bugs me is that everyone shares it like it's something super deep, but it just feels really curated. It's like tweets from a major brand, or something. It's a packaged message.

I realize you could say that about everything anyone writes for the most part, but it really just feels like a packaged product carefully designed to produce a specific emotion and reaction, and yet everyone treats it as some genuine encounter. Like they downloaded the memory of finding $20 on the ground then immediately running in to someone crying because they can't afford groceries and handed it to them.

It's like "life isn't that bad :)" porn, or something.

Maybe i am an asshole? I don't know. Something about it puts me off very intensely though. It feels very, very fake. And the fakeness doesn't come from the people in the photos. A big part of it though, is that it seems to be put on some high shelf above criticism 99% of the time. It's represented by it's defenders as something super pure and clean and amazing that's basically unassailable.

Hell, even most criticisms try and shore up their defenses in *isms. I get that "this makes me uncomfortable" isn't the most substantial criticism, but i really hate the implication i've seen many times before that anyone who doesn't like it is some kind of bad person or generic reactionary hater.
posted by emptythought at 8:14 PM on January 18, 2015 [1 favorite]

As somebody from a small Caribbean country most people don't really know about, the HONY world tour was, on the whole, pleasing to me. There's no point in my pretending that people like me couldn't benefit from some humanisation in the eyes of less marginal citizens of the world, is there? No matter how uncomfortable the implications of that might be. For my personal taste, it's all a bit much, but if it helps some of the dear, sweet clueless of planet Earth to fathom the reality that the world is full of actual people, well, that's a good thing.
posted by two or three cars parked under the stars at 10:01 PM on January 18, 2015 [4 favorites]

I always thought the HONY thing was a bit of prosocial PR meant to undercut the attempts of ruralites and movement conservative types to dehumanize urban Americans because they hate urban Americans so much for not falling for their political scams and consistently opposing their attempts to strip the American state and all our public resouces and institutions down to parts that can be melted down and sold out to the private sector on the cheap. So even when I do occasionally find it a little cloying and mawkish in tone, I figure, at least it's trying to serve a public good.
posted by saulgoodman at 7:43 AM on January 19, 2015 [4 favorites]

It's funny - I feel it tends to really support movement conservative tropes.
posted by Miko at 6:15 PM on January 19, 2015

Via Universal Hub: Pigeons of Boston
posted by nonane at 7:04 PM on January 19, 2015

I am very disappointed that those are just stock images of pigeons, not actually photos taken of pigeons around Boston. It makes it about 90% less funny for me.
posted by benito.strauss at 7:10 PM on January 19, 2015

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