When journalists the rhythm of fashion accepts conventional wisdom as fact and don’t look too closely if the trends they describe are real, the worst thing that happens is the lack of style. When journalists covering addiction, homelessness, and mental illness do the same, it can lead to policies that do enormous harm, especially when the mainstream media does not believe that policing and coercion are always the most effective way. to face these problems and refuse to do so. Beware of the abundant research that proves otherwise.
To promote a policy that really works, journalists and editors need to act more like science journalists and less like stenographers who, either implicitly or explicitly, accidentally or deliberately, reinforce political campaigns that use ignorance to drive by.
It would be hard to find a better example of this problem than Nellie Bowles’ recent essay The Atlantic, who argues that San Francisco is a “failed city,” in large part because liberal policies have worsened addiction and mental illness. These policies persist, he suggests, because local politicians refuse to deal with the empty but well-intentioned delusions of hippies and their descendants who just want to let it go. He also claims that the removal of Progressive District Attorney Chesa Boudin in the June 7 election shows that the city is finally waking up to this stun.
Bowles ’work is far from the only one in its failure to examine the evidence for the effectiveness of various policies when it comes to the policy surrounding them. In a 24-hour period in June, a columnist from The Washington Post he argued that “Boudin’s memory shows that Democrats have lost public confidence in crime,” with no mention of data on which policies work best. A similar news analysis of The New York Times no actual data was mentioned either. I a New York The magazine’s essay on “Chesa Boudin and the Debate of Urban Policy on the Left” similarly ignored the question of which preferred approaches are supported by evidence, and which are not.
Bowles writes that his hometown “became so dogmatically progressive that maintaining the purity of politics required accepting, or at least ignoring, devastating results.” He describes the city’s de facto supervised injection site at Tenderloin as a place that looks like “young people moving on the sidewalk, surrounded by half-eaten boxed lunches.”
His argument is undone by scientific data. Hundreds of studies support the “harm reduction” approach used in clean needle programs and supervised injection sites, and none show that it worsens drug use or civic life.
In fact, harm reduction was deliberately adopted based on research evidence, not clichés from the 1960s. Beyond its analysis, studies overwhelmingly illustrate the counterproductive nature of ‘use police and coercion first. On the one hand, the old states with tough old school prosecutors actually have worse crime rates than liberals like California.
However, since Bowles apparently assumes that damage reduction tactics were adopted because they looked great, he ignores this research base. (Which, ironically, is the kind of nonsensical approach that San Francisco politicians criticize for allegedly using.) What she and many other journalists consider the failure of harm reduction is actually the failure of criminalization. .