Yesterday we discussed PR professional, nuclear advocate and anti-renewable Republican tool Michael Shellenberger’s newest workstream: the housing, mental health and addiction issues that are totally harshing his California mellow.
As a professional radical centrist, he is doing the same thing for these issues that he did for environmental ones- claim to be liberal, so criticisms of the left/renewables sound different than when they come from Republican hardliners, despite being basically the same thing.
Just as he opposes basically everything scientists and activists suggest for the climate crises, Shellenberger’s answer to these intertwined crises only reinforces the structures causing the problem in the first place, while blaming the status quo’s ample failures on the very policies that are beginning to correct those failures, and the vulnerable people they’re trying to protect.
The headline for this new project that his Environmental Progress organization is presumably getting funding from someone to talk about is the “California Peace Campaign.” To confront the problem of people with mental illness having nowhere to go but the street, he doesn’t suggest something like universal (or even expanded) health care to make sure they get the help they need. And despite the name Environmental Progress co-opting the term, they’re opposed to actually progressive policies like one in San Francisco that directly provides housing for people.
Instead, the “California Peace Agenda” calls for heavier policing to crack down on “open drug scenes” so that it’s not so easy to buy hard drugs like fentanyl from dealers on the street. (Ignoring that prescription painkillers, made by giant pharmaceutical companies, are the real gateway drugs.)
Another plank of his “peace” agenda is the creation of a state-wide Cal-Psych agency “to remove addicts and the mentally ill from the street through voluntary drug treatment and psychiatric care, as well as by working with the courts to oversee involuntary care…” So voluntary care, unless they don’t volunteer, in which case it’s involuntary. How peaceful! And yet somehow he insists this is an improvement on the incarceration-heavy, punitive approach conservatives have always favored.
Other steps are, true to form, just railing against existing (actually progressive) policies, like suspending enforcement of minor crimes (because of racist policing) and providing housing units to people otherwise forced to live on the street. Apparently giving homes to people without them is bad, because then they don’t suffer badly enough to want to kick their addiction, meaning a cornerstone of this “peace” plan is intentionally making life worse for those who are already vulnerable and suffering.
The sixth and final policy is to “Fund the Police”. Why? Because the rhetoric to the contrary is “demoralizing to police officers.” So we’d better give them more money “to ensure that the police prevent homicide and crime” because apparently police will just let murderers go if we don’t. And while Shellenberger’s agenda nods to the “need to do more to reduce police violence and discrimination against communities of color”, it then says “there is nothing deterministically wrong with our institutions that can’t be fixed with reform.”
Yes. Of course! Half of people killed by cops have some sort of a disability, people with mental illnesses are 16 times more likely to be killed by police, and about one out of every thousand Black american men can expect to be killed by police. Apparently those problems aren’t so bad and can be fixed simply by giving police even more money! Oh, and, police sure aren’t keeping people in custody from overdosing either…
We should pay cops more to be more aggressive in locking up these crazy homeless addicts is the short version of Shellenberger’s “Peace” initiative.
When asked on Twitter about medical management of addictions, it turns out Shellenberger is “very practical when it comes to these things. Different things work for different people. I believe people can use methadone, Suboxone, marijuana, nicotine, Adderall, caffeine as substitutes for heroin, fentanyl, meth, etc. Key is behavior change.”
Of course! We don’t need any systemic changes to make drug companies stop exploiting people’s addiction to opioids for profit, to reform real estate under the guiding value that housing is a human right, or guarantee (mental) health care for everyone regardless of their ability to earn money while sick. They just need to change their behavior and switch to totally safe alternatives, like smoking and prescription drugs. That’ll fix the underlying psychological, economic and social problems that created the conditions for their addiction, right? (The possible funders of this Peace Campaign are as numerous as they are obvious.)
It’s wisdom like this that really justifies why HarperCollins decided Shellenberger’s advice is worth publishing via another book, which he mentions in a substack post. One can only assume it will be as warmly welcomed by the real experts as his climate book…
Seriously though, they likely know that there’s always a market for something excusing the structural perpetrators of heinous public profiteering, and blaming the victims instead. If there weren't, Shellenberger wouldn't have a career.
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