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Press Review January 24, 2002
 
In Da Times
By Matt Taibbi Browse author
 
Page 15 of 15
 
And from the homelessness story:

"'I'm walking past people who are sick in the streets,' said Tony Hall, a city supervisor who suggested the ban on sleeping and relieving oneself in public (which require that the city double its shelter beds, to 3,500, and open about 100 public toilets). 'It's getting to me and it's getting to other people.'"

Both stories contain mawkish quotes from bleeding heart advocates (environmentalist groups, coalitions for the homeless), both describe efforts to launch new "tough love" programs, and, significantly, both describe in great detail the damage the vermin cause to the tourist industry. From the cormorant story:

"The enemy in this tourist-dependent town in Michigan's Upper Peninsula is the double-crested cormorant, a gamefish-gobbling bird that local residents blame for decimating the perch population and, along with it, the local economy... They are blamed for reducing the number of fishing resorts here to 15 today from 56 in 1990."

And from the San Francisco piece:

"'...a big reason driving the phenomenon the phenomenon of the criminalization of homelessness is concern about the visibility of that population, especially with respect to how they affect businesses and tourism,' said Maria Foscarianis, executive director of the of the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty, an advocacy organization based in Washington."

The similarities between these pieces aren't a coincidence. It's a classic illustration of what makes the Times what it is, and what makes it, on an unconscious level particularly, so powerful as a propaganda tool. The reason a bird that pisses in your swimming pool can be described in so much the same way as a person who's lost his way and has no place to live is that for the Times, the two things are one and the same. The Great Beast is always presented in the same way, as a problem for Real People to cope with.

Nothing outside the Times' world is ever given any identity of its own. Whether he's forcing you to play more golf (the cormorant story actually notes, with sympathy, that perch fishermen have been forced to play more golf), dozing outside your ATM, bombing the World Trade Center or passing in viral form from chimps to humans, the Beast is always the same character in this newspaper-pestilent, dumb, and intractable.

The accumulative effect of all of these stories is to inspire in readers a sense of belonging to the community of non-beasts, of Real People. It's the urge to belong that compels people to believe so easily when the Times presents to them its version of the world. It's what made it so easy for the Times to sell the bombing of Kosovo as a humanitarian mission: we're so used to seeing unthinking beasts everywhere, and so used to thinking of ourselves as the only side that is human and struggles with moral questions. Homeless people inconsiderately shit on the sidewalk like animals; foreign dictators massacre minorities out of sheer carnal malevolence.

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Let ‘Em Send Me to the Bughouse Again! :
Wodehouse
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