Monday, December 07, 2009

The Magical Misery Tour

In the 18th century, well-to-do Londoners visited the Bethlem Royal Hospital ("Bedlam"), the insane asylum, for entertainment. It was considered vastly amusing to watch the wretched inmates, many chained to the wall, acting out their madness. If a prisoner-patient refused to cooperate by behaving dementedly enough for the spectators, they were permitted to shout at and poke the poor wretches until they obtained a satisfying result.

An appalling story of man's inhumanity. But at least London didn't promote tours of the site, or shake down visitors for making the guests go insane. Leave that to south Los Angeles, gangland central.

New headquarters of Drop Dead Tours, Inc.

The LA Times explains:
A group of civic activists, united by faith and a belief that the poor economy in the interior of Los Angeles is a social injustice, is preparing to offer bus tours of some of the grittiest pockets of the city, including decayed public housing, sites of deadly shootouts and streets ravaged by racial unrest.

After a VIP preview last weekend, L.A. Gang Tours expects to open to the public in January, giving tourists a look at the cradle of the nation's gang culture -- the birthplace of many of the city's gangs, including Crips and Bloods, Florencia 13 and 18th Street.
To do the business right, they might put up historic markers. "On this site, 'El Lobo Loco' (1986–2005) fell victim to a shotgun blast during the course of his duties as a lookout." "Here was the site of the armory of the Screaming Armadillos, 1979 until it was raided in 1990."
"This is ground zero for a lot of the bad in this city. It could be ground zero for a lot of the good too," said Alfred Lomas, a former Florencia member who has become a leading gang intervention worker in South Los Angeles and is spearheading the tours. "This is true community empowerment."
Excuse me? True community empowerment? Busing thrill-seeking tourists around to show them authentic urban pathology — your area's pathology? "Hey, Duke, how 'bout we finish up by giving the dudes a spike and let 'em do up, you know, just fruit juice or somethin' in the seer-inge, make it like real?"

Actually, "It wasn't long ago that organizers decided against a plan to have kids shoot tourists with water pistols, followed by the sale of T-shirts that read: I Got Shot in South-Central."

Naturally, the profits from the tours — at a planned fee of $65 per adult (reductions for children and the aged?) — will go for uplift. "[Profits will be] funneled back into the community through jobs, 'franchised' tours in new areas and micro-loans to inner-city entrepreneurs. Early routes will focus largely on South L.A., with forays through Watts and Florence-Firestone."

Franchised gang-bang tours! At last, a growth industry for underdeveloped neighborhoods! Think of the grant potential. Massive Stimulus money.


Gang shoot-out turf curator. Thorough knowledge of gang history and locations required. Women, minorities especially encouraged to apply. Cite employment notice SOUTH CENTRAL-4522-J-13B.

Corpse model specialist Grade II. Poses as shooting victim. Experience preferred. Women, minorities especially encouraged to apply. Cite employment notice WATTS-8549- L-347F.
"It's going to be fascinating -- but really controversial," said Francisco Ortega, a field staffer with the Los Angeles Human Relations Commission and a respected mediator and neighborhood advisor in South L.A. Ortega said there could be great value in "sensitizing people, connecting them to the reality of what's on the ground."

"But the other side is that it could come across like a zoo or something," Ortega said. "You're being carted about: 'Look at that cholo over there!' It could be perceived as demeaning for the people who are living in these conditions. I don't know how they're going to manage those perceptions."
Not to worry one slight bit, Francisco. We've got your back.

Perception management specialist Grade III–IV. At tour conclusion, sensitizes tourists. Explains that what they have seen is, despite appearances, a vibrant community undone by racism. LA Times former reporters especially encouraged to apply. Cite employment notice PR-0083-T-386J.

Graffiti art curator and guide Grade III. Familiarity with tags, from beginning of Mexican immigration to present, required. Street cred a plus. This is a non-tenure-track position. Cite employment notice GRAF-7330-G-991U.
Other backers include Ron Noblet, a leading gang expert and an early proponent of using gang intervention to augment traditional police tactics. Noblet dismissed any potential for criticism or controversy.

"There will be a lot of people who will be delighted if he fails," Noblet said of Lomas. "But there is clarity in the dream."
I have a dream …



yih said...

"But the other side is that it could come across like a zoo or something,"


MaryJ said...

If they make enough money off of this plan to relieve the taxpayers of some of their welfare benefits, I don't mind the plan at all.