Thursday, October 24, 2013

We're Using Federal Flood Money to Lie to the Nation

Posted By on Thu, Oct 24, 2013 at 9:00 AM

Blake Farmer over at WPLN has a story so hilariously outrageous I was outwardly hoping we'd get to the end and Farmer'd be all "Just kidding. I made this all up, because I thought you needed a laugh."

Here's the deal. Apparently the city took $300,000 in Federal flood relief money to make a documentary about how awesome our city is.

Hilarious Thing No. 1: it does appear that this "flood relief" money was specifically intended to help market the city. So, it's not like we could have just used that $300,000 to, say, fix actual flooding problems we still have (shout out to Hamilton Road).

But what the fuck? Really? I am a taxpayer and I'm proud that my tax dollars are used for flood relief. But I expect, and I don't think I'm alone, that "flood relief" is helping people get into safe homes or helping businesses rebuild or relocate and not about cities that still have people living in homes that flooded using the money to lie to the rest of the country.

Hilarious Thing No. 2: we're using the $300,000 to fund a giant lie to the rest of the country. Here's what Butch Spyridon, Nashville Convention and Visitors Corporation president and executive producer of this hour long lie which will air on ABC says about the film:

Spyridon says the motivation was not about creating more buzz but getting the “right buzz” going.

“Everything we’re built on is about an authentic, real Americana experience, and there aren’t very many of those destinations left in the country,” he says. “Disney is a great destination, but it isn’t authentic. Everything about it is fabricated.”

The film is clearly also about keeping Nashville from being pigeonholed as just a country music town. Interviewees include rockers like the Kings of Leon and Ben Folds.

Never have I been sadder that Vanderbilt Professor Pete Peterson is dead. Fifteen years ago, he wrote a book called Creating Country Music: Fabricating Authenticity. And it's all about how country music, from its inception, has had this built-in tension between being "authentic" and being "commercial." Woven right into the fabric of the genre (much like it is in rap) is this idea of the necessity of "keeping it real" where "real" is defined by "what sells." It's a fake authenticity — where as classy a woman as you could ever hope to meet — Sarah Cannon — plays at being Minnie Pearl or where early Opry performers came to town wearing their best clothes to perform in front of an audience and were told to go dress more hillbilly, like their audience was expecting.

Pete would have a field day with this idea of Nashville as some authentic place. I mean, for God's sake, we sell cowboy hats to tourists and cowboy boots to men, when, in real life, no one here wears cowboy hats and the cowboy boots are all on girls in cute sundresses.

Worse than that, we're the kind of city that really wants our homeless shelter to relocate out of downtown, because we're afraid the homeless people will scare tourists. And we're the kind of city that still has people unable to recover from the 2010 flood while we fake to the nation that everything's fine ... Come on and visit us!

We may not be as fake as Disney, but tourists who come to Nashville are getting something carefully crafted, which Butch Spyridon knows, because part of his job is crafting the aura of fake authenticity that has been our hallmark for generations.

So, fine. If we want to lie to the rest of the country and pretend like the Nashville they see on TV or hear about in songs is somehow more real than Disney, that's just us participating in a long city tradition. But it's terrible to use "flood relief" money when relief is so elusive for so many of us to market a healed city when we are not.

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