"Poor people don't plan long-term. We'll just get our hearts broken."
September 21, 2014 6:39 PM   Subscribe

 
(The original column/post was a previously.)

She makes a lot of good points both about individual choices and the structural constraints -- it is how we, collectively, have decided to do things -- and the way the two intersect. I'll be reading her book when it reaches my library.
posted by Dip Flash at 6:46 PM on September 21, 2014 [3 favorites]


Thank you for posting this. I need periodic, visceral reminders like this, about what so many millions have to deal with for their entire lives. Fuck.
posted by zeek321 at 7:10 PM on September 21, 2014 [3 favorites]


That's a lot of very heavy truth about a whole range of terrible ways our society treats those without means.
posted by Existential Dread at 7:12 PM on September 21, 2014


Man she sounds really stressed out--she should take a vacation!
posted by Potomac Avenue at 7:15 PM on September 21, 2014 [17 favorites]


Jk obv. Also this:

What was neither fair nor true was the criticism I received inferring that I was the wrong sort of poor. A lot of this criticism seemed to centre on the fact that I was not born into poverty, as though that were the only way someone might find herself unable to make rent.

Is pernicious nonsense and people need to stop doing that.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 7:19 PM on September 21, 2014 [8 favorites]


I forget what it was called, but was it Switzerland that voted on whether or not to give every citizen an amount for living expenses? I'm sad it was voted down. Almost everything leads back to poverty.

I apologize if I'm making stuff up or derailing the conversation.
posted by halifix at 7:19 PM on September 21, 2014


I forget what it was called, but was it Switzerland that voted on whether or not to give every citizen an amount for living expenses?

Switzerland rejects world's highest living wage. Switzerland currently doesn't have a minimum wage.

But I think you may be thinking of the concept of a basic income. Switzerland is apparently voting on that later this year.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 7:21 PM on September 21, 2014 [8 favorites]


Switzerland rejects world's highest living wage.

Urgle. That should read 'minimum wage'.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 7:29 PM on September 21, 2014 [1 favorite]


"Tirado’s story is not a quite hoax; but there is nothing honest about it. It is a combination of partial truths and dramatic embellishments spun into a false narrative with a political agenda..."
posted by John Cohen at 7:29 PM on September 21, 2014 [14 favorites]


Rings damn true to me as a person living on less than $800 a month.
posted by kanata at 7:31 PM on September 21, 2014 [11 favorites]


Switzerland currently doesn't have a minimum wage.

Yes, and perhaps relatedly, Switzerland has very low unemployment.
posted by John Cohen at 7:32 PM on September 21, 2014 [2 favorites]


From 1974 to 1978, Dauphin Manitoba had a guaranteed minimum income for every citizen, regardless of their job situation, with no restrictions on how it was used.

They had an increase of high school graduation, ~10% drop in hospital visits and people didn't quit their jobs (though people stayed home with their kids more).

It was an unqualified success in every way.

Naturally it was scraped, and support for it has been considered political suicide ever since.
posted by Reyturner at 7:32 PM on September 21, 2014 [50 favorites]


I have to step out of the thread after reading that link about how it is not quite a hoax. Lets ignore the larger issues of poverty and the day to day realities of life for them and pick apart one person's story.
posted by kanata at 7:34 PM on September 21, 2014 [44 favorites]


Yeah, seems like that Cathy Young piece is pretty bog-standard ad hominem smear, focusing on the person and not the message. I don't care how Linda lives now or even how she was living three or five or ten years ago: she has articulated the problem in a way that has generated a great deal of attention, which is a pretty good first step.

On the subject of ad hominem, what the hell is with that breathtakingly awful "RealClearPolitics" site? Even the middle bit of the name of the site is an outright fabrication!
posted by turbid dahlia at 7:35 PM on September 21, 2014 [17 favorites]


From your link, John Cohen:

The point is that this Linda Tirado—the one who hangs out on Internet forums a lot...and seeks advice on having extramarital affairs because her marriage has grown sexually and emotionally unsatisfying—does not exactly sound like a struggling mom/student/worker too busy to sleep and too tired to think.

Gross.
posted by agentofselection at 7:36 PM on September 21, 2014 [50 favorites]


Literally the point of that stupid "debunking" article is that since this one author wasn't born poor=the concept of a poverty trap is a myth. Does not compute beep boop beep
posted by Potomac Avenue at 7:40 PM on September 21, 2014 [33 favorites]


Switzerland currently doesn't have a minimum wage.

Yes, and perhaps relatedly, Switzerland has very low unemployment.
posted by John Cohen at 7:32 PM on September 21 [+] [!]


I had two cats, four gerbils, but no dogs when I was a kid. And perhaps relatedly, I am six feet tall.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 7:41 PM on September 21, 2014 [109 favorites]


The thing that irks me is the idea that it's only the poor who make "bad" decisions. I know plenty of people who are solidly middle-class who eat junk food rather than cook, neglect their healthcare because it gets expensive, and who spend money on entertainment rather than savings.

The difference is that middle-class (and rich) people can do these things and it won't ruin them, therefore they're not judged for it by everybody else. Poor people are expected to have more self-restraint, more planning ahead, more focus than people who already have it good, and that sucks.
posted by xingcat at 7:43 PM on September 21, 2014 [143 favorites]


The point that antagonized me in cohen's link was in the penultimate paragraph, saying that using poverty as an excuse is a bad idea. Tirado wrote a perspective piece, not a finalized guide to what to rationalize. It also sounds a lot like typical lecturing of the poor.
posted by halifix at 7:44 PM on September 21, 2014 [4 favorites]


Moreover, what capital has decided is a good decision for poor people is frequently itself massively self-destructive.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 7:44 PM on September 21, 2014 [5 favorites]


"Tirado’s story is not a quite hoax; but there is nothing honest about it. It is a combination of partial truths and dramatic embellishments spun into a false narrative with a political agenda..."

This is fucking disgusting and the person who wrote this should feel awful about themselves.

I can also see serious parallels to the whole Zoe/gamergate thing here in both how flimsy this takedown is, and how much it radiates "she's a stupid woman looking for attention and no one should give it to her".

Christ.
posted by emptythought at 7:46 PM on September 21, 2014 [56 favorites]


There is no processing what happens when the internet looks at you and says: it’s your turn.

(from the Q&A link)
posted by straight at 7:46 PM on September 21, 2014 [3 favorites]


I always figured Switzerland's high employment figures were because they managed to stave off women's suffrage for so long. Surely that's the problem we should be looking at if we want to get our economy back on track, not some kind of "paying people enough to be able to afford food" liberal claptrap.
posted by uosuaq at 7:47 PM on September 21, 2014 [15 favorites]


The difference is that middle-class (and rich) people can do these things and it won't ruin them, therefore they're not judged for it by everybody else.

Yep. Middle class (and above) people have apparently "earned the right" to be dumbfucks, who participate in the capitalist system in exactly the right way they are supposed to (by buying things).

Kanye West buys jackets coated with diamonds (presumably). I begrudge him his diamond jackets more than I will ever begrudge a poor person having a good smoke and a cold beer after busting their ass on a 12 hour shift.
posted by turbid dahlia at 7:48 PM on September 21, 2014 [59 favorites]


come on everyone knows they've got low unemployment because they've got a high average altitude. this is econ 101, guys.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 7:49 PM on September 21, 2014 [8 favorites]


Wow this from the Q&A link:

"I have a very close friend who votes Republican like clockwork. He understands the party doesn’t do much that is likely to help him as someone who might need welfare. So, as a social conservative, he’s going to vote according to which party supports his views on abortion, because that’s a thing that matters to him and he feels he can get movement on it, there will be a direct effect. Whereas if he votes on an economic issue, it’s just a different bunch of rich people doing a bunch of rich people things. It’s a question of marginalisation and trust. We [the poor] don’t trust anybody."

This is way more than a blogger-thoughts memoirist. This is important.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 7:54 PM on September 21, 2014 [82 favorites]


What irks me about the whole bad decision red herring is that a fundamental insight all adults should have into life is that you can make all the right decisions and still have things turn out catastrophic. When trotted out, all it does is prove the author's infuriating lack of wisdom.
posted by milarepa at 8:00 PM on September 21, 2014 [13 favorites]


Stupid people are poor and poor people are stupid. Or wait is it the other way around? I mean.. the world is wide.
posted by ReeMonster at 8:01 PM on September 21, 2014


pretty bog-standard ad hominem smear, focusing on the person and not the message

There's definitely some of that in the people attacking her.

But when one of the main points of her essay is that poor people make "bad" decisions because they know there's no hope that things will get better. I don't think it's ad hominem to point out that there's a problem with her argument if she writes that while not mentioning that things had gotten better for her.
posted by straight at 8:07 PM on September 21, 2014 [5 favorites]


The reason that she went so viral too is that us middle class folks are looking at a future where with only a few strokes of bad luck we will also be poor and our children will be poor and the international house of pancakes will demolish all borders and grow until it covers the entire universe, a pancake plantation where we at the bottom make the cakes and the top 1% live in the castle above the sign and consume the cakes we make.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 8:10 PM on September 21, 2014 [8 favorites]


Straight, it may mean that the argument does not fully apply to her in her current state, but that doesn't mean it's not widely valid.
posted by halifix at 8:14 PM on September 21, 2014 [5 favorites]


I don't think it's ad hominem to point out that there's a problem with her argument if she writes that while not mentioning that things had gotten better for her.

She's an exception that proves (as in "tests") the rule. The rule remains.
posted by turbid dahlia at 8:15 PM on September 21, 2014 [4 favorites]


But when one of the main points of her essay is that poor people make "bad" decisions because they know there's no hope that things will get better. I don't think it's ad hominem to point out that there's a problem with her argument if she writes that while not mentioning that things had gotten better for her.

She explicitly states in the essay that she is describing a mindset.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 8:16 PM on September 21, 2014 [5 favorites]


John Cohen: "Switzerland currently doesn't have a minimum wage.

Yes, and perhaps relatedly, Switzerland has very low unemployment.
"

Perhaps. Perhaps not. Care to explain how you figure the two are linked? It is one mitigating factor that since the Swiss are almost completely monoethnic, it's a bit harder to write off the "other" that looks just like you?
posted by notsnot at 8:17 PM on September 21, 2014 [4 favorites]


Switzerland currently doesn't have a minimum wage.

Yes. One of the perks of having perhaps the greatest wealth per capita in the world is that minimum wage is simply not an issue.
posted by Sys Rq at 8:34 PM on September 21, 2014 [25 favorites]


I think many people moved by her essay read it to be saying that the poor are trapped in a genuinely hopeless situation, not just trapped in a mindset of hopelessness. So it's not surprising if they think the essay is less persuasive if it turns out the author had, in fact, moved to a (somewhat) better situation.

Which is a shame, both because the mindset itself is a real thing (based on real struggles and disappointments) and because many people are stuck in situations that aren't going to get better if they don't get help from someone.
posted by straight at 8:38 PM on September 21, 2014 [3 favorites]


Care to explain how you figure the two are linked?

If unemployment is very low, employers have to raise wages to compete for workers. They can't treat employees like crap secure in the knowledge that there's lots of unemployed workers who would gladly take that crap job. So there may not be a need for a legally-mandated minimum wage.
posted by straight at 8:45 PM on September 21, 2014 [6 favorites]


Once you have been poor, it changes how you think. I was never quite as poor as she was, and I still feel dread about paying bills, even though I can afford them now. I still feel dread about major expenses, or job losses, even though we are doing ok and have support.

Even if she's doing better now (and I don't think she's buying diamond covered jackets) she's going to carry those visceral feelings forever. There's always the chance your success could go south and you end up right where you were before.
posted by emjaybee at 8:46 PM on September 21, 2014 [24 favorites]


I had two cats, four gerbils, but no dogs when I was a kid. And perhaps relatedly, I am six feet tall.

No, no. You misunderstand. If businesses were not forced to pay these exorbitant minimum wages, they would flourish and could pay a lot more people even more than the minimum wage. It's math.
posted by Mental Wimp at 8:49 PM on September 21, 2014 [39 favorites]


I think many people moved by her essay read it to be saying that the poor are trapped in a genuinely hopeless situation, not just trapped in a mindset of hopelessness. So it's not surprising if they think the essay is less persuasive if it turns out the author had, in fact, moved to a (somewhat) better situation.

But like you said later, it's both mindset and genuinely hopeless situation. It's horrible but good she learned the strategy of not planning long-term. Any person in that situation is going to have life take those plans and dreams and rip them to shreds.

It's what we do so lovingly to our poor.
posted by formless at 8:49 PM on September 21, 2014 [5 favorites]


If businesses were not forced to pay these exorbitant minimum wages, they would flourish and could pay a lot more people even more than the minimum wage. It's math.

I imagine that business would do even better with a negative wage. It's just math, after all.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 8:59 PM on September 21, 2014 [6 favorites]


More on Canada's experimenting with guaranteed income here. An excerpt:
A final report was never issued, but Dr. Evelyn Forget (/f?r??e?/) conducted an analysis of the program in 2009 which was published in 2011. She found that only new mothers and teenagers worked substantially less. Mothers with newborns stopped working because they wanted to stay at home longer with their babies, and teenagers worked less because they weren't under as much pressure to support their families, which resulted in more teenagers graduating.
posted by el io at 9:18 PM on September 21, 2014 [18 favorites]


Yes, and perhaps relatedly, Switzerland has very low unemployment."

Perhaps. Perhaps not. Care to explain how you figure the two are linked?


There are some circumstances where an employer would be willing to pay wages below the minimum wage, but not above the minimum wage. For instance if you owned a food truck and were considering hiring a 2nd hand, but the minimum wage was $20/h then you might think the price wasn't worth it and just do the work yourself. The typical argument for raising minimum wages would be that actually the food truck can't function without a 2nd person, so the owner effectively must hire that person so long as they are in business, and that it is beneficial to society to transfer some extra wealth to the worker above the market rate. The challenge for policy makers is deciding at what rate the above market wages do more good for society than the lost jobs harm society. There probably isn't really an objective answer which makes it harder.

Setting minimum wages (or basic income) is a complicated business, but it is actually possible to support both without burying your head in the sand and pretending that price floors do not create surpluses.
posted by Winnemac at 9:24 PM on September 21, 2014 [6 favorites]


Someone should make a role-playing game where you try to escape poverty. Bad stuff would happen to you (getting fired, divorced, sickness) with roughly realistic probability. If you played exactly perfectly and were somewhat lucky you could win the game and achieve a middle class life, but that would be massively unlikely. You could play a few different modes, with universal health care or education enabled/disabled just to see what would happen. Then we could send all the right-wing wackos to play it.
posted by miyabo at 9:29 PM on September 21, 2014 [22 favorites]


Someone should make a role-playing game where you try to escape poverty. Bad stuff would happen to you (getting fired, divorced, sickness) with roughly realistic probability.


posted by
mightygodking at 9:34 PM on September 21, 2014 [15 favorites]


I don't care how Linda lives now or even how she was living three or five or ten years ago: she has articulated the problem in a way that has generated a great deal of attention, which is a pretty good first step.

You should care. What she adds to the articulation of the problem just is her compelling personal story around it. If that story is only a half-truth, then she not only doesn't add anything to our understanding, she's a counterproductive figure because now the discussion is about fact checking and gullible liberals and tear-jerking huffpo.
posted by fatbird at 9:38 PM on September 21, 2014 [7 favorites]


Someone should make a role-playing game where you try to escape poverty.

"Cart Life" is a sort of like that. It is compelling and horrible.
posted by Winnemac at 9:43 PM on September 21, 2014 [7 favorites]


she's a counterproductive figure because now the discussion is about fact checking and gullible liberals and tear-jerking huffpo.

This assumes that it was ever going to be anything else, and that if every statement down to the punctuation were vetted by zombie Friedrich Hayek himself and a choir of angels, then maybe people who could do something to change this would listen.
posted by CrystalDave at 9:47 PM on September 21, 2014 [29 favorites]


Switzerland currently doesn't have a minimum wage.

Yes, and perhaps relatedly, Switzerland has very low unemployment.


Switzerland restricts the number of hours worked, is not an at-will employment country (i.e., you can't be fired for just any or no reason), requires employers to give maternity leave, forbids employers from firing workers who unionize, forbids child labor, and mandates at least 4 weeks of vacation for all employees.

Perhaps relatedly, Switzerland has very low unemployment.
posted by dirigibleman at 9:58 PM on September 21, 2014 [111 favorites]


This assumes that it was ever going to be anything else

John Scalzi's blog entry on being poor is one of the most continually circulated pieces of his writing, and it's effective in the same way as Tirado's story is: because a real person talking about their lived experience is more rhetorically compelling than a hypothetical. I've never heard it "debunked" or seen an endless blowup of fact checking around Scalzi over it--it just continues to get passed around, making its mark, so yes, I do assume it could have been different.

Likeways when JK Rowling talks about being on welfare, she's telling the straightforward truth, and her exhortations have tremendous weight because of it. The conversation remains on the content of what they're saying. Credibility makes a difference.
posted by fatbird at 10:03 PM on September 21, 2014 [13 favorites]


Closer to home than Switzerland, between 1975 and 1979 in Dauphin Manitoba Canada a guaranteed annual income experiment was carried out. It was to go on longer but Manitoba government terminated it because of an economic downturn.

Although the data has not been completely collated and studied, it did show that with a guaranteed income coming in to households, people could finish their schooling, seek out better jobs and have more nutritional meals. All of this contributed to less mental health visits, less hospital visits, and coming off welfare rolls. It did not result in people wanting to work less.

There is more on this here and at Wikipedia.

What is evident from first hand accounts of poverty is the relentless stress, lack of time to consider opportunities and education and poor nutrition, a guaranteed annual income might address those issues. It also might result in true societal equality.
posted by smudgedlens at 10:42 PM on September 21, 2014 [7 favorites]


I can't tell if everyone's gone as nuts for the basic income concept as I have, or if mefi is just a hotbed of basic income support.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 11:14 PM on September 21, 2014 [16 favorites]


Not every issue has to be black and white. I think that poverty in the U.S. is a serious problem that is too often dismissed with pull-yourself-up-by-your-own-bootstraps rhetoric.

I also think that Linda Tinardo is perhaps not a credible source to be writing about that. I can't just turn off any skepticism I might feel because her story jibes with what I want to believe. And the more I read what she has written, the more it sounds like highly embellished fiction than an autobiographical account of someone actually living in poverty.

Too many contradictions, too much that just seems off in her accounts. Take this anecdote she posted on Reddit:
I manage a fast food restaurant. Business is unpredictable in the afternoons, so my rule is to cook fried product to order - when an order for chicken comes up, my cooks tell the cashier how long the cook time is, and the cashier explains to the customer that we're making their food fresh and how long it'll be. Most people either thank us or change their order if they're in such a rush that they can't spare three minutes.

I got called to the counter a couple days ago because a student (it's a college town) was throwing a temper tantrum about chicken strips. A throwing-things-and-stomping-her-feet tantrum. I explained that if we kept fried food around at all times we'd either be sending out really shitty food or would quickly go bankrupt from waste. At this point she'd been raging for longer than she would have waited to begin with, all the while telling me that I didn't understand my job and screaming that she'd have me fired. My crew loves these customers because I generally lose my temper eventually (ten minutes into a complaint, I get evil) and this one showed promise. She kept on for a while, and I started looking at the textbooks she'd put on the counter. All math and physics. I pulled out my phone, called her physics professor, explained the situation, and put him on speaker so that he could explain the science of why it takes time to heat something from frozen to 165F. Then I offered to call an English professor who could explain the words "leave" and "unwelcome." She left fairly quickly after that.
If you believe that is even remotely likely, then you may feel perfectly comfortable purchasing Tinado's book; for me, though, it is just not plausible. And that's just one instance. Read a few more anecdotes and alarm bells start ringing, warning signs are flashing, and all the red flags go up.
posted by misha at 11:39 PM on September 21, 2014 [21 favorites]


Fuck I hate people with no empathy. I wish there was some sort of scale to quickly sort out selfish, blinkered people from folks with some humanity, so I don't have to read RCP or listen to any R-wing fantasy rant to get to the same conclusion. Wankers.
posted by peacay at 12:18 AM on September 22, 2014 [5 favorites]


Sadly, it seems empathy is on the wane.
posted by five fresh fish at 12:44 AM on September 22, 2014 [1 favorite]


Houston Press blogger Angelica Leicht dug around Tirado’s extensive digital trail and declared her an out-and-out fake—a “privileged” woman with a boarding school education, a homeowner, a political consultant, and a military wife posing as a poor person.

Absolutely none of those things means she is not now living in poverty, or never has lived in poverty.

Tirado may not be a “scam artist” or a “fraud,” but her online history does suggest that she is prone to shading the truth. In 2008, during the controversy over the Mormon Church’s involvement in the campaign for California’s same-sex marriage ban, she made a post on a website for Mormon dissenters in which she repeatedly described herself as gay—when, in fact, she was married to a man with whom she had been together for about five years.

Holy God, this person is evil, stupid or both.
posted by DarlingBri at 12:57 AM on September 22, 2014 [11 favorites]


Misha, who do you recommend as a more credible source for writing about debilitating poverty? Maybe to be truly legitimate and 100% properly poor they could be functionally illiterate?

Oh wait, I see the problem!
posted by turbid dahlia at 1:25 AM on September 22, 2014 [15 favorites]


Empathy gets in the way of the race to the bottom. It causes things like mutual aid societies, unions and health care free at the point of service. If we're going to have an economy that functions in the interests of capital and systematically drives everyone into permanent precarity so they'll assent to any dehumanizing shit employers want to dish out, empathy is right out.
posted by Emperor SnooKloze at 3:21 AM on September 22, 2014 [13 favorites]


It's math.

Whenever someone explains that they will hold the money for now, and you will get your cut later, be very very suspicious.

See you on the barricades!
posted by Meatbomb at 4:00 AM on September 22, 2014 [7 favorites]


It is curious that anyone's first impulse in reading the first essay was to find ways to attack her character rather than address the issues she was talking about.
posted by maggiemaggie at 4:10 AM on September 22, 2014 [16 favorites]


"Tirado’s story is not a quite hoax; but there is nothing honest about it. It is a combination of partial truths and dramatic embellishments spun into a false narrative with a political agenda..."

From the author of such hard hitting pieces as "Crying Rape:False rape accusations exist, and they are a serious problem," "On the Left, the Specter of Communism Lives On" and "From Toxic Misogyny to Toxic Feminism."

Do you vet your contrarian sources at all, John Cohen, or did you intend to post something coming from an author who writes on such illuminating topics?
posted by griphus at 4:14 AM on September 22, 2014 [45 favorites]


I can't tell if everyone's gone as nuts for the basic income concept as I have, or if mefi is just a hotbed of basic income support.
Well, I'd never heard of the concept until I saw it here and I've sure gone nuts for the idea. it wouldn't do much for me directly, but for so many people, the world would be a different place altogether if it wasn't for the daily grind of just getting by, just surviving enough so you can go to work to earn just enough money to be able to go to work again tomorrow and on and on.

I thought when I started reading the original article here that something was a little strange, unless the very first article had a good editor, it wasn't the stereotypical 'poor person' speaking there. Maybe that's what started Cathy Young into digging for more information - a literate but actual poor person? Unpossible! Doesn't matter anyway - the fact that a person who can write and actually tell a story that is close enough to the truth in its essence can only help shine a light on the plight of far too many people.

I'm pretty sure that poor people don't hold the franchise on making bad decisions, just quietly. The difference is that, when the average middle-class person makes a decision to blow half the week's grocery budget on fast food and booze, they still have enough left to feed the family for the rest of the week and likely have enough food in stock anyway. When you're truly, seriously living paycheque to paycheque, there's no slack in the system - if you get it wrong, you suffer straight away and you suffer hard. It's not that they're making worse decisions really, it's that bad decisions smack them in the face with an immediacy that the rest of us just don't have to deal with on a daily basis (well, not any more, anyway).
posted by dg at 4:18 AM on September 22, 2014 [5 favorites]


"Tirado’s story is not a quite hoax; but there is nothing honest about it. It is a combination of partial truths and dramatic embellishments spun into a false narrative with a political agenda..."

Trust me, anyone who uses the term "political agenda" as a pejorative is pushing one of their own. Everybody has a political agenda.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 5:05 AM on September 22, 2014 [7 favorites]


For my money, Cracked did a better job with this.
posted by Lesser Shrew at 5:28 AM on September 22, 2014 [11 favorites]


It's been said here before, it'll have to be said again: To conservatives, poor people can't advocate for themselves because they are never "perfect victims" of poverty; no one else can advocate for the poor because they're not poor themselves and are therefore either ignorant about it or must have sinister ulterior motives.

Conveniently, this means no one is around to advocate for the poor "legitimately."
posted by kewb at 5:30 AM on September 22, 2014 [43 favorites]


"Tirado’s story is not a quite hoax; but there is nothing honest about it. It is a combination of partial truths and dramatic embellishments spun into a false narrative with a political agenda..."

If that's the best criticism to be found, her story is looking pretty good.
posted by Dip Flash at 5:49 AM on September 22, 2014 [2 favorites]


It is curious that anyone's first impulse in reading the first essay was to find ways to attack her character rather than address the issues she was talking about.

"Curious" isn't quite the word I'd have chosen... but yes.
posted by GrammarMoses at 5:50 AM on September 22, 2014 [3 favorites]


> Sadly, it seems empathy is on the wane.

When times are tough, which they are, people turn on each other long before they turn on the powers that be because it's all they can do.
posted by The Card Cheat at 6:41 AM on September 22, 2014 [2 favorites]


I'm with misha and fatbird - if your fellow mefites are already giving this the side-eye, imagine how it's going to go over with the unconverted.

If the goal is to get more people to empathize with poor and working class and vote accordingly, this will have the opposite effect.

Just because someone's story jibes with your worldview doesn't mean it automatically warrants absolute credulousness. It's okay, smart even, to take a critical look at where the representatives of one's cause are coming from. She has every right to tell her story but for people who really care about working practically to alleviate poverty, the word "distancing" comes to mind.
posted by Jess the Mess at 6:54 AM on September 22, 2014 [10 favorites]


Questioning the strength of someone's story is not a bad instinct. Ask anyone who worked on the John Edwards campaign.
posted by Lesser Shrew at 7:15 AM on September 22, 2014 [4 favorites]


I am about as sympathetic as anyone to the plight of the poor, but I have to say that fried food story sounds like baloney. It's the sort of thing people *wish* they could do, then maybe tell at a party when no one can fact check it. I am pretty grumpy and have managed a restaurant but that sort of thing doesn't happen. Maybe I'm wrong though.
posted by freecellwizard at 7:45 AM on September 22, 2014 [10 favorites]


Call me silly, but I generally look for corroboration of information presented from one person. That doesn't mean I automatically call bullshit, though. Facts stand separate from presentation. People with kneejerk dismissals of information solely because of the source are a plague, and a real impediment to progress, these days.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 8:07 AM on September 22, 2014 [3 favorites]


It is curious that anyone's first impulse in reading the first essay was to find ways to attack her character rather than address the issues she was talking about.

It's not curious at all. It's a defense mechanism. By discrediting the messenger, you can discredit the message. This way you continue to tell yourself that being poor is a moral failing of the individual. And since these are moral failings from which you don't suffer, this can never happen to you. And this thinking lets you sleep at night.

(Hey, that odd twinge you felt just as you fell asleep - I hope it's nothing serious. I'd hate to see you lose your pretty house to medical bills.)
posted by dances with hamsters at 8:17 AM on September 22, 2014 [4 favorites]


Miyabo...the United Way runs poverty and homeless simulators. One year Inn from the Cold set up a display in my building that mimicked what their emergency shelter looked like (bunk beds and some furniture in maybe a ten foot square space. Seeing that was very sobering, but it helped people visualize what they do. Same with going on a tour of the Drop In Centre. It may lead to more understanding when something abstract is presented in a concrete way.
posted by Calzephyr at 9:34 AM on September 22, 2014 [1 favorite]


It's possible to a life with different stages. For several years I was very poor, for reasons that were almost all beyond my control. Now I am not at all poor, for reasons that were partly beyond my control.
Between these two stages, there was a long passage, where I did not feel the benefits of my good job, because I was still paying off the huge debts I acquired while poor. It will be 4-6 months before I can seriously start saving up money, because of all the stuff one gives up on while poor (calling in an electrician to repair the hazardous wiring in your teen's room is an example that comes to mind).
If I were to write publicly about being poor, I would most certainly get the treatment Tirado is getting, and worst of all, I would not be good at responding, because in order to get me my wonderful and well-paying job, I have done everything I could to hide the fact that I was poor. Employers dislike losers.
However, in spite of being a lucky person who was able to get out, I learnt a lot about poverty while I was poor. I learnt above how social services work, and how to talk with social workers. I learnt about shitty jobs. I learnt about my fellow poor with not a chance in hell to get out again, and incidentally, I learnt how the social workers were more inclined to help me, because they could see there was some possibility I could get out, and thus become a success for them, which they could then tell their bosses, who could use me in the statistics they gave the politicians.
One really strange thing I learnt was, that if you are a healthy single person with no education, being a homeless beggar is not an irrational choice. I met several homeless people with a lot more cash available than myself, because at that level of income, rent is a huge part of ones budget, and wages are just above the income you can reach by begging.

One of the rare skills I had, which was one of my gateways out of poverty, was cooking. Not that cooks are paid well, at all. But I was able to feed my family on a very low budget, and I was able to get jobs cooking for private parties etc. It also meant that the social workers saw two healthy kids and respected me for that, again making them more inclined to really help me.
I also had stuff I could sell when I couldn't pay the rent, mainly books and records. These items have no value today.
posted by mumimor at 10:19 AM on September 22, 2014 [16 favorites]


Yeah, what business does this former-poor have talking about still being poor? I remember my dad telling me a story about his time in the war, and I was like "Shut the fuck up, dad, Vietnam ended like, 40 years ago!"

Shit, try and teach ME something will you.
posted by Uther Bentrazor at 10:22 AM on September 22, 2014 [11 favorites]


I imagine that business would do even better with a negative wage. It's just math, after all.

You may be thinking of scrip.
posted by TedW at 11:07 AM on September 22, 2014 [2 favorites]


Why is this fried food story getting traction? I don't remember posting that. Or are people searching around for things to disagree with? From Reddit of all places? I don't get it.
posted by turbid dahlia at 1:17 PM on September 22, 2014


I read the article, and wanted very much to sympathize with the author (I still do). My first inclination was not to question her authenticity or her motives. John Cohen posted a link to the article by Cathy Young, so I became curious and I read it.

I'm ambivalent about this. It would be cool if we could discuss the veracity of the story without having our motivations questioned.

griphus:

From the author of such hard hitting pieces as "Crying Rape:False rape accusations exist, and they are a serious problem," "On the Left, the Specter of Communism Lives On" and "From Toxic Misogyny to Toxic Feminism."

Do you vet your contrarian sources at all, John Cohen, or did you intend to post something coming from an author who writes on such illuminating topics?


Do *you* vet the sources you're using to vet other people's contrarian sources? Cathy Young's article about false rape accusations appeared on Slate's Double X blog.

Also, the sources in the Cathy Young piece check out. CNN included it in a roundup of web hoaxes, and The New York Times described it as "impressionistic rather than strictly factual."

I personally wouldn't think there was anything inappropriate about someone who'd had these experiences describing them the way this author did, provided I as the reader had enough details to come away with an accurate picture of this person's life. And here, it feels like that didn't happen. The author says in the Huffington Post piece, "You have to understand that the piece you read was taken out of context, that I never meant to say that all of these things were happening to me right now, or that I was still quite so abject. I am not."

The author may not have had a whole lot of control over how the story was initially portrayed, but she doesn't seem to have tried hard to set the record straight, and collected over $60,000 from donors in the process. It's fair to ask why The Guardian and other sources that publish the story don't include with it the details about the author's life that put the piece back into context.
posted by alphanerd at 1:30 PM on September 22, 2014 [2 favorites]


Why is this fried food story getting traction? I don't remember posting that. Or are people searching around for things to disagree with? From Reddit of all places? I don't get it.

I think it's getting traction because it seems so obviously embellished to the point of being a story based on fact rather than simple truth-telling. It's unfortunate that people are focusing on that rather than the story behind the bigger story, but that's people for you. There's a lot of truth in what that author is saying and, if it was a story of Wall Street success, nobody would be questioning whether every single anecdote is 100% factual. Because it's about poor people who obviously can't write well and present their plight in a grammatically correct and readable manner, everyone jumps on the 'fake!' bandwagon immediately.
posted by dg at 1:52 PM on September 22, 2014 [2 favorites]


Because it's about poor people who obviously can't write well and present their plight in a grammatically correct and readable manner, everyone jumps on the 'fake!' bandwagon immediately.

Maybe that's the way it is for some people. For others, though, like me, I approached this story predisposed to believing the author, but with an open mind, and the work other people did (whose motives you may or may not be right about) was there for me to read and consider, and unfortunately, to put it in your terms, there actually was a "fake" bandwagon there to jump on (sort of) in that the truth of the situation is somewhat different from what one would conclude based solely on her account.

The best way to avoid this problem would have been for the author or these websites to have provided those additional details, or at least for the author not to have benefitted to the tune of sixty grand from murkiness on this point. That's the type of thing that will (foreseeably, and with good cause) distract from the larger issues.
posted by alphanerd at 2:32 PM on September 22, 2014 [2 favorites]


Do *you* vet the sources you're using to vet other people's contrarian sources? Cathy Young's article about false rape accusations appeared on Slate's Double X blog.

I'm not entirely sure what Slate running it signifies. She had gross opinions, a grudge against a particular sort of feminism and brings up the author's sex life in her critique.
posted by griphus at 2:43 PM on September 22, 2014 [4 favorites]


The best way to avoid this problem would have been for the author or these websites to have provided those additional details, or at least for the author not to have benefitted to the tune of sixty grand from murkiness on this point. That's the type of thing that will (foreseeably, and with good cause) distract from the larger issues.

Yes, absolutely. Also, because the author is reasonably well-educated and likely aware of how something like this might play out, there's not even the excuse that she was naive and didn't realise the ramifications of not being absolutely transparent. Which is a real shame, because it distracts from what is an important message that needs to be heard. Unfortunately, the people who are the worst affected by poverty are often so disengaged from society that they literally have no voice and they could use a champion. Unlike the champions that represent the rich (who can be as corrupt and dishonest as they like and nobody bats an eyelash), anyone who stands up on behalf of the disenfranchised is required to be absolutely squeaky clean in every way or their message is lost.
posted by dg at 2:50 PM on September 22, 2014 [2 favorites]


I'm not entirely sure what Slate running it signifies. She had gross opinions, a grudge against a particular sort of feminism and brings up the author's sex life in her critique.

My point in bringing up the Slate thing is that the article's title seems to place it in the pantheon of deplorable rhetoric that distracts people from the seriousness of rape, yet it was published by a mainstream feminist blog. Her argument there isn't extremist or unsympathetic.

I agree with you that it's gross to bring the author's sex life into her critique, but my point is that the Cathy Young piece references articles on CNN and in the New York Times that hold this piece up as one where there's a substantial amount of truth that's missing, and I wouldn't have found those articles if it weren't for the Cathy Young piece.

It's unfair to dismiss Cathy Young as not having any credibility here, and it's unfair to dismiss questions about the accuracy of the original article as being attempts to distract from a serious issue here. The latter point isn't directed at you, griphus, so much as it's directed at others in the thread. But I think you were unfairly dismissive of Cathy Young by pointing out what appear to be the titles of some unsavory articles instead of reading what was linked and addressing it on its merits.
posted by alphanerd at 3:08 PM on September 22, 2014


Misha, who do you recommend as a more credible source for writing about debilitating poverty? Maybe to be truly legitimate and 100% properly poor they could be functionally illiterate?

Give me a break. A healthy skepticism about one person's extremely questionable article does not in any way equate to standing over the oppressed masses with well-thumbed copies of Elements of Style, seeking out sentence fragments to cry "Foul!" over.

Let's see, though...who might be more credible? I am going to suggest someone who doesn't start a GoFundMe with a goal of $20000, keep raising the end goal with no explanation whenever, and then delete all the critical comments would be a good start. I am also not crazy about that person hiring an assistant to deal with all the complaints that arise from this and only paying the assistant minimum wage, because to me that seems a bit hypocritical, but I suppose that is also me just showing a darned lack of empathy again.
posted by misha at 3:28 PM on September 22, 2014 [4 favorites]


And I'll bring John Cheese back. Wacky name, boob jokes and all, he actually makes sense.
posted by Lesser Shrew at 3:49 PM on September 22, 2014 [1 favorite]


I don't know why that blog dude (linked by misha) is upset. She's not the shining pure avatar of bootstrappery he was looking for, but he did get his ten bucks back.
posted by GrammarMoses at 4:50 PM on September 22, 2014


But I think you were unfairly dismissive of Cathy Young by pointing out what appear to be the titles of some unsavory articles instead of reading what was linked and addressing it on its merits.

And i don't. Why should i bother to give someone a fare shake who has an obvious history of saying seriously shitty things, and demonstrably having shitty opinions that fall on the "making the world a crappier place" side of the spectrum?

I think there's legitimate criticism to be made here, but that Cathy kind of blew her chance to be taken seriously as anything but a character assassin when she started plumbing the depths of "and gross, look, she has sex with people and stuff too! out of wedlock!". It's like, some 1950s sounding trite bullshit.

These kind of pick-a-part responses, like what Cathy wrote, really do seem to amount to just "shut up". It's not just criticism or "investigative reporting" or whatever, it's silencing. It's don't speak up about this or i will dig up all your secrets and shame you for talking in the first place.

There is absolutely a power dynamic here, in which the people who write about this sort of thing are often placed in a position where anyone who criticizes them is bring up a "good point", and anyone criticism of that critic is secondary to that fact.


What's sad here though is i agree that some stuff like the fried chicken thing sounds like, Kaycee Nicole levels of made up. But it doesn't change the fact that the way Cathy Young approached this is completely disgusting.

This whole thing is actually pretty sad.
posted by emptythought at 6:45 PM on September 22, 2014 [6 favorites]


And i don't. Why should i bother to give someone a fare shake who has an obvious history of saying seriously shitty things, and demonstrably having shitty opinions that fall on the "making the world a crappier place" side of the spectrum?

This reads to me like an unwillingness on your part to take certain kinds of effort in forming your opinion, effort which could get you a more accurate or complete picture of what's happening.

I agree with you that some of what Cathy Young has written is pretty icky, but certainly this isn't the first time someone has found some objections from mainstream sources and then taken things a bridge too far. Those more reasonable objections are useful in conversations like this, though, and opinion pieces from someone who maybe has some kind of axe to grind aren't a bad place to find them. I don't think I would have found the CNN or NYT articles if not through the link John Cohen provided because I was disposed to taking Tirado's piece at face value.

There is absolutely a power dynamic here, in which the people who write about this sort of thing are often placed in a position where anyone who criticizes them is bring up a "good point", and anyone criticism of that critic is secondary to that fact.

I agree with you that this can happen, but I don't think this is happening here. Cathy Young absolutely deserves criticism for going into Tirado's sex life. This isn't the only criticism she points out, but it's the only one some people want to talk about. I don't think people have responded to the fact that this episode was mentioned as it was by both CNN and the NYT.

To me, these references in mainstream sources show that skepticism over this can be made in good faith, and the lack of consideration of this here shows that the center has really been pushed out of the conversation in this thread.
posted by alphanerd at 8:55 PM on September 22, 2014 [2 favorites]


If you believe that is even remotely likely, then you may feel perfectly comfortable purchasing Tinado's book; for me, though, it is just not plausible.

misha, you conveniently neglected to mention the part where Tinado stated that she was a personal friend of the professor in question (she apparently used to date him) and so had easy access to his phone number:
EDIT TO CLARIFY: didn't expect the amount of response! I am not a science person, but dated the science prof and know most of the people who teach in the department. It's not a huge school.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 9:01 PM on September 22, 2014 [4 favorites]


You may be thinking of scrip.

"I owe my soul to the comp'ny sto'."
posted by Mental Wimp at 7:45 AM on September 23, 2014 [2 favorites]


I did leave that bit out, yes. I neglected to mention it because it does not add any credibility, in my opinion, to the story. Rather, the EDIT reads very much like something Tirado appended to the story because people were naturally questioning her story in the first place.

Let's say, though, that you did, hypothetically, once upon a time date a professor and happen to have that number handy. Even assuming your breakup was amicable enough, and that enough time had passed, that you felt comfortable cold-calling your ex, AND that you were fine with disturbing them during work hours at their place of business--assuming all that, how amenable do you think your former lover, the professor, is going to be to stop whatever work he/she is involved in, to berate a current student over the phone on your say-so?

And why in the world would the customer just stand there, waiting, while you placed the call and brought the professor up to speed on the situation?
posted by misha at 12:23 PM on September 23, 2014 [1 favorite]


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