PBS Film Series Underlined Baltimore's Rat Problem...But It Was All About RACISM

July 29th, 2019 3:57 PM

Michael Patrick Leahy at Breitbart notes the funny part of all the media outrage over President Trump's tweets about "rat-infested" Baltimore: the PBS series Independent Lens picked up a documentary in 2018 called Rat Film all about Baltimore's rats. But this wasn't about Democrats letting the city go to the pests. This was PBS, so it's about white racism. 

It's right there in the trailer, as a "Rat Rubout" technician named Edmund declares: "It ain't never been a rat problem in Baltimore. It's always been a people problem." 

PBS.org promoted the film with a New York Times review by Jeannette Catsoulis: 

“Equal parts disturbing and humorous, informative and bizarre, Rat Film is a brilliantly imaginative and formally experimental essay on how Baltimore has dealt with its rat problem and manipulated its black population.”

She continues, “[filmmaker Theo] Anthony shines as much light on racist urban planning as on ratty behavior. Lessons on residential segregation slip in quietly among oddball portraits of city residents who harbor, hunt or otherwise relate to the creatures.” 

The actual PBS airing begins with those bolded words of praise and several others from "mainstream" papers: 

-- Michael Phillips of the Chicago Tribune: "It's one of the most imaginative and provocative documentaries on any topic I've seen this year. Earlier this year the Doc10 minifestival featured Anthony's poetic (yes, poetic) triumph...His larger theme is the city of Baltimore's history of urban planning, systemic housing segregation and the desolate built environments of the African-American communities there."

-- Sheri Linden in the Los Angeles Times: "Urban planners, philosopher rat catchers and biological warfare all figure in this electrifying cinematic essay."

PBS asked Anthony if anything surprised him while making his film on rats: "I wouldn’t call it surprising necessarily, but the ways in which all of these seemingly different moments in history—pest control, eugenics, urban planning—seemed to dovetail in the same institutions and ideologies was certainly unexpected."

Late in the film, Anthony explained that in 1937, city officials secretly made a "Residential Security" map, putting desirable neighborhoods in blue and green, and undesirable neighborhoods in yellow and red. Then, a female narrator breaks out statistics, showing how in 2015 (under Obama, not Trump), the worst neighborhoods for arrests, vacant homes, poverty, unemployment, and life expectancy are still 1937's yellow and red neighborhoods -- which apparently illustrates persistent racism: 

The political reality that Baltimore has been ruled by Democrat mayors since 1967, and in recent decades by a line of black Democrats? Not mentioned.