I certainly agree with you and Brandt about the copycats, Rob. But a tendency to copy isn't confined to street. How many Ansel Adams copies are out there in the world? Of course Ansel copiers have the advantage that Half Dome doesn't walk on down the street or give them dirty looks, so it's easier and less intimidating for them to copy. People sometimes fall back on Picasso's dictum: "Good artists borrow. Great artists steal," but there's a lot of difference between stealing an idea and copying a completed work.
I don't question that at all, but my general feelings about the ARAT genre are too well-known for me to comment. However, having written that, I accept without reservation that there is a handful of photographers out there with the ability to take that genre and make it look different, more personal, an experience we mortals don't generally have. That that's generally the case only since the advent of Photoshop goes a long way to undermining the value of it - at least, for me. Technical expertise with an electronic manipulation medium isn't worth that much to me; it shares much the same emotion in my heart as those makeup shots that show plasticized women looking exactly like well-painted window mannequins. Take away the essential humanity and you are left with not a lot to write home about. That's why I think good painting a real art and good photography something different, more a highly developed skill than anything else.
People copying 'street' in the sense of style
is not really my problem with it - you can't - the circumstances then are not the circumstances now; the problem seems to be that back then there was a purpose, publications trying to make a socio/political point, whereas today its about trying to recreate something that has no purpose anymore beyond the doubtful proving of the size of the practioner's cojones. Those photographs have no home today: they mean nothing. At best they record the message of the selfie, and at worst they embarrass somebody.
But then there is the photographer who takes that genre and turns it into something quite different, giving us the flavours of places we are not familar with, doesn't mock or laugh, but shows us life's funny moments in a different way. That take huge camera skill as well as a deep sense of humanity. Hell, it almost shows love.