It's not so much a case of 'I'm a celebrity, get me out of here' but more a case of 'I'm a celebrity, I'm raising money for Haiti.'

Everywhere we turn there is a celebrity wanting to 'help' Haiti. Actor George Clooney whipped together a quick telethon, Quincy Jones and Lionel Ritchie have resurrected 'USA For Africa' as 'USA for Haiti' to re-record 'We Are The World' and Brad and Angelina donated some $1 million of their $350 million personal wealth to the Haiti appeal.

Meanwhile John Travolta flew into Haiti in his own Boeing 707 and, with the assistance of several Scientology 'ministers', distributed military rations and medical supplies.

'I didn't even know I had it in me to be honest - I was like a commander running around,' Travolta told David Letterman this week. Travolta is presently promoting his latest movie.

Anyone who might be thinking that the plight of Haiti is being turned into a celebrity circus can expect to be criticised on the basis that at least these celebrities are doing something to help. Only an extreme cynic, they say, could criticise George Clooney for raising nearly $35 million during his two hour telethon.

Of course its great that people have donated to the Haitian cause but you do have to ask where George, Angelina and Brad were before the earthquake hit the Caribbean country. Haiti has always been a desperately poor country but only an earthquake has provoked western celebrities into action. Possibly Angelina was in Africa adopting another orphan.

Like Ethiopia and Darfur before it, Haiti has become as much about western celebrities as the Haitian people themselves.

On the TV1 News on Monday night the only story about Haiti was an item about the re-recording of 'We Are The World'. Indeed Haiti itself is dropping off the media radar. As I write this I'm listening to a radio news bulletin that has contained no news about Haiti.

Why wouldn't celebrities - and politicians alike - not jump on the Haitian bandwagon? It's a seemingly win-win proposition for them. Who can disagree that the Haitian people need help? And if celebrities get some positive publicity on the back of it, who are we to nitpick? Are we really going to criticise singer Robbie Williams trying to re-ignite his stalled career by recording a song for Haiti with his former Take That bandmates?

During all of this we are, once again, being presented with a sanitised and politically censored interpretation of the Haitian reality.

While Clooney has been urging America to donate money, he has had nothing to say about the de-facto America military coup that has occurred in Haiti. Clooney's silence is particularly glaring as he has been especially critical of the western media's coverage of Darfur.

Clooney, an Obama supporter, is simply not going to criticise a President that has the backing of liberal Hollywood.

As well as the obvious political censorship, the mainstream media have portrayed the Haitian people in two main ways.

The first approach has been to portray the Haitian people as a desperate and helpless people who urgently need the help of 'caring westerners' - like TV3's Mike McRoberts, last seen carrying a young Haitian girl to hospital.

The second angle, which Mike McRoberts also employed, has been to portray the Haitian people as marauding savages who can only be saved from themselves by 'enlightened' western security.

Writes journalist John Pilger:

The first TV reports played a critical role, giving the impression of widespread criminal mayhem. Matt Frei, the BBC reporter despatched from Washington, seemed on the point of hyperventilating as he brayed about the “violence” and need for “security”.

In spite of the demonstrable dignity of the earthquake victims, and evidence of citizens’ groups toiling unaided to rescue people, and even a US general’s assessment that the violence in Haiti was considerably less than before the earthquake, Frei claimed that “looting is the only industry” and “the dignity of Haiti's past is long forgotten”.

Thus, a history of unerring US violence and exploitation in Haiti was consigned to the victims.

Haiti's poverty and barely functioning infrastructure - which collapsed after the earthquake struck- - is the product of a century of economic and political exploitation driven by the United States.

Because Haiti is poor, and lacking in infrastructure, western figures like Barack Obama can easily portray themselves as a new hope for the future when they are actually ensuring that Haiti will remain under the iron heel of the United States.

Meanwhile the message being sent out by western celebrity culture is that the Haitian people not only have to be rescued from the aftermath of the earthquake but also from their alleged inability to do anything for themselves.


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