The purpose of this assignment is to have you focus on the underlying ideological perspectives that the media uses to portray social issues
Running head: IDEOLOGY AND THE MEDIA
Ideology and the Media Paper
The present article found in The Winnipeg Sun (online edition), “Planes, trains and homeless” by John Mohan, touches on the topic of homelessness in the city of New York. John Mohan is the Chief Executive Officer of Siloam Mission (Canadian Charity) and weekly columnist for The Winnipeg Sun. In the article John Mohan (2009) discusses the contents of a radio report that was circulating in Winnipeg sometime in late July and early August of 2009. The radio report stated that the city of New York was working to cut down on welfare costs by giving free airline/bus tickets to the homeless community in order to remove them from the city. Having been outraged by what seemed as the act of dumping the homelessness problem elsewhere, a friend of Mohan (2009) further investigated the story and found a more humane explanation. Every year individuals move to New York in search for new opportunities and a better life only to face hardships (Mohan, 2009). Consequently, more people find themselves living in homeless shelters with no other options. As a result, support services for the homeless are costing the city tens of thousands of dollars per year (Mohan, 2009).
As an attempt to resolve the issue of homelessness in New York City (NYC), service intake workers enquired from the homeless community if they would benefit from moving somewhere else (Mohan, 2009). Ultimately, “would you go home or live with family if you could, no matter where they lived; if we helped you get there?”(Mohan, 2009). Confirmation of people willing to take in the homeless created the process of purchasing transportation such as one way airline and bus tickets, both nationally and internationally, by the city of New York (Mohan, 2009). The result being a reduction in emergency service costs while “people are connected to homes and family with a fighting chance to start over and get out of shelter living…”(Mohan, 2009).
Mohan (2009) discusses how a similar scenario occurred in Winnipeg with a man by the name of Steve. Steve was sent to the Province of Quebec after Steve had encountered trouble with the law and was seen by a doctor who helped stabilize him. When Steve was lucid under medication, he disclosed he wanted to go back to Quebec. Steve frequented the Siloam Mission shelter and spoke with the director, Wayne who along with provincial welfare workers made it possible for Steve to go back to the Province of Quebec.
Mohan ends the article with some questions in regards to how Steve may be doing and if he is now the social problem of that province. He also goes on to say, “going home is not always an option. That’s the issue that usually starts homelessness” (Mohan, 2009).
The ideology most prevalent in the article is that of a Liberal one with some Neo-Conservative and Social Democratic undertones. This is evident in the way Mohan views the issue of homelessness. The Liberal view that we all have the same level of equality and start off at the same place (Nixon, 2009) is seen when he states, people in homeless shelters are given “a fighting chance to start over and get out of shelter living” (Mohan, 2009).
Mohan’s view of human nature also denotes a Liberal stance when he states the reasons for people migrating to New York City in the first place. Mohan (2009) discusses how “often people have wandered to New York searching for a better life”. According to Nixon (2009) the Liberal view of people are both egoistic (self-interest) and altruistic (concern for others). NYC is looking out for the interest of the homeless people by giving them a chance to improve their lives. But the city is also looking out for their best interest in cutting welfare costs by sending the homeless people away.
While the idea of homeless people wanting to return home in order to better their lives reflects Liberalism, the way that Mohan describes Steve illustrates the Neo-Conservative ideology. Neo-Conservatives view human beings as being imperfect, and the author’s description of Steve’s history focuses on his faults such as striking an off-duty officer and going through public ashtrays. This is example of failing to consider societal factors. When Mohan proposed the question, “is he now just the problem of the Province of Quebec?” (Mohan, 2009) he emphasizes Steve, the individual, as the issue.
Another Neo-Conservative view of human nature is how people are unable to make choices, they only respond to incentives (Nixon, 2009). The author presents Steve as making a bad decision by moving to Winnipeg, so the government needed to provide him with the incentive of a bus pass and spending money to go back home to Quebec. The article also reveals the element of human nature from the Social Democratic ideology. Social Democrats view humans as essentially good and that they need the right environment in order to reach their full potential (Nixon, 2009). The government of New York is encouraging the homeless to go back to the environments where they will be more likely to reach their full potential, “people are reconnected to homes and family with a fighting chance to start over and get out of shelter living,”(Mohan, 2009).
Liberalism sees society as, “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts” (Nixon, 2009). According to Nixon (2009), the Liberal view says that people have evolved to become better, more caring and cooperative human beings. This view is illustrated in the article when Mohan (2009) says, “upon confirmation of people at the desired destination willing to assist the distressed individuals, arrangements are made…” Another aspect of the society element indicates that individual freedom is paramount but so is the wellbeing of society as they are both connected (Nixon, 2009). Individuals want to satisfy their interests but also collective interests (Nixon, 2009). By giving away free tickets, NYC is not only looking out for their own best interest but also collective interests. The city is cutting back on their welfare costs and they are “solving” the homeless problem, “emergency service costs are reduced and people are reconnected to homes and family with a fighting chance to start over and get out of shelter living” (Mohan, 2009).
The nation state’s responsibility is to take action to ensure that individuals can sustain themselves (Nixon, 2009). This is demonstrated by providing transportation to the homeless. Liberalism works within the system to help those in need, by supplying airline tickets and/or bus fare, the nation state’s view of helping people is therefore met. Another major role of the state in liberalism is to ensure equal opportunity and intervention that should maximize individual welfare (Nixon, 2009). One example of this is when Mohan (2009) poses the question, “would you go home or live with family if you could, no matter where they lived; if we helped you get there?” Equal opportunity in this case would be seen as providing a way for the individual to go home and start fresh. Intervention by the state is evident in that NYC is providing tickets free of charge to those in need. This can also be seen as an example of Neo-Conservatism due to the individual being referred to the family first and the state is seen as the last resort. According to Social Democrats the role of the nation state is to provide active intervention to promote collective good and help the economy (Nixon, 2009). Mohan (2009) articulates that while NYC’s plan benefits the economy, they are also trying to help the community, “emergency service costs are reduced and people are reconnected to homes and family” (Mohan, 2009).
Social beliefs under Liberalism ideology states that everyone has the same level of equality and starts off at the same place (Nixon, 2009). People in homeless shelters are given “a fighting chance to start over and get out of shelter living”(Mohan, 2009) according to this ideology. Everyone should have access to opportunities (Nixon, 2009) and NYC is providing this by allowing people to choose if they want to leave the city and reconnect with their social networks.
Social problems under Liberal ideology focus more on the technical flaws in the capitalist system and try to fine-tune this system (Nixon, 2009). Mohan, at first, thought that NYC was “simply dumping their homelessness problem on everywhere else.” We think that instead of looking at the problem from a structural sense, they need to ask questions such as, why are there so many homeless people in NYC? In our view NYC is trying to lessen the problem by providing one-way tickets to some of the homeless, specifically those in shelters. Prior to having this option to go home to another state or country, they did not have any other avenues to take. This is an example of fine-tuning the system as now people are given the chance to leave the city, those that have the option, and start fresh. But still are not provided further assistance and is only shifting people from one city to another. Mohan (2009) ends his article with questions about Steve, “we haven’t seen him in two years…how is Steve doing?” Questions that at this point, are not being answered, an example of ameliorating the problem.
In terms of social welfare, Liberalism meets the social minimum, it believes in advocacy but not in making structural changes. This is evident in the article by not providing a structural solution to homelessness, merely a band-aid approach of removing the social problem to other cities. NYC advocates for the homeless by trying to reach people that may be able to help those in shelters, such as friends or family members. Another example of this was when Wayne, the director of Siloam Mission on behalf of Steve, “helped make the connections with provincial welfare workers [as a result], Steve got a bus pass and some spending money to go home…” (Mohan, 2009).
We found that the content in this article exemplifies Liberal ideological elements, but with some Neo-Conservative and Social Democratic undertones. As we have illustrated, the most prevalent elements were: human nature, society, nation state, social beliefs, social problems, and social welfare.
Nixon, K. (2009, September 28). Social problem, ideology and neo-conservatism. Presented at a SWRK 1310 lecture at the University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, MB.
Nixon, K. (2009, October 5). Liberalism and the third way. Presented at a SWRK 1310 lecture at the University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, MB.
Nixon, K. (2009, October 19). Ideology: social democracy and marxism. Presented at a SWRK 1310 lecture at the University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, MB.
Mohan, J. (2009, August 5). Plains, Trains and Homeless. Winnipeg Sun. Retrieved from http://www.winnipegsun.com