Distraction of The Week: Erykah Badu

This week, the local Dallas media gave lots of free press to Erykah Badu. This came in the form of a controversy. As I’ve watched everything unfold, I have come to the conclusion that the controversy is all manufactured. Please allow me to lay out my case.

When the Story Broke

Ok, so here’s a quick summary of events.

  • Erykah Badu films a video downtown in which she strips naked.
  • This offends the sensibilities of the citizenry of Dallas.
  • Investigations begin questioning how this could have happened.
  • New laws are proposed.

Here’s the problem with that: According to our paper of record, the scene was shot on March 13, three weeks ago. The first reporting of the “incident” wasn’t until March 30. Why did it take almost three weeks to break a story about a celebrity stripping in the middle of downtown Dallas in broad daylight?

What else happened on March 30? That was the same day she released her new album featuring the song she recorded in the video. Coincidence? You tell me.

Where's the Outrage?

Aside from the fact that it took nearly three weeks for anyone to realize that a celebrity had exposed herself in the middle of downtown Dallas, why have there been no witnesses coming forward to complain? In an article dated today, our only paper mentioned this fact:

Dallas police said this week that no witnesses had come forward to complain. That has since changed; police now say they are gathering information and have spoken to at least one woman who said she witnessed the video shoot.

So no complaints from the citizens. The paper claims there was one witness, but we are not provided with a name or a statement. All we know is that somebody saw the video being filmed, a fact which is obviated by the crowds of people that appear in the video iteself!

The News Is Promoting the Video

Take a look at the original article again. I want you to notice a few things.

First, look at the page header. What section of the paper is the story in? Breaking news? Local news? Nope, it’s in Entertainment news.

Now, look for a box in the body of the story titled Also Online. Here is where they will typically link to related stories. There are three links for this story. The first is a link to an interview with her about the video. The second is a link to her website where you can watch the video. The third is a link to her Twitter page. This isn’t a news story, it’s a PR stunt.

The Disturbing Part

What really bothers me about this whole thing is the story that “broke” today in The News.

Regardless of whether Dallas officials decide to charge Erykah Badu with a crime for getting naked in Dealey Plaza last month, city law ought to be strengthened to prevent similar incidents, Mayor Pro Tem Dwaine Caraway said Thursday.

Was this really such a horrible incident if no one complained and apparently no one even noticed it had happened until three weeks after the fact?

Mayor Pro Tem Dwaine Caraway had this to say:

None of this would have occurred had she stayed clothed. But since she didn't, it elevated the need for making sure that we have policies in place that will protect folks and the integrity of the city as best we possibly can.

Who do we need to protect? Who was injured? Has our reputation as a city been ruined by this incident?

He goes on to say:

What if there is a part two and we don't take some type of action or put it up for discussion and she comes out and really gets with it and does a Michael Jackson-type video and have 15, 20 people and all of them take their clothes off?

Right. We have to act now or we’re going be infiltrated with legions of people stripping and filming! It will be pandemonium!

Give me a break! Please don’t misunderstand me. I’m not advocating public nudity, but we already have laws and ordinances that deal with this. The fact that someone breaks a rule doesn’t mean the rule wasn’t strong enough. The solution isn’t more rules and ordinances. If she broke the rules (and I’m pretty sure she did), then she should pay the penalties. Then we should all move on with our lifes, and remember that if it wasn’t for the Dallas Morning News promoting her new album, none of us would have even known it had happened.

Ted C. Howard @ted