Oh Dear Lord, the fools

The southern French city of Marseille has been forced to scrap a system of yellow triangles intended to help spot homeless people after it was accused of employing Nazi-style tactics.

The cards, which were handed out to homeless people, detail their health issues and are bright yellow in order to be easily spotted.


I’m astonished
that there’s anyone in Europe at all sufficiently ignorant of history to use a bloody yellow badge. It’s not so much “what were they thinking” but “Were they thinking at all?”

34 thoughts on “Oh Dear Lord, the fools”

  1. Not sure about this. If I was epileptic I wouldn’t mind having something on my clothing saying so. It would mean that if I was found unconcious in the street or apparently drunk, the police would know what to do instead of treating me like a drunk.

    And if I was a black American with breathing difficulties, something on my clothing to indicate that could be the difference between life and death.

  2. Ralph, it’s not “badge” which is the problem. It’s “which badge”. Yellow star and pink triangle are both right out for historical reasons. and thus, by implication, so is yellow triangle.

  3. Because the Nazis used similar things 80 years ago they can’t be used again?

    I don’t follow football but I understand that the lachrymose cretins at Liverpool FC are thinking of ‘retiring the shirt’ when someone called Gerrard stops playing, and this seems to me to be on a similar level. That is, juvenile.

    I’m surprised at you siding with the perpetually offended and eternal spotters of symbolism Tim.

    No one who is alive now was alive then (basically) but even if they were so what? We didn’t fight that war and those dickheads for this bollocks, surely?

  4. Interested, there’s a difference between “prohibiting something by force of law” and “deciding not to because it’s incredibly crass and in shocking taste for historical reasons.”

  5. Matthew L, but it’s not. It’s just that people keep saying it is.

    The Nazis were run out of town decades ago, and it’s this constant tip-toeing around the whole subject which keeps them alive, IMO.

    There are actual jews being actually hounded out of France at the moment and not very much is being done about it – that’s in actual shocking taste.

  6. Hi Tim,

    What is your take on the tech industry in Santa Clara being blamed for the homeles sness there. Some of the silly arguments asking for min wage to be increased to 15 dollars per hour are obviously silly, but what is causing the largest homeless population in the US? Zoning restriction?

  7. Well, when there’s a shortage of housing it is usually because the rules won’t allow people to build housing….

  8. If I was epileptic I wouldn’t mind having something on my clothing saying so. It would mean that if I was found unconcious in the street or apparently drunk, the police would know what to do instead of treating me like a drunk.

    See MedicAlert. NB: no idea if this is a fake charity, just the first hit on Google (I knew the bracelets existed.)

  9. “It’s just that people keep saying it is.”

    Isn’t that the definition of bad taste, which is clearly a subjective thing?

  10. Must say that I tend to side with Interested.

    The yellow star of David was a way of clearly identifying Jews. In that case, a mandatory scheme for evil purposes. A yellow triangle is also a way of clearly identifying homeless people. In this case (hopefully), for good purposes.

    You want something that allows people driving around to easily be able to stop and help people. Or if they get hit by a car, for the hospital to better help them. Yellow’s rather good for that, and a triangle is distinctive.

  11. So Much for Subtlety

    Tim Worstall – “Yellow star and pink triangle are both right out for historical reasons. and thus, by implication, so is yellow triangle.”

    Why? Who cares? I have had enough of those perpetually cruising for offense. Seriously. Who cares about a yellow triangle? Road users often use them.

    Time to let it go and move on.

  12. It’s only just a mistake. A yellow square would have been fine; as would many other shapes and colours. At the end of the day it’s just an administrative error.

  13. @Matthew L

    ‘Isn’t that the definition of bad taste, which is clearly a subjective thing?’

    In one sense you’re right of course.

    But, in another, we’re in an age where we are becoming ever more proscribed by a sort of bad taste groupthink.

    I’d even say it’s becoming *the* issue of our age, much more than it ever was in the old days, when people like my mum would look down on others because of their taste issues.

    My mum didn’t think it was her business to run round the streets *yelling* about the bad taste of others, and imposing her views on them – indeed, she’d have thought that was itself in bad taste.

    What’s happened here – and to my surprise I think normally sensible people such as Tim and Ian B are falling for it – is someone- someone underemployed and with a surfeit of first world problems – has yelled ‘Nazis!!!!’

    And then off come the bails.

    As we all now know, the only response is instantly dropping everything and prostrating oneself before the mob so as to appease it.

    Well, I don’t drop to my knees and prostrate myself. I stand there and say fuck off.

    (Not to you, to the mob.)

  14. Tim Worstall: ‘Well, when there’s a shortage of housing it is usually because the rules won’t allow people to build housing….’

    No, there’s no shortage of housing, just a shortage of affordable housing suitable for drunks & drug addicts and the mentally ill to be able to maintain in that area.

  15. The idea is stupid from first principles. What makes these morons think that the homeless are going to be willing to wear badges of any shape or colour.

    That’s without them having seen “The Treasure of the Sierra Madre”

  16. People who don’t take their meds aren’t too likely to wear their badges. And yet it’s the poor lunatics who are likeliest to need help.

    “Yellow star and pink triangle are both right out for historical reasons”. OK; to use them would be bad manners.
    “and thus, by implication, so is yellow triangle.” Oh no; that opens the door to infinite offence-taking and grievance-mongering.

    It’s odd what people choose to affect outrage about. When I last had my wrist stamped I didn’t cry “Belsen”, and nor did anyone else.

  17. Whether you think the problem is “Eek! Yellow badges! Nazis!” or “Fuck! Perpetually offended morons!”, Tim is surely right either way that politicians in a European democracy trying this scheme aren’t very good at thinking.

    BIW,

    > See MedicAlert. NB: no idea if this is a fake charity

    I don’t think they are (or that they need to be — a good line in selling lots of different bracelets and badges). Even if they do get loads of government money in the UK, that wouldn’t make them a fake charity: they are surely providing a vital health service and helping to prevent hospitals accidentally kill people, which would make it valid NHS expenditure. And they don’t lobby the government to change policy.

  18. Pravin,

    The standard line from the American Left is that San Francisco somehow has a massive homeless population despite having the most generous benefits for homeless people in the US. It’s a real puzzle.

    I’m sure the weather helps too.

  19. @S2

    ‘Tim is surely right either way that politicians in a European democracy trying this scheme aren’t very good at thinking. ‘

    Funny, to me the fact that they’ve pulled the badges is evidence that they are not thinking!

  20. Bollocks. For decades the yellow triangle has been used to flag a hazard, with a superimposed symbol identifying it – laser, bio, high voltage etc. Nobody has complained about it resembling a yellow star of David.
    And there’s stated no requirement to display these cards; just to carry them. OK, that’s statist ID card crap, but we’re talking France here.
    There’s a half decent argument that the hazard sign is not appropriate to flag medical conditions. But that’s got bugger all to do with the Holocaust.

  21. “The idea is stupid from first principles. What makes these morons think that the homeless are going to be willing to wear badges of any shape or colour.”

    As someone who actually worked in a homeless shelter, all I can say is “Yep”.

    My experience with the homeless of Central Ohio disclosed the following: At least 3 of every 4 homeless that came into the shelter were dealing with substance abuse and/or mental health issues. Those that weren’t looking to get into some sort of rehab program were looking for a place to sleep after a long day of scrounging up alcohol and/or drugs and then abusing them. Those sort of people, engaged in those sorts of activities, would be very disinclined to walk around town advertising the fact that they are homeless (and perhaps up to no good).

  22. bloke (not) in spain

    “I’m astonished that there’s anyone in Europe at all sufficiently ignorant of history to use a bloody yellow badge.”
    Why?
    The Nazis are well on the way to joining the Vikings, the Apache & the Spanish Inquisition in going mythic. Overuse of the N-word as a descriptive of anything disapproved of, hasn’t helped. Shouldn’t think many in the last couple generations can work what was a Nazi symbol from what’s claimed to be a Nazi symbol.
    They’ll have achieved full myth when there’s a sports team named after them.

  23. I think it’s the colour and the shape that people find hard to accept. The coloured triangle system was adopted by the Nazis (the ‘Star of David’ simply being two triangles sewn together).

    Might I suggest a symble for a fat ignorant puffed-up twat? Could be a series of progressively smaller circles inside each other and coloured white black blue red and yellow. Then sewn on someone’s back.

  24. Without the hyperbole, a coloured circle would have been considerably less objectionable. You lot are falling into the same pattern you’re railing against. You’re going over the top by decrying even the reasonable offence taking, not just the indefensible kind.

  25. Ah the voice of ‘youf’. The nazis are history – and history never repeats itself.
    Yet you all live in a society where you can lose employment if you say the wrong thing. Where an informer can denounce you to the mob.
    Where ‘protests’ are becoming torchlight parades.

  26. Pravin/SQ2 , a bit of data from the Bay:
    The homeless encampment is San Jose (Story Road, San Jose, west of 101) which is about 50 miles from SF. San Jose is a mix of wealth and poverty, like San Francisco but bigger and more spread out. If you want to rent a 1 bedroom flat in the Bay Area (basically, San Francisco through San Jose to Morgan Hill/Gilroy) you’re looking at north of $1500/month for even a cockroach-infested dilapidated shack. If you want something that you’d be happy raising kids in, you’re north of $2k/month – that’s 3-4 bedroom territory in southern UK non-London cities.

    The root problem is a combination of earthquakes (making hi-rise infeasible), building regulations (even 5+ floor developments are turned down), nice weather (making the area very attractive except in the height of summer, and outdoor sleeping feasible as it’s never freezing, as SQ2 notes) and tech-industry-driven wealth (insane demand making even moderate housing unaffordable).
    Also expensive utilities due to crazy California power costs because coal, gas, nuclear are all bad m’kay, expensive water because hey, we’re in a desert climate, and constrained living area because of 4000′ mountains to the west/southwest/east and the Bay itself – there really isn’t much land that isn’t already built on. And high property tax + poor services because all metros are bankrupt due to pension costs.

  27. So Much for Subtlety

    Matthew L – “Without the hyperbole, a coloured circle would have been considerably less objectionable. You lot are falling into the same pattern you’re railing against. You’re going over the top by decrying even the reasonable offence taking, not just the indefensible kind.”

    But you would have had to look at it and think, you know, that looks like half a symbol used by the Nazis to signify Jews. I mean, who has the time? Who is that obsessed? The last new car I drove came with a warning you can put on the road if the car breaks down. It is a yellow triangle. I saw that and thought, that is a clever design, a good idea but too Nanny state-ish. I did not think, wow these car designers are all secret Nazis. When does an obsession become unhealthy?

    If I see some reasonable offense taking I will agree with it. If a Korean girl band wears uniforms that look a little Nazi-ish, sure. Google “Pritz”. Even that is a bit lame.

    john malpas – “Ah the voice of ‘youf’. The nazis are history – and history never repeats itself.”

    History never does repeat itself.

    “Yet you all live in a society where you can lose employment if you say the wrong thing. Where an informer can denounce you to the mob.”

    Stalinism, not Nazism.

    “Where ‘protests’ are becoming torchlight parades.”

    More like lynch mobs.

  28. “The last new car I drove came with a warning you can put on the road if the car breaks down. It is a yellow triangle.”

    If you can’t tell the difference between using it to label an individual and using it to label a traffic hazard, then I have serious doubts about your ability to function in modern society.

  29. Medicalert is OK – have used them in the past until I figured out their necklace (dog tags in my case) was adding to my problem by being metal.
    Handy when you cannot speak to direct paramedics to dog tags or bracelet (if they haven’t spotted it) detailing a main problem or two.
    Now I have a little card in my sunglasses case in my coat pocket (where I keep my meds) instead. Not perfect, better than the item to help causing additional problems.
    Not medicalert’s fault. One day will get something put together in leather & wood – those I can wear without issue. 🙂

    As to homelessness in San Jose – its the same problem we have in the UK though concentrated a bit due to location there.
    Suitable places for the people concerned in the right area with the right facilities.
    An alcoholic who drinks every day can’t go in a ‘dry’ facility, will get kicked out. ‘Wet’ facilities are a lot rarer and person may not want to travel that far or may prefer where they are now to some strange area.
    Cannot force people to get treatment, cannot force people to follow rules they do not want to follow. So at least some of the places set up to ‘help’ will end up chucking out those who do not conform, who do not want help, who do not follow whatever action plan.
    Exactly the same problems as here. Those who seek to help want to find those wanting help, a portion only of those the media see as needing help.

  30. So Much for Subtlety

    Matthew L – “If you can’t tell the difference between using it to label an individual and using it to label a traffic hazard, then I have serious doubts about your ability to function in modern society.”

    If you are so obsessed with Nazis you see them under every rock, between the lines of every news story, seek help. Don’t blame me for pointing out how weird that is.

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