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New York Times v. Good America

“Toxic masculinity” and the plight of the HUGLUB in Houston

Tina Trent author image /

Nothing says “cultural divide” quite as succinctly as the differences in media coverage of natural disasters.

Liberals see every glass half-empty. When natural disasters occur, they buy themselves $7 cold-drip coffees at industrial-chic coffee houses and bang away indignantly on their expensive laptops about greedy and evil American bourgeois not caring if poor people drown.

Conservatives see every glass half-full. Thus inspired, and knowing that half-full glasses don’t just fill themselves, they roll up their sleeves, power up the fishing boat, drive hundreds of miles to disaster sites, and spend days wading through alligator-infested waters, fighting off looters to rescue stranded people and puppies.

And strangely, given that they are heartless capitalists, they ask nothing for doing it.

As Hurricane Harvey approached, the New York Times jetted a reporter into Houston to search for their favorite mascot of the victim-of-society meme: the Homeless Guy Living Under a Bridge (HUGLUB). The goal was to do a poverty porn piece on how Houstonians didn’t care if the HUGLUB lived or died.

Happily for the historical record, and for rest of us, they got this guy:

Before high winds and heavy rain began to lash this city overnight, Roy Joe Cox tucked into the spot under the freeway that he calls home and assessed his hurricane supplies.

And thus was to begin the bathetic tale of a forgotten man, a man so poor that his only hope was to steal a blanket to protect himself from a hurricane:

He began his day Saturday in that Walmart parking lot, [sic, and note to the Times: hire your copy editors back] in search of a blanket that he hoped would protect him from the storm. With just a few coins in his pocket, he said he had planned to steal one.

To anyone other than a Times reporter (or, say, a Guardian stringer professionally lying about our social safety net for eager European audiences), it should have been clear that Mr. Cox knew perfectly well that a blanket wouldn’t protect him from a hurricane. He was just hitting up intrepid reporter Julie Turkewitz for a dime.

Drinking and panhandling are apparently what Mr. Cox spends his days doing when he isn’t otherwise making a public nuisance of himself.

Despite Miss Turkewitz’s best efforts to stage a scene from Les Misérables under a Houston overpass, such facts keep intruding on her report, and what emerges (to any reader other than readers of the Times) is a picture of a man who only has his own behavior to blame for ending up under a bridge:

Mr. Cox lives on a slip of cement between traffic lanes under the Southwest Freeway, across from an adult accessories shop called Katz Boutique and a taquería called Tepatitlán, and not far from a Shell station where he uses the bathroom.

He said he liked the spot because he can sit between a thick column and a large metal electrical box. This allows him some privacy. He sleeps on a brown sofa cushion and makes occasional trips on foot to a Walmart about a mile away. To eat, he “flies,” which is his term for panhandling.

And don’t forget, he robs stores.

Of course, the good taxpayers of Houston had already provided shelter for Mr. Cox, and the harried police, who had better things to do, had already tried to get him to shelter:

On Friday two police officers came by to offer him shelter, he said. He said no to both. His reasons are varied. “You can’t smoke there, you can’t drink there,” he said. He didn’t want to leave his stuff, he added. He was afraid that afterward he won’t [sic] be able to find his way back. “I’m familiar with this place. I can make a few dollars here, take care of myself here.”

Here is the story the Times will not tell: because some homeless guy wants to keep drinking, police and rescue workers in Houston will have to risk their lives throughout the storm to keep trying to coax him to safety, and if they do not, the ACLU or some other nonprofit legal parasite will soon sue the City of Houston and FEMA, making Parisians clutching their Guardian newspapers swoon in ecstasy at the thought of Donald Trump murdering this poor, forgotten Jean Valjean.

This is poverty porn.

As Julia Turkewitz scoured underpasses searching for victims of American greed, decent Americans like the “Cajun Navy” and the “Waco Navy” headed to Houston to rescue storm victims, while police and other first responders geared up for weeks of hard, dangerous, around-the-clock labor to rescue and protect the Roy Joe Coxes and Julia Turkewitzes and everyone in between. These are the sorts of stories being told in the conservative media.

There’s this guy, for example. I’ve actually had to tone down Megan Fox’s description of him for family audiences:

He’s back!  Be still my beating heart! This guy just can’t be stopped! Identified as a Houston SWAT team member who is carrying women and babies out of danger. With muscles bulging (and probably blinding feminists with his toxic maleness) superman Daryl Hudeck has now been spotted rescuing puppies … I give you the men of Texas.

And this Twitchy article features heart-warming dog rescuers, hard-working guys rescuing grannies on jet-skis, and more of the now-ubiquitous Mr. Hudeck.

Some young men pull on combat gear and rescue people; other young men pull on bandanas and throw rocks at police.

Back in August 2012, I followed Code Pink and assorted black-masked thugs (now calling themselves Antifa) as they repeatedly assaulted police in Tampa outside the Republican National Convention. It was striking how the police and the masked protesters were mostly the same age but had taken such different paths in life, and morality, and behavior.

I’ll never forget the moment when a thug dressed entirely in black, with a bandana covering his face, flung a bottle of water – hard – back at the police who had just given it to him to combat the 95-degree-plus-humidity heat.

The thug yelled that the bottle of water was too small.

This attitude is indistinguishable from the ungrateful pap doled out by Times reporters when they go looking for homeless people under bridges – not to help them, but to criticize other Americans for allegedly failing to help.

One can only hope that Roy Joe Cox got a six-pack of beer out of those reporters. After all, he provided a valuable service to them: he helped them sell their narrative, though just barely.

It’s – literally – the least they could do.