Thursday, January 04, 2007

“All the News that’s Fit to Script”, Part 127

The New York Times looks with glassy eyed idealism at France the way a Dachshund adores it’s master. At the same time, France looks at Americans the way a cat looks at it’s “human companion”: as a gullible meal ticket.

In 2004, an NYT writer went so far as to say that the French state eliminated homelessness, and that if you did see panhandlers and people living under bridges, that they were Polish. Not from anywhere else, not the benighted French, but Polish. As statistically impossible as that is, the reality of street life disproved that insane assertion. There are (and were) street people all over the place. They are more aggressive and carry themselves with a more miserable air than any crazy person that New York City’s Social Workers can talk in from the cold. Quite simply, they lied.

In Summer 2004, the New York Times declared that the great day had arrived: Europe had eliminated -- nay, "abolished," as if by a legislative act-- poverty: or, at any rate, its "desperate" variety. "Even America's defenders must admit to the persistence of poverty amid plenty," the Times reporter Richard Bernstein wrote in an August 8 piece ("Does Europe Need to Get a Life?"), "and, by contrast, the abolition of desperate poverty in Europe."

Bernstein attributed this remarkable accomplishment to the European "continent": a continent that notably includes Albania, for instance: a country with a per capita Gross National Income, according to World Bank statistics, of roughly $2,000 per year. But let us be generous and allow that Bernstein was taking poetic license in referring to the "continent" and really meant to refer just to the European Union. And let us be even more generous and assume that the triumphal claim of Europe's "abolition" of poverty was in fact only meant to apply to the "EU-15"
The fiction continued this past May:
On Boulevard Montparnasse, where Polish men have gathered eight tents under a railroad bridge, a middle-aged man named André asked Mr. Borg for help finding a cheap flat and French lessons. He has a job and said his employer had promised to help him get working papers if he could move to a fixed address.
Not far away three young Poles, who gave their names as Roberto, Raphael and Annette, huddled in a tent with a pit bull named Ares. A white ceramic dish of dog food sat beside the tent.
The natives, though seem to bristle at even the slightest criticism, no matter how factual, as one can see from even the NYT’s own Roger Cohen.

The fiction of human superiority continues by reporting on middle-class and middle-minded empathy of something that was presumable “abolished”.
Dozens of otherwise well-housed, middle-class French have been spending nights in tents along the canal, in the 10th Arrondissement, in solidarity with the country’s growing number of “sans domicile fixe,” or “without fixed address,” the French euphemism for people living on the street. The bleak yet determinedly cheerful sleep-in is meant to embarrass the French government into doing something about the problem.
John Rosenthal has more to say about the reporting of this “middle class” act of moral vanity which is more telling about the top-down view which is more akin to government social control than engagement. “The state knows best.”:
This reassuringly low official French homelessness figure of 86,000 is widely-cited in the docile French media and it is sometimes even dated, as in the NYTimes article, to 2004. In fact, however, it dates from a study conducted by the French National Institute for Statistics and Economic Studies [INSEE] in 2001
More to the point the “inconsequential” nature of the government’s stance on this is to not report the problem, and when that’s unavoidable, to suppress reporting on the scale of the problem.
Moreover, even when it was first made public in 2002, the 86,000 INSEE figure was criticized for underestimating the real extent of homelessness in France. Anne-Laure Pham, writing in a recent issue of the French weekly L'Express, notes that French charitable associations -- already at the time -- put the real figure "between 100,000 and 800,000."
Estimates varying by a factor of 8 tell us that the allegation is as political as the effort to silence it, but a simple observation of life on the street showing homelessness to be no less visible or widespread as New York, Philadelphia, or Washington, DC takes the Mickey out of a figure like 86.000 people bei9ng homeless in a nation of 60 million.

Jumping stateside again, it needs to be understood that for about 6 years now, American leftists wanting to make some kind of point about conservatives evincing more homelessness than leftists (which they haven’t) – have duped high-school kids and college students to engage in empathetic “urban camping” for the purpose of “solidarity” with the homeless. The difference is that a cadre of compliant adults are hovering around to protect the “urban campers” from being violated or ripped off by the less scrupulous homeless in a manner that they would never protect the rest of the homeless.

If this isn’t a personal display and a political gin-up, I don’t know what is – it has the same stench of the assertion that anyone, anywhere even in the totalitarian days of the eastern block ever “eliminated” homelessness. In fact it has the same stench as the pocket parts and quays of the Seine where the homeless “camp”.

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