Saturday, March 7, 2009

Let Them Eat Landlines

michelle_obama Once again, conservatives show that they can’t get out of the 20th century. And that’s when they’re being cutting edge.

First Andrew Malcolm writes this blog post  about the First Lady, Michelle Obama going to volunteer at a soup kitchen in D.C. She even brought some food. It was actually a great use of the celebrity that has accrued to the Obama family. Soup kitchens, as well as food pantries, need volunteers and donations. When times are tough both of those just get harder to come by. Just by showing up, she’s demonstrating a way that the most ordinary citizen can help. There are quite a lot of good folks who’d like to lend their fellow humans a hand but really don’t know where to start. So, nice gesture Mrs. Obama, and a constructive one, at that, right?

Not so fast. Let’s not focus on that. Let’s look at the photo. Let’s focus on the unidentified man in the photo who’s taking a picture of Michelle Obama with his - 0MFG - cell phone. This one photo, out of a number that were taken, spoils the whole vibe according to Mr. Malcolm. This, of course, let loose the rightwingnuts, who never like to miss an opportunity to advance their meme that America’s poor are actually rich. Alex Koppelman at Salon has the rundown and links to them. No need to repeat them here.

Never mind whether or not we know anything about the man in the photo. What I’d like to know is when was the last time anyone questioned the legitimacy of a low income person maintaining a landline? The early to mid-twentieth century maybe? Like back when, if you didn’t have a phone, there’d be some candy store or something in the neighborhood that might allow you to give out their payphone number in case of emergency or to prospective employers? Back when there were functional payphones everywhere and using them cost a dime?

The thing is, it’s the twenty-first century now and people have cell phones. To Malcolm and Malkin and the rest of the angry mob, I guess cell phones are something you have in addition to your landline. A small luxury. It is, however, very possible to have just the cell. Yeh, really. That’s been going on for quite some time now. Hell, even old farts like Mr. Yenta and I have given up the landline. Money was an issue – no need to pay for both. There’s also the fact that, not having our own secretaries, we actually find it more convenient to just have the one phone each.

Poor people, especially younger ones, just have the cell phones and they are no more a luxury than a landline ever was. They are much more practical than landlines if you are homeless or under the threat of same. If you can’t be reached by phone, good luck on ever being anything else but destitute. Over here, in 2009, not only does everyone need a phone, but you’re going to need internet access, too. Fortunately libraries are often able to provide that.


  1. I read this article and thought how stupid can some people be.

    I wasn't homeless but I was on a very low income and used a pay as you go cell for a long time. Now I am on a family plan that works pretty well for me but still, without that I would never be able to get one with my income level.

    They do have camera phones available, and so it is possible that's how he got it, there is also nothing to suggest this man is homeless..

    As always these people are ssuming facts not in evidence... but then that is typical of the right wing nut jobs. They ususally do that, take a small piece of something and blow it into a huge amount of nothing.

  2. Actually, I was just browsing for phones. It's been two years since we renewed our plan and we should be eligible for free ones or rebates on the more expensive. The free ones are usually fine for us. On the Sprint website there were no phones that weren't camera phones, and two years ago, there were free camera phones. I don't think they're even bothering to make them without cameras anymore.

  3. I know very few people who make less money than I do - but a cell phone for a working,traveling about artist with a less than reliable vehicle is both a safety precaution and a necessity for doing (hopefully) better business in a tough economy.

    But that is just an aside to my actual comment, which is to thank you for giving me some organized ammunition for the next time I hear about "all those people who don't want a job because unemployment and charity is making them rich."

  4. Hi Patrice! I love your work. Wish I could afford to be a customer. :) The first person in our family to have a cell phone was our son. He's a working, traveling, poor musician. It's as basic a piece of equipment for him as his instruments.

  5. I thought of that picture yesterday when I was in Selma, Alabama. Brown's Chapel, the meeting spot for the Bloody Sunday march, is surrounded by a project. A severely disabled man named Reggie came out with a laptop and shot scenes from the march with his webcam. I thought, Awesome! a sign that the digital divide might be getting smaller. But I imagined a Rush Limbaugh type begrudging Reggie having the laptop.

  6. What short-sighted lunacy these rightwingers come up with.

    I used to volunteer at university soup kitchen in nyc, and one of the big things they worked on was connecting homeless people with a mailing address and cel phone.. it's one of the most basic and necessary tools to find employment... it was a huge lifechanger..

    and wasn't the nobel prize a few years back given to that Bengali dude who issed thousands of microloans so that people could buy cel phones or small, economy-generating capital products (like a cow)? so we give nobel prizes when someone does it on an international scale, but when we see one of OUR poor people actualy ENJOYING the company of the first lady... we're offended?

    this is the sort of stomach-wrenching faux "shock"... it's disingenuine... idk if saying this makes me a classist, but until you've known what its like to struggle, you are incapable of understanding the very mechanics of elevating yourself... these right wing nut jobs have no idea what struggle means... and i'm talking about that living on paycheck to paycheck shit...

    this fake outrage on the right just makes me think back on all those month during the campaign season when the Rethugs called Obama one thing above all:... ELITIST...

    one strength, one struggle,
    --reverend manny and the twilight empire