Why CNN’s Fat-Shaming Piece Regarding a Victim of the Oakland Fire is Tragically Noteworthy
There is so much to be aghast about these days. Saturday Night Live does it’s utter best with weekly flawless skits that are aimed at making our president-elect look even more implausible than he already does, but unfortunately as the weeks fly by — it’s hard to garner the guttural laughs required to transform our hell into a baked confection of jolliness
We are so screwed. You know that right?
Some of us are more fucked than others but in the grand scheme of things, I think it’s safe to assume that we are embodying a time that makes no allowances for depository emotions or anything that links us to the crabbiness of being human. It’s all about telling the story in a way that leads the pack. All that other stuff in the middle can be muddled and even flattening out to the point of mind-boggling recognition.
As news of the horrific occurrence at a “converted warehouse” in Oakland, California made its rounds through the over-zealous spin cycle of news feeds, I robotically clicked on CNN.com with very little expectation — except for the need to get some of the facts in order — right away.
It all began quite generically — with familiar offerings of location, roving number of victims, accounts from eyewitnesses at the scene and statements from those tasked with the power of the law to deliver such things.
The images couldn’t hide the overwhelming devastation and the videos only helped to heighten the magnitude of a blaze that was probably induced by an electrical malfunction in a building that housed people that were not supposed to crowd there. ABC News reports that neighbors were incensed with the growing pile of trash that was a resultant of what happens when massive crowds overtake and overrule.
The fire broke out during a rave and the fiery flames spun out of control with such a vengeance that it prevented people from escaping through the one and only exit that was held hostage by a towering inferno.
As far as we know, close to 30 lives have been lost so far. According to CNN.com, Bob Mule, an all-round artist willingly shared the fact that he considered the now destroyed warehouse — a space he inhabited with optimistically like-minded folk. They all paid rent and were dedicated to the mission of maintaining the creative oasis they had stumbled upon.
Mule survived the blaze of glory with some burns but nothing life-threatening. Thank God! But, his riveting testimony quickly made me wish I had been prepared for its disturbing contents and inhumane treatment of a fellow dweller who wasn’t so lucky.
The following account from a survivor of the disaster is CNN’s translation. Please take the time to figure out why it is unbelievably hard to digest:
After seeing the flames, Mulé ran to find a fire extinguisher. He found one, but could not open the pin. When Mulé turned back to save his camera and laptop, he spotted a fellow artist who called out for help. Mulé suspected that heavy-set artist had broken his ankle after falling from the second floor.
“I was pulling him out,” said Mulé, who sustained burns from the fire. “The flames were too much. There was too much smoke and … I had to let him go.”
The unnamed man who eventually became a victim of the burning “Ghost Ship” was apparently too fat to be saved. He is described as “heavy-set” which is supposed to console readers with the reality that Mule was incapable of dragging his fellow boarder to safety — not because he didn’t want to save his life — but simply because he wasn’t built for such a huge undertaking.
We are left with imagining the unimaginable.
If only this unnamed victim had weighed much less or if Mule had been accompanied by other strapping dudes who were more than willing to join forces in the quest to lift a “heavy-set” man away from the smoke and flames that were about to devour him. If only Mule was willing to sacrifice his camera and laptop (tall order — I know!) by doing all he could to rise above the elements by dragging a comrade with a broken ankle to the place where they could both pass out with relief.
Unfortunately Mule admitted the worst, “I tried to save my friend but I had to leave him.”
It’s not that we shouldn’t feel sorry for someone who survived incredible circumstances in order to reclaim the life he deserved to protect. And we certainly can’t judge or blame him for being unable to step into the cape of a superhero who could summon enough strength to rescue a friend in dire need of a Hollywood ending.
It’s the way that it was handled. It’s the description of a person, a human being who didn’t have to be plastered with a label that is aimed to explain why he legitimately burned to death.
The unidentified victim who will hopefully remain unmarked is dead. His loved ones probably are aware of this fact. But, do they that how much his physicality attributed to his demise? Are they aware that he could’ve been recuperating in a hospital at this very moment if only his weight had been normal enough to manifest such a miracle?
I could be exaggerating this discovery and there is a lot of evidence to suggest that I am doing exactly that because we are so comfortable with shaming those who don’t quite fit the quota that enables the settings of all the social media platforms that you subscribe to.
This has given so-called respectable news outlets the power to shame the dead and empowered editors to take leave of their senses.
The notion that we are now encouraged to fat-shame victims of a tragedy that is still unfolding is beyond fathomable and grotesquely inexcusable. I could’ve easily gloated over what I observed and continued the exercise of scrolling and retweeting without much of a care for a culture that is dissolving.
But, I do care and I won’t let this slide.
I owe the nameless “heavy-set” artist that much.