TBI: Reply from Jason Albertson

Anitra Freeman (anitra@speakeasy.org)
Thu, 19 Feb 1998 23:34:29 -0800 (PST)

> Date: Thu, 19 Feb 1998 23:16:41 -0800 (PST)
> From: Jason Albertson <blakjak@pythagoras.uncanny.net>
> To: anitra@speakeasy.org
> Subject: your recent mail

> This is sent to you personally. Repost if you like.

*** As I told Jason, I think he makes the points that Robert and Jennafer
and others have been trying to make clearer, at least for me.  I think the
points he makes are worth serious consideration and I do want to forward
his message on to the forums where this issue has been discussed.
*** I will also take the time to make a reply, but at the moment I have
several other projects to catch up on, so my reply won't be immediate.

Write On!
-- Anitra

[from Jason Albertson]
Your comparision, between the choicefullness involved in having two different
service delivery modality's, one on a self-help model and the other on a
more "professional" or "traditional" model and the controversy over TBI
is not a good one. While I appreciate all of the things you write about
self-care and finding out about ones own buttons and upholding principles of
social justice, I just can't see that those statements or the comparison have
anything to do with what is going on with TBI and Making Change. This is not
about choicefullness on the part of service recipients. TBI is a falsehood,
a masquerade, a cleverly put togther public relations mass market media
magazine which uses a marketing strategy designed to play on the guilt of
the housed in a consumption-satisfying fashion. People get to buy and feel
good about the product they buy and mistakenly feel that they "have done
something for the homeless." The Big Issue is a cynical restatement of what
the StreetSheet and Making Change and other homeless and poor people's
produced newpapers have stood for, and an exploitative one at that. They have
no other reason for coming to LA other than to make money and give a little of
that money away and call it socially responsible. Worse, it is likely that
the vendors of all street papers will end up further harassed by the police
because The Big Issue will have intrinsic value, calling into question the
ability of folks to ask for donations for their papers.

This is not two well meaning but different philosphied ventures setting forth
who don't really wish to do each other harm, as I gather your shelter situation
in Seattle is. There are ways for the creative tension that fosters growth to
exist between different service providers using different models, sure, even
if they are competing for scarce government dollars. That is why your example
does not work. TBI is motivated by profit. Making Change is not. TBI WILL,
unless stopped, prevent the growth and success of Making Change. People may
be deprived of vendorship possibilities. Vendorship keeps some folks alive.
I do not believe I am being overly dramatic in these statements, cause I am here
in SF, where I see and know what the streetsheet does for and with folks.
Finally, TBI will result in the suppression of independant voices of the most
disenfranchised folks there are. That is a fact. Markets have NO inherent right
to exist, Landlords have no right to withhold housing during housing crisis,
Housing is a right not a priviledge and ownership should confer no power.

We have a history in this country of valuing media and protecting the smaller
media from such things as newpaper price fixing. That's why the Cronicle and
Examiner have a tightly regulated Joint Operating Agreement. Government
recognizes the need for an independent media and regulates it, including on
the airwaves
where stations are required not to be in more than a certain number of adjacent
markets so that other voices can be heard. Our government should elevate the
newspapers like Making Change and StreetSheet to protected status, simply
because they contribute to the hearing of other voices, and protect such
works against the corporate depredations of the rich, who see simple, open
and largely unpenetrated markets.

The extension of government protection to popular publications would be
controversial but its not without its history. Only when homelessness--an
economic status--is added in to the equation does it become such a shocker.

Here it is: TBI has no inherent right to enter the LA, or any other market.
Jennifer is justified in doing what she can and what she needs to to stop it
from so doing. TBI--no matter what articles it runs, no matter what the
quality of its writing--is by nature obscene and exploitative, the more so
because it pretends not to be.

I do not suggest that anyone who defends TBI is somehow to gain from it.
I simply suggest that they are far too liberal, far to ready to compromise
ideologically, or perhaps have not really thought the matters of media
cooptation in a capitalist society, along with the issues of the increasing
concentration of media into a few homogenized hands, through enough.

Please take care.
Jason Albertson
[end forward]