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Detroit Can’t Be Photoshopped

City’s Latest Flub Is a ‘Sign’ of the Times
Detroit sign reminiscent of the famous Hollywood sign on the side of the highway.

A picture is worth 1,000 tweets.

When the Hollywood-style DETROIT sign on Interstate 94 was unveiled to the public, the messenger was not the print or the television media but a citizen who saw something and said something.

“And there you have it,” wrote @rufiojones, letting the visual do the work.

This was the unofficial, unplanned, and unsanctioned rollout of the sign. Not by a friendly media who can shape narratives, but by a fellow citizen who dropped a picture, without commentary, and let everybody else fill in the blanks.

A consensus formed immediately. The DETROIT sign was cheeks. Ass. 

Rufio Jones’ picture was poignant. The DETROIT sign was placed on the east side of I-94, headed downtown from the Airport. 

On the other side of the freeway, a U-Haul truck is headed west toward the suburbs. Like so many U-Hauls before it. 

“Was it Photoshopped?” asked Anna Hoffman, fellow Michigan reporter and friend of the Enjoyer Podcast.

But it wasn’t. 

Detroit can’t be Photoshopped. Its absurdities are too real and routine for the satirical mind to outdo them. The best thing to do with Detroit is simply document the…Detroit of it all.

The DETROIT sign was a $400,000 failure of art and execution, but it was more than that. Just as Detroit has begun to dig out of America’s doghouse, this was another black eye in public perception. 

This sign was supposed to make Detroit look good, remember? Big time. Prime time. Ready for more of the world’s spotlight and the scrutiny that comes along with it.

Detroit can’t be Photoshopped. Its absurdities are too real and routine for the satirical mind to outdo them.

This failure is a sign of the times. It turns out that Detroit is not ready for the world. It can barely survive the glare of locals who like the place and won’t ever leave. 

If it’s not Devil’s Night, it’s the Murder Capital, or the mayor resigning, or bankruptcy, or 5% proficiency rates in reading; it’s the small-time sign meant to make Detroit look world class. It’s always something. 

Even the kindest-hearted observer has to draw the clear conclusion: 

Detroit is not a serious place, and it is not run by serious people.

It’s always good for a laugh, though.

James David Dickson is an independent journalist in Michigan. Follow him on X at @downi75.

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