Yesterday, the far-right news outlet Epoch Times featured Santa Monica resident, delivery driver and content maker Matt Wilson on its California Insider YouTube series. “Resident Tells How California’s Famous Beachtown is Unsafe” is a brutal yet muddled attack on the public safety and homeless solutions in Santa Monica and Los Angeles.
Before discussing what’s in the videos, it’s important to note who is making the content. The Epoch Times is described on Wikipedia as a “The Epoch Times is a far-right international multi-language newspaper and media company affiliated with the Falun Gong new religious movement.” Later it says, “The Epoch Media Group’s news sites and YouTube channels have spread misinformation and conspiracy theories, such as QAnon and anti-vaccine misinformation, and false claims of fraud in the 2020 United States presidential election.”
Looking dapper in a sports jacket and hipster glasses, Wilson presents a sympathetic figure. Using anecdotes from his six years of video files, some of which he shares on a YouTube channel; he creates a narrative of a city spinning out of control because of a lack of community spirit, an antagonistic relationship between the police and political leaders, and poor decision making. Well, sometimes its of a city spinning out of control. Sometimes he’s talking about Downtown Los Angeles, a completely different city. Other times he’s talking about L.A. County. There’s a segment of the interview where he talks about using social media to harass the mayor, but which mayor? Karen Bass? Gleam Davis? He uses a female pronoun, so it’s not Eric Garcetti, but maybe it’s Sue Himmelrich?
And let’s be clear, his main point is that there are too many homeless people, and that the city (whichever city he happens to be talking about) needs to do more sweeps, more cleanups and more incarceration.
And while Wilson presents himself as the real victim of a society in decline, parts of his story don’t add up. The charming story about how he illegally parked his car in the middle of a bus lane so he could get out and trash the belongings of a person experiencing homelessness seemed odd. Another time he laments that people mischaracterize him as “breaking up homeless encampments” even though he has taken videos of himself literally physically breaking up homeless encampments.
Despite his many anecdotes and strong feelings, Wilson was short on specific policy failures or solutions. Instead he focuses on what he sees as a decaying American society and occasionally throws out conspiracy theories and talking points that homeless service non-profits are about making money (they’re not), the police have been defunded (they haven’t been) and that there is a conspiracy of people out to get him for speaking the truth (there’s not).
So while you may not read the Epoch Times (you hopefully don’t read the Epoch Times) and mercifully may avoid ever being subjected to this video; it’s worth noting that it’s moving around the conservative echo chamber. It’s closing in on a quarter of a million views in less than a day. People are going to watch it and share it and use it to attack the city of Santa Monica and the morals of the people that live here. Just remember, the interview was conducted by a far-right media outlet, interviewing a content maker desperate for attention. When confronted with it, don’t let their need for attention distract from the crisis at hand and the people Santa Monicans are.