Readers respond to Mischke
Praise for Mischke
Mischke is the reason I am picking up your publication every week with enthusiasm. In this tired field of bloggers and online journalists, Mischke is like the first beer after work. Keep 'em coming.
Seldom Seen Swanson
Piling on the downtrodden
Regarding the story about the top 10 chronic "troublemakers" in Minnesota ("Unusual Suspects," 7/28/09): Come on, guys, was it a slow week or what? Even the Strib doesn't run down people who are already down and out. Reading this story I was frustrated by how much space you devoted to slamming homeless people, people who are addicted to drugs, and other down-and-outers. I mean, what's wrong with a top 10 list of Minnesota companies that have polluted Minnesota land and lakes, in particular the White Bear Lake area, starting with 3M, or a list of companies that have spurred on the aggressive use of GMOs and dependence of developing nations on external resources? The story was neither entertaining, nor enlightening, nor educational. Why not take a look into the symptoms of problems in society that these people are representing? That's a meaty topic. Sheesh, Erin, you are probably young, but that doesn't mean that you can't do better than that. And editors, what were you thinking? All best and get better soon—it's a tough market out there!
This article highlights the prejudiced views we take when it comes to issues of mental health. Carlyle dehumanizes these individuals in the worst way by petty, low-brained comments, and by singling out these individuals as unnecessary in this world. This article is fascist. The handicapped, elderly, and the hospitalized cost society unimaginable amounts of money, too, maybe we should ridicule them and hint at their removal from society? We no longer see someone as an individual with needs when we label them as a nuisance. These people need help, and maybe it is us, or our society, that is not willing to give it to them.
I have worked with homeless men and women for 14 years. I started when I was 18, and for several years I lived very close to the shelter I currently work at. These "nuisance" people you write about have been a part of my community, both as neighbors and clients, for a huge part of my life. I have known of, or known personally, the majority of people on your creepy nuisance list. ("Creepy" because you actually thought it was appropriate to write and publish such a pile of garbage.) I thought about writing a letter, and I'm sure City Pages will get quite a few, that would attempt to educate you about the realities of homelessness, addiction, systemic poverty, Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, traumatic brain injuries, Housing First Initiatives, etc. But you had all of that information at your fingertips, as City Pages has previously published several articles about poverty in Minneapolis. Based on the article, thoughtful reporting isn't a skill you have mastered yet. I really hope that the men and women listed in your disgusting article don't believe that your snarky words have anything to do with what they are worth.
"The business of a newspaper is to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable." So goes the old saw. Yet, in describing the recent cover story "Unusual Suspects," we would do better to say: "The business of City Pages is to further afflict the already quite afflicted." For this piece combines the inherent idiocy of lists, with the worst conservative fallacies about crime, to produce effects both troublesome and offensive. It is structured around an attempted individuation of notorious criminals, wherein each is represented by a humiliating mug shot; a ridiculous, occasionally racist nickname; and a short blurb fetishizing his singular quirks. All in line with the "Dirty Harry" etiology of crime as the product of unsponsored monsters, each an island unto himself.
Why is it, then, that in reading the histories of these allegedly "unusual" troublemakers, one invariably finds the same tale—one of extreme poverty, mental illness, homelessness, and addiction? These are systemic problems; such problems did not originate with 10 human beings, the responsibility for which they do not bear, the cessation of which will not occur when they have fallen away. If, in the spirit of this article, we were to promptly commence in stoning these pitiable persons in the city square, thus saving Joe Taxpayer a dime, then surely others would arise in their stead, to offend the citizenry once more with their chronic troubles.
"What's wrong with the system?" asks Sgt. Reinhardt, and Erin Carlyle's reporting does nothing to illuminate this question. If individualized profiles are to be insisted on, then bring these criminals center, I say, let them stand forth on the public stage so as to articulate their own histories and troubles, their hopes and fears, etc. It is never a good sign when the primary source on a piece of investigative reporting is the MPD. In the absence of nuanced portraiture, or of any real social analysis, we are left with only a set of mute caricatures—caricatures that are not only mean-spirited, but utterly futile as well.
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