POVERTY PORN AND COVID-19


Where is the time for poverty porn during COVID-19?

Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know poverty porn almost sounds too vulgar and highly unprofessional. As a matter of fact, one might even see what we are about to delve into as a fluke, but boy is that wrong!

What is poverty porn you might ask? According to Aid Thoughts (2009), poverty porn is “…any type of media, be it written, photographed or filmed, which exploits the poor’s condition in order to generate the necessary sympathy for selling newspapers or increasing charitable donations or support for a given cause. Poverty porn is typically associated with black, poverty-stricken Africans, but can be found elsewhere” (Aid Thoughts, 2009). Unfortunately, up until this point in time, poverty porn has mostly been applied to low and middle-income countries (LMIC) in need of help. Ads and campaigns have often been run to assuage poverty, hunger, endemics, social disputes, wars, and many other forms of structural violence. However, poverty porn seems to find the most extreme situation that exists and makes it seem like that extremity is generalized across the entire continent. Moreover, high-income countries also seem to view themselves as the saviour of these LMICs, which is evident in their interventions, charities, foundations, ads, trips etc.

The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic has made it glaringly obvious that poverty porn is and has been unnecessary. Poverty porn seems to have worked thus far because said “saviour” organizations have seen themselves as superior. This superiority is rooted in the fact that these countries typically have said solutions and can afford to “share some” of their solutions; whether it be in the form of vaccines, first aid kits, or other resources, to help avert some of the post-colonial effects on LMICs. The lack of poverty porn in times of COVID-19, a virus that has plagued the whole world as opposed to just a village in Africa, has made it aggressively and painfully evident that there is no need for it. All of a sudden, no one has time to present LMICs in a way that strips them of their agency by identifying them only by their suffering and economic state. As a matter of fact, poverty porn has made it evident that we live in a sick world that thrives off a charity cycle, as opposed to an activist-led world.

I currently do not see any organization or media outlet going out of its way to present Italy, China, USA, or even Canada as a weak country that is incapable of helping themselves. This weakness is, unfortunately, a universal truth, as we are all indeed helpless and incapable of a complete solution to COVID-19 until a competent vaccine is generated. Our leaders are releasing people from lockdown prematurely and the Centre for Disease and Control Prevention (CDC) is mixing up COVID-19 test results of two biologically different tests, viral and antibody, that serve different purposes (The Atlantic, 2020). Our incompetency is jarringly obvious, and even though we are “first-world” countries with a tremendous amount of money and resources in the world, we do not see any sickening portrayals of our global helplessness in the media. I am sorry to say this, but such technical test errors might be permitted by the so-called “helpless” LMICs, yet we find all countries at the mercy of the CDC for making critical, life-altering decisions.

COVID-19 has further contributed to the re-evaluation of global priorities and the effective dissemination of captivating information to the public. Let this pandemic serve as a lesson to organizations and media outlets that thrive on the weaknesses and sick portrayals of LMICs. You can get to the same point of seeking mercy and justice for LMIC without the needy portrayal that seems to boost the ego of the saviours.

So again... where is the time for poverty porn during this COVID-19 pandemic?

References

Aid Thought (2009). What is ‘poverty porn’ and why does it matter for development?

Retrieved from:

https://aidthoughts.org/2009/07/01/what-is-poverty-porn-and-why-does-it-matter-for-development/

Madrigal A. C. & Meyer R. (2020). The Atlantic: “How Could the CDC Make That

Mistake? Retrieved from: https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2020/05/cdc-and-states-are-misreporting-covid-19-test-data-pennsylvania-georgia-texas/611935/


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