Vigilante injustice: the war on homeless people
Episode 124 Sneak Peek
A nationwide writers’ strike; widespread outrage in response to the murder of a homeless man by an ex-Marine on the New York subway; Biden’s advocacy for the implementation of austerity policies in the long run. We have a lot to talk about on this week’s episode of KK&F. This excellent piece by Adam Johnson, written right after Jordan Neely’s killing at the beginning of this month, captures the increase of violent attacks on homeless people by
an anti-social climate of vigilantes viewing it as their job to step in and use ad-hoc violence to “deal with” social ills caused by poverty, a lack of care, and the mental strain of baked-in precarity.
Whence this vigilantism? As the protectors of the capital-owning class, police forces across the United States are paid to terrorize homeless communities, destroy their encampments, incarcerate them or fine them (and incarcerate those who can’t pay) for sleeping outside on public land, and generally threaten their survival. God forbid, of course, that wealthy city residents should be aesthetically offended by the desperate attempts at survival of those whom the American housing sector has failed. Johnson’s point in this piece is to bring to the fore the role of the media in demonizing and dehumanizing homeless Americans, whipping up a conservative panic around their continued existence in public places, and inciting those absorbed by that panic to outright violence.
Daniel Penny, the man who killed Jordan Neely, was arraigned a few days ago, charged with second-degree manslaughter — “reckless homicide.” Neely died after Penny choked him for several minutes. In his analysis of this murder being treated by government and media as anything but, Adam Johnson indicates the complicity not merely of conservative but also of liberal media in solidifying the narrative: homeless people are the threat, killers like Penny are society’s protectors. David French’s recent piece on Neely’s murder, which follows a brief summary of the killing with whataboutism on subway harassment of women, is so wretched it’s almost surprising. But it’s the perfect example of the flagrant work being done among all the allies of the capital-owning class to construct a narrative that portrays innocent people killed in broad daylight as eliminated threats to society.
That work is far-reaching in its audience and its efficacy. In response to Neely’s death, New York Governor Hochul commented, “There’s consequences for behavior.” (She was referring, of course, to what she perceived as Neely’s harassment of fellow subway riders, not to the murder.) While addressing his plans to target homeless people on the New York subway, New York City Mayor Eric Adams claimed that “You must remove the cancer to start the healing process.” Removal, consequences: more violence, more murders of people struggling to survive in the world’s richest country. These are the crimes we need to care about. How to continue to foreground and fight this urgent issue as leftists? This will, of course, be one of our topics of discussion with this week’s guest, Jason Nichols, host of In the Lions’ Den on Newsmax. We’ll have plenty more to talk about — paying subscribers can join us Friday for the full conversation, while everyone else can tune in Saturday when the audio drops on Spotify, Pandora, Apple Podcasts, and everywhere else you get your podcasts. See you soon.