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Thank you, Wall Street Journal . Not.

The Tuesday, Dec. 28 Wall Street Journal, amid stories on Iraq, the trading of shares in Facebook, and economic bailouts in Europe, offered this FRONT PAGE headline:

Need a Job? Losing Your House? Who Says Hoodoo Can’t Help?
Tough Times Boost Sales of Spider Dust, Spells for Good Fortune, Mojo Powders

What follows is a deadpan story on absolute bullshit – hoodoo – used to take advantage of people in trouble. “I felt desperate and I had to do something,” says one customer. Divorce, job loss, health problems, are all defeated by the rituals, potions and balms of hoodoo. “There is a reason we believe in this stuff,” says another.

The parasitic racism in all this is fairly close to the surface, as a smiling white merchant – “affectionately known as ‘Doc’ Miller” – dispenses these magical potions to what appear in the WSJ video to be mostly black female customers.

But hey, business is business, right? It can’t be wrong to screw over poor, desperate – [whisper: black] – people, not as long as you can toss into the story phrases such as “Internet sales” and “more than $1 million annually.”

“Business is good,” says Richard “Doc” Miller, owner of Miller’s Rexall, a hoodoo and homeopathic remedy shop in a forlorn section of downtown Atlanta. While Mr. Miller, who is white, still gets walk-in traffic, his website makes up the bulk of his sales. His oils, soaps and bath crystals have names like “Jinx Removing” and “Dragon Blood,” and promise to drive away evil. Ex-Beatle Paul McCartney once bought a bath salt called “Run, Devil, Run” at Mr. Miller’s shop and named a 1999 album after it. Mr. Miller also sells roots and herbs like High John the Conqueror to restore power and Angels Turnip to bring good fortune. Miller’s Rexall’s Internet sales of spiritual products alone have risen to more than $1 million annually in recent years from $10,000 in 1994, he says.

Miller’s Rexall website – “Medicines and Curios / Set Yourself Free” – has a catalog featuring “Stop Evil/Run Devil Run” lotion for $5.98, the “Attract True Love” talisman for $12.95, “Attract/Hold A Man Friend” for $14.95, “Love Me Always Powder” for $6.50, the “So Called Monkey Paw” for $100, and this, which sparks in me the horrified admiration I usually reserve for great white sharks, the $7-per-ounce bottle of “Make Opposing Lawyer Stupid Oil” – which the label says is used for “Prosecution, lawsuits, court cases, child support and alimony.”

Naturally, I’m inclined to be irritated by the story. At the same time, there’s a bare chance that this irritation was actually one of the goals of the piece. Unable for journalistic reasons to express outrage at poor people having the life sucked out of them by quacks selling phony potions, the WSJ at least shines a spotlight on the practice, expecting that someone would pick up on the outrage and speak openly about it.

On the other hand, you’d have to realize that the parasite business community itself would repeat the story to their poor, desperate customers. “Hey, it must be good, because the WALL STREET JOURNAL did a feel-good story on it!”

Just as you’d expect, the positive publicity bubbles outward from the WSJ story, repeated at Forbes.com, the Atlanta Post, New World Witchery, where commenter “Aelwyn” praises WSJs generous tone

Thanks for sharing this. Great article, with no opinion in it (rare for these days), just reporting the facts. Love it!

… and finally a site called American Renaissance.com, which offers some bluntly racist reader comments.

This glowing business-only story – void of opposing viewpoints by a doctor, psychologist, scientist, or even an African American clergyman – was written by Cameron McWhirter, cameron.mcwhirter@wsj.com.

……………………………………….

Followup

The author replied to an email I sent him asking about the piece:

Mr. Fox,

Thanks for the note. Sorry the story bothered you. It ran in the “ahed” slot on the front page, meaning it was a story about something quirky and odd, not necessarily hard news. The story was about a phenomenon (people buying hoodoo on the Internet), not an endorsement of that phenomenon.

Again, my apologies if it offended.

Regards,

Cameron McWhirter

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