The Amazing Disappearing Homeless Trick

I’m being flippant with the title, of course, but my point is serious. Now, perhaps as a stereotypical right-winger predisposed to believe that the press is made up of biased, bleeding-heart commie pinkoes, I was prone to paranoid delusions back i nthe 80s. But… back during the Reagan years, the sol called “decade of greed,” it seemed to me that you couldn’t open a single newspaper, watch a single nightly news show, or look at a magazine without hearing about the horrible sufferings of the homeless. During that “decade of greed,” liberal commentators and satirists (Garry Trudeau comes to mind, especially) loved juxtaposing images of greedy, conspicuously consuming yuppies with images of poor sould freezing to death on the streets.

Well, here it is, 1999… Ronald Reagan is long gone, the economy seems to be booming, the stock market is still soaring, unemployment and inflation are quite low… and yet… in EVERY big city in America, there are (seemingly) more homeless folks on the street than ever before. WHether you’re in NEw York, San Francisco, Austin or Seattle, you’ll STILL have to dodge mumbling, smelly, psychotic street people and panhandlers.

You KNOW they’re out there, and their numbers haven’t dwindled even a LITTLE bit since the bad old 80s. Indeed, homeless advocates (the type the media couldn’t get enough of in 1986) say the numbers of homeless are higher than ever.

This brings up the question: how do we explain the magical disappearance of the homeless from the media??? Did Bill CLinton wave his magic wand and make them disappear? Quick: when’s the last time you saw BRowkaw/Rather/Jennings leading off the evening news with a feature on the homeless? Even the cowardly, gutless phony Garry Trudeau decided to turn his lovable homeless folks into millionaires (Trudeau’s lesson, I suppose, is that homelessness is only a problem during G.O.P. administrations… under the Democrats, the homeless all inherit a fortune).

Now, I can offer 2 theories as to why/how the homeless have gone POOF from the media. I ask you to select which of the theories is more likely to be true. Or, if you wish, offer your own theory.

  1. The news media never gave a rat’s patootie about the homeless. They were merely a handy club with which to beat Ronald Reagan over the head. Once Reagan was gone, replaced by a “compassionate” Democrat, the homeless were no longer of any use (or concern) to media liberals.

  2. News is show biz, and people get tired of the same old stories. People got tired of hearing about the homeless- just as they eventually got tired of Alar, crack babies, the little red AIDS ribbons, etc. (In all those cases, the PROBLEMS never disappeared- all that vanished was public interest.) The news media quit caring about the homeless because the public just wasn’t interested in hearing about them any more. Ratings, ratings, ratings…!

  3. YOUR theory…?

  1. After the recession of the early nineties, and after Bill Clinton took office, the economy began to re-expand at an unprecedented rate, the “largest peace-time expansion in American history” as those who would love to claim all the credit are so fond of calling it. Of course, as we all know, the main beneficiaries of this expansion are the top 10% of the economic structure. So, as always, there are people out on the streets. However, the media, being controlled by this top 10%, is not anxious to have their parade pissed on by a bunch of pinkos like me, so all the stories are about how everybody is getting rich, and not about how nobody is actually getting rich except for those who already are. And the homeless continue to get rained on.

God is dead. -Nietzsche
Nietzsche is dead. -God
Neitzsche is God. -Dead

astorian: I vote for #2. To me it is so obvious, it scarcely needs mentioning. I think this is a good post though and it should bring the liberals running.

trash: NOBODY controls the media. and if the homeless are still in the rain maybe it will wash some of their stink off.


That which a man had rather were true he more readily believes.

sorry astorian I meant #1.

That which a man had rather were true he more readily believes.

The whole “homeless” issue is and was a complete scam, propagated by the Democratic Party. The late “homeless advocate” (Mitch Snyder) admitted that he made up a number ( 3,000,000 homeless people) to please the left-wing press. My take on this: there have always been homeless people-most of whom are alcoholics, dope addicts, and (tragically, ex-mental patients). The reason that they cities became catch basins for these people was the availability of shelters, soup kitchens, etc. A large proportion of these people were mental patients, thrown out of now closed state mental hospitals (the liberals felt that “imprisoning” the mentally impaired was wrong). Sadly,these people probably never can live on their own.

Yeah, right. A bunch of powerful corporations that own the broadcast networks, cable channels, etc., would NEVER try to influence content.

Godalmighty, I love the right-wing fantasy world, a world in which people with power ** never ** use it to bend the rules in their favor. It’s the turn-of-millenium answer to* The Lord of the Rings *.

Not to mention, commentators are so rolling in the dough that they hardly need to be controlled. When George Will gets more $$ for making a single after-dinner speech than the average American family gets in a year (I’m not exaggerating, or making this up), think it makes a difference in how he views the world, who he hangs out with, what he sees and what he doesn’t? And the network anchors, of course, make about a hundred times what we do.

I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with making money - I’d like a taste of it myself. But if the people who we rely on to interpret the world for us come from a thin economic stratum at the top of society, they’re going to be oblivious to a lot of things that are everyday reality for most Americans.

And that’s even before one gets into questions of whether big corporations might try to affect news content on the media they own. Right now, my suspicion is that they do this only occasionally; * The Insider *is the exception, not the rule, yet.

But the age of media being controlled by corporations with far-ranging economic interests is just beginning, and the past history of television won’t tell us much about what might happen. The history of the use of* power *just might, though.

Nonetheless, I’m not that much of a conspiracy theorist; answer #2, IMO, is the correct one: after awhile, a story stops being a story. Mark McGwire hits 70 HR in 1998 - major story. He hits 65 in 1999 - minor story. If he breaks 60 again next year, the media will barely take note of it, unless nobody else breaks 40.

Um, no, Ronald Reagan cut Federal funding for mental health care in his budget, resulting in a lot of facilities closing down.

I think it’s pretty obvious that the answer is #2. I also think it’s sad that the attitude of the average American is, “Well, if it ain’t on TV, it doesn’t exist, so why should I care about it?”

Sorry for getting off thread there. I’ll get back to the homeless in my next post. :slight_smile:

Thats funny, I thought #2 was the obvious answer. The major networks and many newspapers are now owned by conglomerates that don’t have any interests other than making money. It is the only thing all the millions of shareholders agree on.

That’s pretty much the way I remember it, too, with the addition of a timing quirk: in the late 1970s, a movement was afoot away from ‘warehousing’ mental patients, and toward getting them into group-home style halfway houses, those that would benefit from the experience, anyway.

The 1980 elections came along as this transition was just beginning. IIRC, what happened next was that funding for the halfway houses was cut way back, at a point where budgets for the large mental institutions had already taken a big hit since they were going to hand off many of their patients to the halfway houses. So many patients that were going to be deinstitutionalized to halfway houses got deinstitutionalized to the streets, instead.

Gee, I started out thinking Phaedrus got something right, and he went and changed his vote.

I don’t believe that the media is compassionate, but the idea that the media “beat up” on Reagan is absurd. I also don’t believe in any great media conspiracy theories. (The occasional suppression of a negative story on one of the conglomerates’ subsidiaries happens, but it is not a major persistent effort by “the media.”)

News is a business designed to provide advertisers with an audience. Repetition of any story sends away the audience. There has only been one year in the last twelve in which the ozone depletion problem has not worsened. When was the last time anyone saw a story on that issue? It got old. It got dropped.

Clear answer: #2.


Since egkelly brought Mitch Snyder’s name into the conversation: yes, he was a dishonest charlatan who greatly exaggerated the numbers and plight of the homeless.

In 1990, he did his damnedest to keep the Census Bureau from enumerating the homeless, allegedly because the Census wouldn’t have been able to get anything close to a correct count, which would then have been taken as gospel - but in reality, he wanted to be in a position where no one could question his (spurious) numbers.

I can’t say I shed a single tear when he died.

That said, the fact that Snyder was a scam artist didn’t mean the ‘homeless crisis’ was a scam, as kelly suggests. Snyder may have exaggerated their numbers, but his numbers would have had zero credibility at the time if there hadn’t been a sudden surge of people sleeping on heating grates in the early 1980s.

FWIW, homeless advocates seem to be cooperating fairly well with the Census as it prepares for next year’s count. The homeless are inevitably going to be disproportionately undercounted, but the numbers should be in the ballpark enough to be useful.

Thanks, tomndebb, for getting that fact into play. For the benefit of others who may not understand the nature of the beast:

When we watch TV, listen to the radio, surf the Web, or whatever, we may think of the TV programs, the music, etc. on the radio, the Web sites, and so forth, as the product, and ourselves as the end users. Actually, ** we **are the product, and the advertisers are the end users. Everything about the commercial media builds from there.

OK, I’ll get back on thread now. Really. :wink:

I know the thread is largely about the media’s treatment of the homeless issue, but it would be wise not to forget that there are homeless out there. The problem continues to exist, and Welfare reform as presently implemented is likely to exacerbate it. The issue is thorny, and not one that lends itself to a simple solution.

I certainly did not say that there were NO HOMELESS people! There are probably many unrelated reasons why the problem became so visible in the early '80s-but I can’t fail to remember a 60 Minutes show from the late 80’s-showing ACLU lawyers “interviewing” a severelt scizophrenic woman in a NYC subway station-advising her of her right to avoid treatment/commitment to a hospital. BEAUTIFUL: these two creeps probably felt good that they enabled a hopelessly demented poor soul to freeze to death!

This is like one of the first questions I asked here many moons back. In general it was more like, if the economy is doing so well, why aren’t people giving better stuff to thrift shops?

Anyway, an economy that is doing well means higher home prices. A lot higher. Is that a better clue? Except for Reagan closing mental hospitals & letting the inmates loose, thats an important reason.

Sorry, kelly. When you said,

I clearly misinterpreted you. My apologies. :wink:

The question is, why do we expect ‘the economy’ to have the same effect on everyone?

I know, I know: this is a holdover from the Great Depression through about 1980, when that was pretty much the case. Since then, ‘the economy’ doing well has primarily translated into gains for the most affluent 10-20%.

A case in point: adjusted for inflation, the median U.S. family income in 1997 finally* caught up with where it had been in 1989 - after 5 or 6 years of economic expansion. meanwhile, adjusted for inflation, the average Fortune 500 CEO’s compensation package (including those all-important stock options) is several multiples *of what it was in 1989.

Jim Hightower says we need a Doug Jones Index to complement the ubiquitous Dow Jones, the idea being that we need a better measure of how the changes in the economy affect the average person. If we had such an index, and it were covered the way we follow the Dow…forget it. We’d need the Infinite Improbablility Drive to get to that alternate universe.

astorian wrote:

Personal nitpick: Alar is not, and never has been, a “problem”. See, for example, the admittedly biased report at .

Quick-N-Dirty Aviation: Trading altitude for airspeed since 1992.

I’m still shaking my head over this comment:

I don’t mean to be flogging a dead horse, but go see the movie “The Insider” or read any newspaper review of the movie.

La franchise ne consiste pas à dire tout ce que l’on pense, mais à penser tout ce que l’on dit.
H. de Livry