Why it’s a problem: One of the most cynical sorts of media tactics is when a news article generally appeals to progressive values, saying almost all the right things, but then sneaks in some ableism, which bypasses the reader’s critical filter based on the strength of the rest of the article. In this article by Alaina Demopoulos, the author correctly notes that the current moral panic being spread on TikTok about random people being punched in New York City reeks of fearmongering, especially “fear of Black boys.” The author interviews one of the women, Sarah Harvard, who was recently assaulted, and who notes that “What’s happening here is misogyny, and that’s rampant in all cultures.”

Despite no evidence that these attacks are linked to mental illness, the author then quotes a recent New York Times article, insinuating that the recent attacks are linked to the city’s inability to “reliably place mentally ill people in” services. It’s not clear if Sarah Harvard agrees with this sentiment, but the author underhandedly attaches Sarah Harvard to the New York Times quote by referencing her in the same paragraph:

Harvard believes that her attack is a symptom of a larger issue. Last year, the New York Times found that though the city has spent more than $1bn on mental health shelters, the labyrinthian social services network fails to “reliably place mentally ill people in them”.

The Guardian

One disturbing pattern that is real is the increasing rhetorical construction of coercive mental health intervention as a more liberally appealing alternative to mass incarceration of Black and Brown people.


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