Canadaland’s ‘Hongcouver’: when narrative gets in the way
A new episode of Canadaland just came out called ‘Hongcouver’; after I listened to it, I became possessed with a desire to brazenly bite Jeet Heer’s style, & so composed a Twitter essay about Vancouver racism, Chinese money, & the seductive-but-potentially-misleading powers of narrative.
1. The new @CNDLND ep about Chinese money in Vancouver shows the weakness in @JesseBrown’s belief that storytelling inherently serves truth.
2. The lurid appeal of exotic stories about Chinese bajillionaires obscures a) how little we actually know about Chinese ownership in YVR &
3. b) the way these conversations fit in to the long history of Vancouver’s racial imaginary, in which Asia, & specifically China, is Other
4. I wrote in Vancouver Special about how the Chinese have always been scapegoats for White Vancouver’s fears of capitalism, contradictorily
5. In 1907, they were too poor; “regular” (white) people couldn’t compete. In 2007, they were too rich. Same effect in the mythology.
6. As this piece http://bit.ly/1IZoyBU by @AndreaWoo shows, the supposedly overwhelming evidence of Chinese money is pretty overstated.
7. I’m not suggesting there’s no role; also not saying the @CNDLND episode was racist. I’m saying two things:
8. @JesseBrown clearly believes in the power of story. Sometimes, though, boring reporting can come closer to the truth.
9. I.e. “We don’t know for sure. When we look at hydro use…” actually tells us more than “Chinese billionaire dismembering body = YVR”
10. (the just-barely-subtext of the interview is “Jesus, Vancouver is so fucking boring, except on your blog, so I appreciate it.”)
11. But exotic storytelling, including the narratives we tell ourselves, can actually be part of the problem, obscuring the facts & debate.
12. The other point is: it’s not just PC squeamishness to talk about Vancouver racism in this conversation. It’s a real part of the story.
13. It has a long & ignoble history, it affects the way we talk about this issue, & @CNDLND was too quick to dismiss that background.
14. None of this means I think @CNDLND or @JesseBrown are racist. I’ll continue listening & donating to the show, which I think is important