Okay, it’s been some time since I posted anything up here. As I’ve said, this is partly because I’ve been depressed by the Tory victory at the election, and partly simply because I’ve been caught up doing other stuff. However, time waits for no man and the sheer pressure of events calls on me to start commenting again.
This is another piece from the American internet news programme, The Young Turks. In it, John Iadarola and Anna Kasparian comment on another squalid piece from Fox News. In this piece, Bill O’Reilly, one of Fox’s main anchors and a notorious liar, talks to their journalist Jesse Watters about the increasing numbers of homeless people sleeping rough in New York’s Penn Station.
Watters interviews travellers using the station about seeing homeless people seeking shelter in the station. These people are mostly sympathetic to the rough sleepers. Including a Black child, who says they feel upset seeing people, who don’t have enough money for food and can’t afford a home of their own. It’s a sweet piece of simple, innocent compassion and pity. Unfortunately, as the programme goes on, it most certainly ain’t shared by Watters or his fellow perp, O’Reilly.
The rail passengers interviewed are nearly all White. The homeless people Watters and O’Reilly shows are all Black. As The Turks point out, this seems to be quite deliberate. It’s to paint homelessness as essentially a Black problem. They also show those with some kind of government income, like a stipend, and drug problems. You can hear Fox News almost shouting at you ‘Look! It’s their own fault. They’ve got money! They’re on drugs! They could get their act together, but they just don’t want to. It’s their fault, not that of the system!’
The answer to that one is the old Bill Hick’s line about coming to New York and being surprised by the sheer numbers of the homeless. ‘Now, what makes you think our system doesn’t work.’
Iadorola and Kasparian point out that you don’t know why one man has a government stipend. It could be because he’s a military vet. In which case, it’s probably no surprise he’s got problems that have led to him being homeless. As for drug use, they point out that people turn to drugs for escape, and so it points to there being a larger problem in their lives, rather than simply addiction being the result of personal choice.
Then Watters comes to the real point of his investigation. He doesn’t have any interest or sympathy with the homeless themselves. He’s just annoyed that White people see them. He states that it’s against the law for them to be sleeping in the station, and asks why they aren’t in the homeless shelters. The Turks point out that one reason is that the homeless shelters may not be safe.
They may well be right. This was certainly a very urgent problem two and half decades ago in the 1990s when New York began to suffer the massive increase in homelessness that has ultimately led to this situation. The city started closing down and moving people out of its homeless shelters and into private institutions due to the crime and personal violence that was breaking out in the municipal shelters.
Finally, there’s a party political angle in this nasty piece of biased reporting. Watters and O’Reilly seem to be covering the story in order to get at New York’s mayor de Blasio. But as they point out, it isn’t de Blasio’s problem. The rise in homelessness began long before, in 1991. New York’s population as a whole grew by 16 per cent from 1991 onwards, but the number of homeless people tripled.
They also point out a solution to the problem that Watters does not mention: building homes for the homeless. Arizona was faced with putting up their homeless in ER Rooms. This cost the state $16,000 dollars per person, while building a house for them only cost $11,000. So they built homes for them as that was by far the most cost effective strategy.
But not, it seems for anywhere else in America, or for the Tories over here. They’ve decided that homes should only be for the very rich, and everyone else should go back to living with their parents, or in cellars and basements, like they did in the 19th century before the Victorians started slum clearances and building improved homes for the poor.
As for homelessness being a Black problem, clearly, it ain’t. There’s a large number of hidden homeless in New York, including university graduates and young people staying on friends’ floors after failing to find places of their own after graduation. It may well be the case that a larger proportion of homeless people are Black, because of the economic deprivation and lack of opportunities for Black Americans in general. But the problem isn’t going to be unique to them.
It suits, however, Fox’s racist attitude towards the issue to present it as such. There’s a viciously racist streak running right through Fox News, reflecting the same bias in the Republican party. This sees Blacks very much in the same racist terms as previous centuries – morally weaker than Whites, and strongly inclined to criminality. Hence, many of their viewers would be inclined to shrug the problem off if it’s presented as a condition from which only Blacks suffer, or bring about on themselves. They’re not going to show the White poor or homeless, because that would destroy the illusion they’re so carefully trying to create. And they definitely aren’t going to show any White folks, who lost their jobs or businesses under Dubya.
Here’s the show:
I’ve reblogged this because, although it is an American programme commenting on American issues, it’s acutely relevant to what’s happening over here.
This includes both the despicable attitudes to homelessness, and the real danger of what will happen to responsible news reporting if the government get their way and privatise the Beeb.
One of the major issues in American homelessness is how it’s ceased to be a political issue, despite the fact that it’s increased since the 1990s. Back then it was very much a pressing issue, yet after Bill Clinton won the presidency it dropped from public consciousness. My guess is that it’s partly because the homeless became such an obvious presence in American streets. They were swept away from city cores to more marginal parts of the urban landscape.
Pretty much the way the government and local authorities are doing their best to clear Britain’s homeless out of town, and away from the eyes of the public. Go and see Johnny Void’s Blog for his very detailed and passionate coverage of this and the issue of homelessness in general.
It’s also important because Fox News could very much be the future of British broadcasting, if the Tories have their way. Fox is part owned by Murdoch, who has consistently attacked the BBC, largely because it’s the biggest impediment to him acquiring a commanding monopoly over British broadcasting. As for ITV, the formerly independent broadcasting companies swallowed each other up, one by one in the 1980’s and ’90s, and the network itself seems to have been bought, or come under the control of American companies.
The Tories this week made another attack on the BBC and the licence fee in what looks very much like a very partisan attack to see it sold off to their private backers, including multinational donors like Murdoch.
If that happens, then not only will far more of our television consist of American imports, but there’s a real threat that even the semblance of political impartiality now presented by British broadcasters could disappear. Murdoch claims his wretched propaganda outlet is, in the words of its slogan, ‘fair and balanced reporting’. Like so much of his channel’s content, it’s a lie. So much so, that Fox were incensed when, of all the news broadcasters, they were not given an interview with Obama on the grounds that they were ‘a hostile political advocacy group’. Which is exactly right – the network blatantly supports and has donated extensively to the Repugs. They just don’t want people to know it. And especially not when it becomes a major political embarrassment.
As for the BBC, it’s certainly not free of political bias by any means. I’ve covered before the way Nick Robinson, the Macclesfield Goebbels, flagrantly altered the reporting of his questions to Alex Salmond during the Scots Referendum debate. This was to give the impression that Salmond hadn’t answered his question, when in fact he’d given a fairly detailed rebuttal to Robinson’s objection.
And that isn’t the only case of the Corporation’s bias. Academic media watchdogs have found it to be consistently biased against Labour. It has also repeatedly either ignored, or deliberately under-reported, protests against austerity, including one held right on its very own doorstep. Even as it is, it’s far better than Fox News and the avowedly Right-wing media that would replace it.