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Monday, May 4, 2009

You Gotta Have a Gimmick

Here's an interesting story.

A mentally-ill, illegal immigrant from China has been detained in Florida for over a year.  She has been in this country since the late 1990s.  In China, she was forcibly sterilized after giving birth to a second son, in violation of that country's one-child rule.  In the US, she held various low-wage jobs and was essentially no different from thousands of other law-abiding, if under-the-radar, illegal immigrants.  She was arrested in December 2007 and has been in detention ever since, despite the efforts of her family.  Her prolonged detention has contributed to her mental deterioration.

So what makes her special?  Why does this story merit front-page placement in The New York Times?  The woman's name: Xiu Ping Jiang.

It probably doesn't mean anything to you, nor, really, should it.  It is, however, the same name of the wife of Jiverly Wong, a Vietnamese immigrant who went on a shooting rampage in Binghamton, NY, last month.  This Xiu Ping Jiang is apparently not Mrs. Wong, nor is she any relation.  Still, internet searches for the gunman's wife brought up the Florida detainee's records.  And once a reporter stumbled onto her story, it was presumably to juicy a human interest piece to pass up.

We think again about the need for gimmickry.  A homeless advocacy organization needs to package itself through soccer.  A hapless, mentally-ill immigrant only attracts attention because she happens to share a name with the wife of a mass murderer.  One would think there has to be a better way.

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