Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Longing For Correcting Images to Jay-Z’s Hip-Hop Hype and Ratner’s Atlantic Yards “Strategy of Distraction”

(Jay-Z on right, above.)

Norman Oder has a couple of new articles out on the subject of Jay-Z and Atlantic Yards, one at his home base Atlantic Yards Report and the other at

See: Wednesday, October 26, 2011, Is Jay-Z just insulated from the Atlantic Yards reality? Or does he understand the hustle, but sometimes feels uncomfortable? , and Tuesday, Oct 25, 2011, Jay-Z’s hip-hop of distraction: The hip-hop superstar hypes a Brooklyn, N.Y., sports arena that failed to deliver on its jobs pledge.

The Salon article is about how Jay-Z is “fronting for two other world-class hustlers: Bruce Ratner, Brooklyn, N.Y’s most powerful developer, and New Jersey (to Brooklyn) Nets majority owner Mikhail Prokhorov, Russia’s second-richest man” becoming the face of the Bruce Ratner/Mikhail Prokhorov (“Barclays”) basketball arena “to distract attention from the hardball politics, sweetheart deals and private profits behind the arena and the rest of the 16-tower project” and as well as unfulfilled and ersatz `promises’ to the community about jobs, housing, design, etc.

Following up in the Atlantic Yards Report article Mr. Oder writes that “one reader suggested that maybe [Jay-Z] the ‘cultural icon’ just doesn't know the facts behind Atlantic Yards.”

Mr. Oder theorizes two possibilities: 1.) Maybe Jay-Z doesn’t understand, 2.) Maybe he does understand, but Mr. Oder then goes on to point out that while Jay-Z certainly knows how to go through the motions of being enthusiastic about the New Jersey Nets basketball team and the Ratner/Prokhorov arena he seems to be “a bit uncomfortable” with what he has gotten involved in if you look at his face in some official publicity photos where he is standing with his “partners.” In theory he should be exuding standard fare PR ebullience, which as a performer one would think he has down pat. Instead, what you see on his face is quite the reverse.

(Left to right in first above: Subsidy collector Bruce Ratner, Borough President Marty Markowitz and Jay-Z, additional figure in second photo is Nets CEO Brett Yormark.)

Mr. Oder comments: These are official photos, not like the unposed candid shot that Tracy Collins captured.” (below)

(For the Noticing New York take on this: Wednesday, October 19, 2011, Reminder: Saturday, October 22, 2011, Performing at First Acoustics, Gathering Time, plus Kim & Reggie Harris.)

Noticing New York can propose a third theory, one that could be considered a hybrid of the other two and one that can go a long way to explain Jay-Z’s sour puss. Noticing New York sallied forth with this theory once before.

The theory?: Jay-Z signed on to an agreement to promote Atlantic Yards once upon a time when he didn’t understand the facts of the megadevelopment but forgot at that time to include in the agreement he signed what is known in the entertainment industry as a “reverse morality” or “reverse morals” clause, a clause that had it been included in his contract, could by its design have given Jay-Z ample opportunity to walk out on the project given the shameful conduct of his partners to date.

The earlier Noticing New York article on the subject is here: Friday, April 8, 2011, “Reverse Morality” Clauses for Celebrity Endorsers: What Are They? Something Celebrities, Including Jay-Z, Should Try Enforcing.

Also of topical interest given the headlines this month, is an article preceding that one (linked to therein) about the morality of the music business in general that discusses Beyoncé (Jay-Z’s wife) taking home a very large check in exchange for her performance for the Qaddafi Family New Year’s Eve 2009 . (See: Wednesday, March 9, 2011, An Insert Preview - Music Superstar Ethics: How Completely You Can Sell “You can say what you say, but you are what you are.” Jay-Zzzzus!)

The Oder Salon article, as specified in its title, informs us how Jay-Z’s posing as a front man for developer (subsidy collector) Bruce Ratner has been important in helping Ratner’s “strategy of distraction” to work out well. Earlier this week I was writing about such strategies of distraction with respect to which Mr. Oder has also supplied the shorthand “department of diverted attention” to note that sites like Mr. Oder’s Atlantic Yards Report can “repeatedly point out” the “inanities of a fawning press” flowing from the barrage of “paid-for corporate speech” and the “pervasive behind-the-scenes flow of press releases” in which corporations invest.

The NNY article about Occupy Wall Street referenced above, was discussing the big picture of how the skewing of wealth in this country together with increasing privatization of the traditional elements of public speech (including but not limited to public spaces and streets in which to speak) was contributing to severe imbalances in our public dialogue. (See: Saturday, October 22, 2011, Occupy Wall Street and the Banks- Messages From Bonnie & Clyde, “They’ve Got Too Much Money”: Ownership of the Public Forum by the Wealthy?)

In regard to those severe imbalances (and pertinent to Atlantic Yards), I provided the image of Jay-Z used in the subway to promote the New York Times, a newspaper that failed the New York City public by essentially, like Jay-Z, promoting an uncritical image of Atlantic Yards, the mega-project of Ratner, the Times own partner in the building of the New York Times headquarters.

Here is another picture of a dismaying billboard next to the arena that uses Jay-Z to promote the arena to the neighborhood.

In line with what I said in my article about the imbalance of speech in our country, there isn’t a plenitude of Noticing New York cash available to rent that billboard in order to correct the misimpressions being advertised there and vociferously elsewhere in the city. Oh that we had the same mega-bucks to get out and tell the story the way it should be told! It would be such fun to go all out.

But not having the money to rent billboards hasn’t left Noticing New York bereft of ideas. The image below reflects how Noticing New York took things into its own hands in a prior post. Background about the calculations of the loss the arena will bring to the public is available in that post.
(See: Monday, May 2, 2011, “Welcome To Brooklyn” Where the Game Is Frivolous Spending On Boondoggle Basketball Arenas- Getting the Image Right.)

So heck, having had to suffer these other Jay-Z promotional images recently here are some corrective ones. Enjoy. (Click to enlarge.)

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