Will Haiti Be “At the Mercy of a Mediagenic Person?”

The New York Times reports today on “Haitian-American hip-hop artist” Wyclef Jean’s plans to run for president of Haiti:

Revealingly, Mr. Jean orchestrated a media rollout in the United States before he declared his candidacy [in Haiti]. He was planning to announce his presidential bid on “Larry King Live” on CNN after flying to Haiti on Thursday to register with the elections board. But Time magazine, which had interviewed* him for its coming issue, broke the news on its Web site first, on Tuesday night.

Reactions here to Mr. Jean’s expected candidacy ranged from ecstatic to depressed.

Sitting on a cracked stoop in a battered neighborhood called Bas Peu des Choses, Linda Joseph, 36, clapped her hands in delight and said she probably would not have bothered to vote if Mr. Jean had not decided to run….

But Camille Chalmers, director of the Haitian Platform to Advocate for Alternative Development, said Mr. Jean’s candidacy showed the bankruptcy of Haitian politics.

“It’s a catastrophe,” he said, groaning. “It’s a reflection of the weakness of the political class of Haiti that the system is at the mercy of a mediagenic person who flies in from abroad.”

The Times piece also contains the “Best NYTism in a while,” tweets Foreign Policy’s Charles Homans (h/t Jack Shafer). And that is:

Mr. Jean, who is often called Clef…

Which reminds me of a piece Chris Faraone wrote for CJR back in 2008 about about how the Times refers to “rock stars” versus how it refers to “hip-hop artists.” Iggy Pop, Faraone noted, is typically referred to by the Times as Iggy Pop or Mr. Pop (rather than by his birth name James Osterberg) while hip-hop artists “are routinely called out on their birth names” and “rarely addressed as ‘Mr.’”

Also from Faraone’s piece, this quote from Times culture editor Sam Sifton:

One of the difficulties that the Times has in addressing contemporary culture, and certainly hip-hop culture, is that we risk looking stupid all the time.

*Time refers to Wyclef Jean, after the first mention, as “Jean” (no “Mr.,” nothing about “Clef.”)

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Liz Cox Barrett is a writer at CJR.