Thursday, May 26, 2011

Sorry Mr. Heller, Marcus Rediker Demolishes Your Claim that Airlines are as Uncomfortable as Slave Ships

In seminars and conferences a half-cooked or ill-conceived idea is often politely greeted with either a "let's move on" or if there is something to be salvaged, a "let's springboard from there."

My response to the silly and childishly provocative essay by Steven Heller at Print magazine, where he suggests that modern domestic airlines have modeled their seating arrangements after those of the floating dungeon slave ships of the Transatlantic Slave Trade, is in keeping with the above protocol.

"A Curious Similarity" is banal. Because both the hellish slavers and Southwest Airlines both face an efficiency problem does not make the situation at all comparable. One could point out Heller's epic fail at length, but the best and most compelling ownage was the pithy comment on Print's website that:

Sorry, you trivialized it.
That’s like saying Auschwitz is like summer camp. Hey! They both had bunk beds!
You should thank Gawker for sending traffic your way. Congrats, you’re famous!

Heller is profoundly ignorant. That deficiency can be cured with effort. I suggest that he start with some Olauduh Equiano, Philip Curtin, Questioning Slavery and then move forward from there.

But, we can jump off from his foolish proposition and land somewhere more substantial and worthy of our time. I have mentioned Marcus Rediker's The Slave Ship: A Human History in previous posts. That book is devastating and the stuff of horror movies. His lecture--which is embedded above--captures the power of his work and is inexorable in pulling the listener into his prose.

Know your history folks.


Makabit said...

I had some comments about this one.

Indeed, there is a kernel of truth in Heller's argument. Both slave ships and commercial aircraft depend on fitting as many people as possible (although the definition of 'as possible' varies a little when killing your passengers is a felony, rather than a business loss) to save money.

After that we get into fine distinctions like:

"If you arrive in America on an airplane and do not like it, you can turn around and go home."

"If the airline staff beat or rape you, they will be in a great deal of trouble."

"If you get sick on an airplane, the staff is not allowed to throw you to your death to avoid you infecting the other passengers."

"You can have all the water you want, and there are nice, clean, private toilets."

"Slave ships did not have invoyage movies."

Stuff like this.

This man is too stupid to believe. Seriously.

chaunceydevega said...

Is he stupid or just willfully desperate for attention and not as bright as he thinks himself to be?

Vesuvian Woman said...

To be equally cheeky...

Perhaps the Evil Minority (by numbers) are taking advantage of the Complacent Majority (by numbers) in an effort to get what they want regardless of whom they hurt or make physically uncomfortable. Gasp, sigh. Next.

In all honesty, bring on the conspiracy theories; after all, it's proof of independent thought ; )