Why this Alexandria woman didn't become the next Antoine Dodson
We can argue till we're blue in the face about the exploitation of Antoine Dodson (of "Bed Intruder" fame) and whether his popularity suggests we're all racists who think rape is hilarious. But the fact is, he made enough money off the whole affair to buy his family a new home in a neighborhood where people aren't "rapin' everybody out here." So good on him.
That's old news now, anyway; the last I heard of Dodson, he'd been arrested on marijuana-possession charges. But that meme remains relevant, and will continue to be, for the impact it's had on local TV news — both how interviewees behave, and how those interviews are packaged.
Consider the following report from conservative outlet CNS News, brought to my attention by D.C. Shitlist. In the video, an Alexandria woman is sitting on the edge of a playground slide, describing her reaction during the recent earthquake. "I was devastated," she says. "I didn't know it was going to come this far, to Alexandria, Va. I'm Ashanti Staten, and I live in this residence. I'm just shaking."
All in all, not a very strange interview so far. But there are two hints of what's to come: that she says her name, without prompting, in the middle of a thought; and that she looks at the camera more often than she does the interviewer.
Then this happens: She stands up and says, "I was scared, very shocked... Where did it come from? They saying from Libya, a guy named" — she shakes her head, looks at the camera — "Qaddafi that's supposed to be... I mean, is this a bomb? Was this a bomb?"
It's worth noting, at this point, that Staten is black, while the other interviewees are white. The report cuts away to one man, then another; both are calm, their quotes utterly reasonable. Then we're back to Staten: "This is just a sign for everybody to get right, so if anybody's looking at this, it's just a sign for you to get right. And, you know, I have to get right, as you can see. I'm, yeah. Everybody just needs to get right. God is coming, he's definitely coming." She goes on to reference the Book of Revelation and "turmoil" and "diseases out here we can't get rid of."
I can't prove, of course, that Staten was exaggerating in the hopes of becoming an ephemeral Internet sensation. Maybe she really does believe the earthquake was a sign of the apocalypse, though the Qaddafi comment seems deliberately odd: She's aware enough about the world to know his name, but didn't have enough sense to discount Libya as the cause of the earthquake? That's unlikely.
Even if Staten were acting, I could hardly blame her. I wouldn't mind a new house, either. But CNS News' story can't be explained so easily, as the report seems deliberately packaged to make Staten look outrageous — like a female Antoine Dodson. And it worked, to a point: The video was picked up by World Star Hip Hop, a website best known for its fight videos, and was given the title, "First Antoine Dodson, Now This."
But you can't manufacture a meme — not one on the scale of "Bed Intruder." The digital masses are savvy in this regard, and can sense the slightest whiff of inauthenticity. As of this writing, World Star's YouTube video of Staten has drawn less than 1,300 views.
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