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San Francisco Has an Image Problem and It’s All Your Fault

In the Grateful Dead song “Scarlet Begonias,” Jerry Garcia sang these words penned by his songwriting partner Robert Hunter: “Once in a while you get shown the light / In the strangest of places if you look at it right.” The trick, of course, is you have to look. This comes to mind when reading an SF Gate story about San Francisco's image problem and how two of the three people interviewed firmly believe the problem isn't rampant crime or rampant homelessness or drug abuse/mental health issues or city government incompetence. It's … you, gentle readers of broadcasts emanating from the Good Pirate Ship RedState.

The individuals in question, namely UC Berkeley media studies professor Ian Davis and San Francisco Coalition on Homelessness executive director Jennifer Friedenbach, don't namecheck RedState or anyone reading the site by name. However, rest assured it is all your fault. Everything is hunky-dory in San Francisco! Provided you are careful where you step and dismiss all silly notions of your personal property actually belonging to you, that is.

First, Mr. Davis' take on things. Although he hardly qualifies as a geezer, he is thoroughly nostalgic for days gone by when the media marched in lockstep, and there was no one else to follow:

Davis said that until the 1980s, “Americans lived in a low-choice media environment,” which “had the benefit of putting Americans on the same page about the major problems we faced as a nation.”

“Scholars and journalists could identify something like a unified, mainstream public debate,” he explained.

Ah, the good ol' days before those meddling kids … er, bloggers started sticking their nose into things. To be fair, Davis goes on to make a salient point:

“Americans increasingly use news as a way to endorse a common ideological faith,” he said. “Conservatives look to Tucker Carlson to confirm the evils of Nancy Pelosi and commiserate about the dangers of ‘creeping socialism.' MSNBC viewers tune in to see if Trump will be indicted for his role in the Capitol riots following Biden's election.”

“In many ways, our choice of news is a choice of world view,” he continued. “The faithful don't go to church to learn something new about what happened to Jesus. They go to participate in a community of shared values.”

This is a legitimate point. If every word we intake is nothing more than a reiteration of what we already believe, we neither gain knowledge nor grow in wisdom. A point previously raised here is worth repeating. We know we are sincere in our beliefs and wish to share them with the world to counteract leftist propaganda and groupthink. In that case, we need to be aware of what is going on in the world outside whatever we have designated as our sanctuary to engage people on common ground.

We move on to Ms. Friedenbach. Reacting to a third person interviewed for the story, whom we'll be getting to in a bit, she harrumphs:

“Homelessness is not a PR issue,” she told SFGATE. “It's an issue of poverty. It's an issue of racism. And it's an issue of disablism and homophobia. These are huge systemic issues that need correcting.”

Okay, got all that? The tents pitched on public sidewalks are not the problem. Rampant drug use and mental health issues are not the problems. It's RACISM! While statistics show the percentage of black homelessness is higher than the percentage of blacks in this country, addiction and/or mental health issues could care less what color skin someone has. As to the rest of her rant … homophobia? In San Francisco?

Ah, but there's more:

“I think San Francisco is getting used as a symbol of a progressive left city by conservative interests, who are greatly exaggerating the situation here,” she said.

It appears that Ms. Friedenbach is managing the neat trick of “combating” homelessness in San Francisco without having ever actually visited the city in the past ten years.

Finally, the article quotes Sam Singer, a PR expert with an unimpeachable track record. Amazingly enough (okay, I'm being a little sarcastic there), he makes the most sense:

“You're looking at a city that is beyond the pandemic, that has a pandemic of mental health, drug abuse, crime and corruption issues. And the city needs to start to address those issues or it will fall further and further behind,” he said

He said he would call for the mayor to “declare a crisis not just on San Francisco's streets, but on theft and petty crime.”

In Singer's opinion, the city also needs to increase “accountability for results from city agencies and nonprofits as well,” and devise not just a better communications plan but an operational plan.

Yeah, but that might blame someone other than the middle class trying to live their lives and raise their families in peace and security. It'll never fly.

And there you have it, folks. San Francisco is not to blame for letting what was one of the world's great cities deteriorate to where it makes those who loved and still try to love it cry. It's their fault for getting tears in their eyes.

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