Friday the 13th was a big day at the San Francisco Chronicle, with longtime restaurant critic Michael Bauer announcing that he would be stepping away from that role in September after 32 years. But on the business side of things, beyond the firewall that separates ads from editorial, was a truly disturbing sight: a full-page broadside, taken out by an anonymous Neiman Marcus shopper with the cash to pay for it, denouncing homelessness in San Francisco.
Technically, an organization called Fed Up Populace Campaign, which seems to have zero presence online, shelled out the necessary $30,000. And it should horrify anyone who’s a member of the paying-any-attention-whatsoever community.
“Watch Your Backs — Nobody Else Is,” its headline screams. “… as if stepping over used syringes and filth in Maiden Lane wasn’t bad enough …” [ellipses in original].
Dipping a three-foot-long tailfeather from an extinct songbird into an inkwell encrusted with blood diamonds, the writer then goes on to relate the anecdote of The Time She Actually Had to Set Her Eyes Upon an Unhoused Person With Mental Illness. SF Weekly has reached out to various antifa groups to glean if this isn’t a parody intended to heighten the contradictions and usher in the revolution on an accelerated timeline, but it appears to be real. Here it is in full, emphases ours:
Recently, I went into the Fresh Market Cafe at Neiman Marcus on Geary St. to have a sandwich. I was seated at a table with my back to the food counter. Over my right shoulder and behind me I noticed a youngish homeless man acting silent, strange, and trying to peer over the food counter. It struck me how out of context this was and thinking to myself how did he get here, deep into the cafe?
Feeling uneasy after a few minutes and thinking of a purse snatching, I got up to get my purse and move my table. I turned around and saw this homeless person wielding a large pair of SCISSORS that he was opening and closing erratically, previously behind my back! Horrified, I yelled to the waitress and hurried to the other side of the restaurant. While waiting patiently for security, this psychotic homeless person took a glass of water and walked out of the door onto Geary St. wielding the scissors.
The San Francisco city fathers and those who whould be held accountable for our public safety have for years let us all down by catering to the lowest common denominator. We, the tax-paying, responsible contributing members of society have had our quality of life as San Franciscans seriously compromised, dangerously so.
Sit with your backs to the wall, fellow citizens.
Anonymous disgusted female San Francisco resident (for now)
We live in a world where concerned citizen-racists call the cops on people of color for selling water or using coupons, and now we have Neiman-Marcus patrons taking out full-page ads in newspapers because they had a run-in with a weird person.
Based on this open letter to the, um, “City Fathers” — might that include women like Mayor London Breed or Board of Supervisors President Malia Cohen, or nah? — we know the writer’s gender but not her age or her race or ethnicity. But we can probably conclude it’s not Yoko Ono, who usually restricts her full-page ads to the usual “WAR IS OVER (IF YOU WANT IT)” around the holidays.
Yelping a homeless person is considerably less benign than calling for peace. Beyond the armchair psychoanalysis, and the visceral disgust at someone “acting silent” — also known as merely existing — it’s basically a call for counter-revolution. Get rid of these unsightly subhumans or else, this maybe-soon-to-be-ex-San-Franciscan demands. It’s naked class warfare, haves versus have-nots in an unaffordable paradise. Since Neiman-Marcus is pretty high-end, and the sandwiches in its “posh nosh” cafe run from $13 to $18, we can reasonably conclude that the writer lives fairly comfortably, under at least one roof — and not just because her totally-made-up, fly-by-night political organization with zero other members has money to burn on fits of pique.
By way of condensing the most urgent, intractable social issue in contemporary San Francisco to a quick summary, let’s just note that homelessness is not an aesthetic problem and moneyed shoppers are not its primary victims. Further, while we may disagree vociferously on their methods and degrees of empathy, you can’t seriously believe that the city’s political class needs to awake from its slumber and realize that a problem exists. (It’s also much too large for the city to tackle on its own. As SF Weekly has analyzed in the past, much of the blame can be pinned on the Reagan Administration.)
But it’s the zenith of narcissism to assume that because you had a random quasi-encounter with someone who made you uncomfortable — but who didn’t actually speak to you or touch you, let alone snatch your purse — homelessness has finally become a civic emergency at last. Never mind that, though. Why would someone drop so much money on such a frivolous vanity project? As a reminder of what $30,000 will buy you, that would be 1,875 maple-glazed turkey club sandwiches at Neiman’s, enough to provide a nice lunch for one in every four San Franciscans experiencing homelessness. Alternately, it’s an entire year’s salary for a minimum-wage earner in San Francisco. If you make $15 an hour for 40 hours a week, 50 weeks a year, you’ll pull in exactly $30,000 before taxes. We don’t know how much Melania’s “I Really Don’t Care, Do You” jacket cost, but you could probably nab at least one of those for 30K.
The worst part of this isn’t the sense of entitlement, or even the writer’s shock that someone whose physical appearance suggests they sleep outside could somehow swim across Neiman’s moat and scale its walls. No. The worst thing is the brazenly fascist idea that “tax-paying, responsible contributing members of society” deserve to live where they don’t have to look at poor people — many of whom in fact hold jobs and pay taxes and “contribute.” The creed that high-earners should get to dwell in a cosseted world of their own curation, or that more must yet be taken from those who have little in order to keep it all functioning smoothly, runs much deeper in San Francisco than we imagine it does. It’s what gets those “city fathers” upset when medical conferences opt to convene in another city, taking their hotel taxes with them. It’s even the guiding principle behind self-declared socialist Elon Musk’s warped and completely backward understanding of socialism.
In actuality, what these people want is unbridled capitalism at its cruellest and most hideously efficient, backed by a police state, because they can afford it. They demand that the non-monetizable, “unproductive” homeless simply not be here at all — and like hyper-affluent crybabies whining about the prospect of fair taxation, they threaten to take their ball and go to one of their several other homes if they don’t get what they want.
In decrying S.F.’s “catering to the lowest common denominator,” the writer reveals her hand. She doesn’t want the city to “do something,” because doing something only attracts more of them; she wants San Francisco to do precisely nothing — except banish them by force, so that the unsightly, the mentally ill, and the flat-broke never pollute Maiden Lane with their presence again. But that’s too impolitic for an advertorial, and even Tucker Carlson’s Daily Caller saw fit to qualify Fed Up Populace’s criticisms with some truths (link here if you really must). So the writer felt the need to invent a group of people who she assumes feel just as she does, giving her complaint a veneer of legitimacy. The scariest thought is that in a supposedly liberal city bursting with ultra-high-net-worth individuals, she probably didn’t even have to.
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