It’s heartwarming to see an unemployed, panhandling man plucked off a streetcorner and given a job due to his singular talent—that’s why the post-holiday human-interest story about “golden voiced” YouTube sensation Ted Williams spread far and wide last week. But David Sirota at Open Left has dug deeper into the narrative behind Williams’ unlikely rise and found the story of his re-employment to be a silky-smooth public relations maneuver by Quicken Loans and “a microcosm of a media that has become far more a manufacturer of false, establishment-serving storylines than a documenter of genuine everyday reality.”
What’s so galling about this particular instance of American Dream triumphalism is the most famous player now involved: the Cleveland Cavaliers. As Cleveland’s ABC affiliate reports, the NBA team owned by Quicken Loans’ CEO has now “offered Williams full-time voiceover work” and “offered to pay a mortgage on a home” for him. The ABC affiliate—like the rest of the media—hasn’t bothered to point out what The Nation magazine’s Dave Zirin [an Utne visionary] has previously noted: namely, that Quicken Loans has been one of the major banks throwing people out of their homes during the foreclosure crisis. Yes, that’s right: The same company that is bragging about offering a single homeless man a job is the same predatory subprime firm that is making many people homeless—and none of the media covering the story have mentioned that. All we get are stories about how wonderful and generous the Cavs and Quicken Loans are for making their offer to Williams. …
Instead of using Williams’ story to highlight the thousands of other rank-and-file Ted Williamses who didn’t get lucky enough to become an Internet sensation, we are effectively led to believe that Ted Williams is a classic American story emblematic of what supposedly happens all the time in our allegedly well-functioning economy (i.e. “proof that life in this country can change overnight”). Likewise, instead of highlighting the hypocrisy of a company that has caused so much homelessness now using a homeless man to whitewash its corporate record, we get hagiography making that company out to be a benevolent savior.
Cheers to Sirota for daring to ask impertinent questions about the motivations of the golden-hearted Samaritans in Williams’ story. He takes pains in his post to point out that “we should all be genuinely happy for Williams,” and I share the sentiment—but taking a broader perspective on this tale reminds me that whenever a story seems too good to be true, it’s usually leaving something out.
Here’s the original viral video in case you’re one of the few who haven’t see it yet:
Source: Open Left