Anatomy Of An EPIC FAIL: How PhillyMag’s Race-Baiting Cover Story Went Over Like A Fart In Church This Weekend
Philadelphia Magazine has not, in our lifetimes at least, ever been known as a publication that has truly been representative of the city it claims to represent or depict. And with its fortunes having been built — and thus, its own worldview — during an era where white flight was rampant and xenophobia and racism among the chief traits of its well-heeled suburban audience, the magazine has struggled in recent years as the city has experienced a rebirth of sorts. To visit the magazine’s frequently troll-y “Hey, look at me!” website is to see that struggle in real time. But this time, that editorial edict might have gone too far.
Over the weekend, the magazine’s newest issue hit the stands, bearing a cover story by Robert Huber, the gist of which is “Being white in Philly: In a city that is largely poor and segregated white people have become afraid to say anything at all about race. Here’s what’s not being said.” (We’re not going to bother linking to it because A) enough already, fuck these guys forfuckingever, and B) it’s Monday morning and you may already be agitated.) And as Daniel Denvir expertly pointed out yesterday, the piece is a study in/defense of the ways and mores of Philly’s closet-racist archetype (which is to say, barely closeted at all), outlining a series of situations, such as The Case Of The Missing Blackberry, that read like some bizarro world rendering of various Spike Lee scenarios — only this time, it’s all in the service of calling the poor beleaguered white people of Philadelphia (or, rather, the Philadelphia suburbs) a wahhhhhmbulance. Worse still, this wasn’t even an piece about race in Philly, as billed: Oh no. There was no mention of Asians or Latinos or, really, anything other than white people in Philadelphia, feeling uncomfortable around black people. What year is this?
To make matters still even worse, PhillyMag pulled a classic PhillyMag move with this issue: They printed two covers, one with Huber’s article on the front, and another with M. Night Shyamalan’s wife, Bhavna Vaswani, for the hospitality industry — the idea being that (probably correctly) hotel visitors in Philly would rather not be troubled with PhillyMag’s fairly consistent history of classism and racism, writ large on the cover once and for all. One problem with that: This is also the issue that was sent to some people of color, be they clients or PR folks, and well, that’s just not a good look. In fact, nothing about this is.
To put it mildly: People are not stoked. Among them, even some folks who write for the magazine:
Bad idea, bad execution, bad editorial decision to publish. Just bad. And yes, I’m talking about White In PHL piece.bit.ly/XMj5oM
— Patrick Kerkstra (@pkerkstra) March 3, 2013
Meanwhile, Jason Fagone took the “bros before [apparently anything else on Earth]” approach:
— Jason Fagone (@jfagone) March 2, 2013
Jane Roh, Communications Director for Philadelphia City Council/Council President Darrell Clarke, smelled something rotten before she even cracked the spine:
— Jane Roh (@Jane_Roh) March 2, 2013
And you couldn’t really fault Atrios for putting too fine a point on it:
The Worst Person In the world: Robert Huber. bit.ly/YXzZB5
— Eschatonblog (@Eschatonblogrss) March 3, 2013
TwoOneFive magazine publisher Tayyib Smith spoke up as well:
Since we’re being honest, I’ve never liked you > @phillymag you should be called: The Mainline Times.
— Tayyib Smith (@215tayyib) March 3, 2013
And it goes on from there. Reactions are still forthcoming. And as of this writing, PhillyMag’s website has made no mention of the controversy, perhaps in shock that any non-racist non-suburban 1950s xenophobes managed to find the article at all. Well, we have, PhillyMag, and you know what?
— Philebrity (@philebrity) March 4, 2013
This is the last straw.