Monday, September 03, 2007

Why Does the PD Print Hate?

Letters Paint Homeless With Hate-filled Brush

In the Sunday PD, there were three letters about homeless people and one about panhandlers. Two were very well-reasoned arguments against the curfew. Check them out. There was one from a woman from Brecksville who urges the pedestrians to give to agencies instead of giving money to "beggars." The final letter should never have been printed, because it is factually inaccurate and dripping with hatred. The individual paints all homeless people who decide against using the shelters with the same tired stereotypes. He urges Connie Shultz to "concentrate on the fact that this their choice: to avoid responsibility and mooch change to sustain their filthy, disgusting existence." Then he sums it up with a jailing of all those who sleep outside and forcing them into a work camp or concentration camp. Why is it acceptable for a reader to ask that those who choose not to use a shelter be labeled disgusting, filthy and thrown in a work camp? The editors would never publish a similar letter about members of the Jewish or Muslim faith or targeting African American or Latino members of our community with this type of language.

Yes, a few homeless people use the outdoors for their bathrooms. Yes, there are also a bunch of people who come downtown to party and use the outside as their bathroom. In fact, the front page story in the Plain Dealer highlighted a few neighborhoods where people used the street and yards to puke and relieve themselves, and they were not homeless. How about building a public restroom downtown, and I guarantee that you would take care of 80% of the problem with homeless people using the outdoors to relieve themselves. Get rid of all the bars downtown and you would take care of the non-homeless using the downtown streets as a restroom. I would argue that only a small number make it bad for the majority of people who just want to be left alone. I do not understand why the Plain Dealer allows such stereotyping and characterizing a broad and diverse group of people as disgusting.

There are couples who do not want to split up and so stay together outside or in abandoned buildings. There are no shelters for couples in our community. There are those who stay with their pets. There are those who do not want to accept charity. Then we find many who feel the shelters are unsafe. There are homeless people who do not like all the rules and want to be independent. These individuals obey all the rules and laws, but decide to live outside. There are many cleaning up the stadium at night, and are familiar with a hard day's work. In fact, many homeless work harder than anyone else in our community in some of the most backbreaking jobs known to man, like cleaning out waste management trucks or lifting car parts on to the assembly line to be painted.

I am just trying to imagine the kind of heat that the editorial page would get if this letter was directed at any other ethnic or racial group. Any letter based on unfounded stereotypes about a lazy, disgusting or filthy minority or religious group who should be jailed for their behavior would be viewed as hate mail and thrown in the garbage. This is the reason that there are so many hate crimes directed at homeless people. The Plain Dealer publishing these types of letters makes it seem as though homeless people are less than human, and available for attack. I would write a letter, but the daily has a new one letter per month rule.

Posts by Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless Staff and Board.


Cyn said...

Sorry, Brian. I have to disagree with you about the decision of the PD to print the letter of ignorance and hatred written by Timothy Miller.

By not publishing Mr. Miller's viewpoint is another slap at the First Amendment; a right none of us can afford to lose when we are losing so much already.

By now I'm sure that Timothy Miller has gone to work or called everyone he could to brag about his letter being published in the PD.

And one thing I'm certain of, his coworkers and others as well as those who read his letter in the PD are now more convinced than ever that Mr. Miller is a hate monger.

So much for his 15 minutes of illfame!

Cynthia D. Miller

Clevehomeless said...

I am sorry but the Plain Dealer is a private business, and not a public entity. They do not publish hate speech except with regard to homeless people. The PD does not publish racist letters or anti-semitic letter, but they have no problem publishing stereotypes and false information about homeless people. The PD will not publish blatantly false information except when it comes to homeless people. They have an obligation to check the information that they publish even the letters that they publish. This is false information, and it should not be published in the only daily newspaper.

Brian Davis

Cyn said...

I still stand by my original response regarding the PD printing one counterpoint.

However, I do agree that the PD as well as any print or broadcast news
medium needs to exercise responsibility and integrity standards in reporting the news and publishing rebuttals.

You are correct. The PD editor should have printed a disclaimer following Timothy Miller's inaccuracies stating the facts about Miller's false and inaccurate allegations.

Without this disclaimer, both the PD and Mr. Miller appear misguided and foolish.

Cynthia D. Miller

John Ettorre said...

Brian has time and time again proven to be not too interested in freedom of expression, but only interested in pushing his single-agenda point of view. Not everyone shares that point of view, Brian, and not everyone wants to be steamrolled into seeing things your way. That's what freedom of expression is all about. The answer to speech you don't like is more and better speech, and reasoning with others so as to try to convince them of your point of view. One person's false, stereotypical argument is another's truth. In our system, we've decided long ago to let the truth eventually rise to the top from lots of debate and argument. We've been at this for nearly a quarter of a millenium, Brian. I invite you to try it.

Clevehomeless said...


You seem to go through life with blinders on regarding your beloved newspaper and the state of journalism. There are some serious problems with the state of journalism that reward columnists with big contracts and drop investigative units. That glorify the killing of civilians in Iraq, and have helped undermine the right to privacy in the United States.

I have no idea what you are talking about that journalistic standards have developed over the last 250 years. There was very little freedom to express contrary opinions in the early 1800s. There were yellow journalists throughout the 1900s and the red scare prevented many from writing honest news in the 1950s. Even today journalists did a horrible job in the run up to the war and following September 11. Look around you and you will see very few young people pay attention or trust the mainstream media, and the publications that they read do not always follow any journalistic standards.

My point was that substitute the word Jew or African American or Muslim for the word homeless in that letter, and it would have never been published. So, the PD is setting a double standard in that they will not publish hate speech against a protected class, but homeless people are free game.

I agree with more speech, but that is not how the PD operates. They do have standards for the letters that they accept. My point was that this letter does not meet those standards, and so it should not be published. Under your logic, the KKK should be afforded some space in the PD every couple of weeks to rally their militias of hate against our elected leaders who happen to be African American, Jewish or happened to be born outside of the United States.


John Ettorre said...

My beloved newspaper? Surely you can't be referring to the PD. I'm on the record over many years as a critic of the paper, in columns in alternative weeklies, a cover story in Cleveland Magazine and even once as a critic quoted in a very harsh investigative book about the chain's owner, S.I. Newhouse. So that's just silly, but then, there's no reason you would necessarily know any of that, which is why I'm stating it now.

And you err in assuming that I was talking about journalistic standards over those 200-plus years. I was talking about freedom of expression, which is a much larger thing, and of which daily newspapers are but a mere subset. All daily papers have their problems, institutional blinders, etc. Which is why truly informed people should use them only as one part of their information diet, along with magazines, journals, alternative weeklies, public radio and TV, talking to other informed people, etc.

As the writer of an independent blog for four-plus years and as someone who has made a living by writing mostly outside of mainstream media, I agree with large parts of your critique about that sector. Where we disagree is in the need to listen to even the most hateful fringe groups and individual opinions. I think we all need to know what groups like the Klan, Holocaust-deniers and others are thinking about and saying. To deny them a hearing is merely to pretend they don't exist, which I think is dangerous. Their extreme views should be flushed out of the dark and inspected (and debated) for what they are.

Clevehomeless said...

Freedom of Expression? This might be a bad time to bring up that subject. I give you:

*USA Patriot Act
*FISA warrentless wiretap recently passed by our Congress.
*Arresting those with Anti-Bush T-Shirts at Public Events at Public facilities.
*Telephone companies opening their telephone lines to the government.
*FBI spying on Americans who protest the government (Coretta Scott King).
*Cameras monitored by the government cropping up everywhere.
*Jailing of American Journalists.

I could go on and on, but it seems that the 250 year experiment has some major challenges. Keeping the KKK and False/Hateful letters out of the PD are the least of our worries. The PD is in fact a business and holds no loyalty to the freedom of speech, Newspapers are corporations in the end, and must serve stockholders or the families that expect profits from their investments.


John Ettorre said...

Well yes, of course there are now struggles being waged over all those things, as there should be. But let me remind you that we know about many of these things, like the domestic spying, only because of the hard work and prying of newspaper reporters and their publishers. So your simplistic, uninformed blanket indictment of all mainstream media is as accurate as any blanket opinion is--not very. Yes, they're corporations, but the best ones are family-owned, with a generations-long sense of guarding the public trust. They've made lots of decisions that have cost them money and put their businesses in jeopardy. They've published stories they know will yield cancelled subscriptions. And many--not all, of course--of the people who work there, are animated by a deep sense of conviction that their life's calling is to dig out important public information that we need in order to have a democratic system.

In the end, progressives have to be reminded again and again (as The New Republic and some others have done) how much their paranoid blanket indictments of "mainstream media" feed into the right-wing agenda. I hope you will some day come to realize that as well.

Martha Bridegam said...

We have the same problem in San Francisco: somehow all the liberal bans on bigotry by race, color, creed, age, sexuality, etc. seem to focus the haters' pent-up hate onto poor people. The latest anti-homeless campaign in the Chronicle includes outright eliminationist hate talk by a sports columnist named Nevius who seems not to understand the gravity of what he is saying.