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Friday, July 10, 2015

Airbnb Compares Itself to Ellis Island

Posted By on Fri, Jul 10, 2015 at 3:19 PM

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Short-term rental company Airbnb will stop at nothing to convince the American public that the right to operate an unlicensed bed and breakfast in buildings zoned for residential use is America's next frontier in civil rights. There was the "Homesharing 11" — a tone-deaf attempt to co-opt the language of people who have faced prosecution by the state for people who would rather gouge tourists than get a roommate. There was the "homespun Americana horseshit" of the corporation's attempt to spin Pride into the hospitality-themed lipstick on the pig of the rentier capitalism. 

Now there's the rewriting of the 19th and 20th Century history of immigration to the United States via Ellis Island into a heartwarming tale of immigrant families generating passive income (minus a cut for Airbnb) all in the service of fulfilling America's manifest destiny of "hospitality." In a fancy schmancy online advertisement "experience" for the New York Times website, Airbnb makes some serious leaps of logic to connect its hotel-without-a-hotel business model to immigration patterns to America's so-called "culture of hospitality."

It's a big warm bowl of nonsensical swill, held together by a total commitment to ignoring the historical and present day reality of immigration to the United States. (Please let's all go check out America's culture of hospitality on the border between the U.S. and Mexico. Can you Airbnb a room in an ICE detention center? No? That's a real lost opportunity.) 

I'm sure that there are some Native Americans who would have preferred that the European presence in America was more of a short-term rental than a centuries-long occupation. In the meantime, I'm not holding my breath for Airbnb to come out with a strong endorsement of San Francisco's Sanctuary City policy. That might require not being completely and totally full of shit. 

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About The Author

Julia Carrie Wong

Julia Carrie Wong's work has appeared in numerous local and national titles including 48hills, Salon, In These Times, The Nation, and The New Yorker.

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