9/11 180°

Conservatives who pretended to like New York after 9/11 now cheer for it to die

It’s been a running gag for years now that 9/11 was the last time conservatives showed any affection for New York City. As I observed back in the day, for them it was mostly bullshit — a passive-aggressive pretense. They “supported” its recovery the same way they supported the troops — with words and bumper magnets. But at least they pretended.

This year, being a global gateway, New York got hit early by COVID-19 and it got hit hard. You are familiar with the stories of sirens through the days and nights and citizens cheering and banging pots and pans at 7 pm for hospital workers. And many outlanders mourned and cheered and banged with them.

But if you read conservatives these days — even as New York has beaten back the virus, keeping the curve flat for months, but still struggles economically — you’ll find they’re not cheering for New York to come back; they’re cheering for New York to die.

They usually don’t focus on COVID-19, though. That would acknowledge that New York shares a burden and a common destiny with the rest of the country. No, they usually focus on Bill De Blasio— who’s no one’s favorite mayor, which is why he makes a convenient scapegoat.

These guys are still mad, see, because De Blasio ended stop and frisk and crime didn’t go up, which blew up their racist policing theories and helped him win reelection. So now that, in the COVID shutdown, businesses have shut, some rich fucks have fucked off, and there’s been a crime spike, conservatives are ignoring Topic A and claiming it’s all because De Blasio is liberal and New York is liberal and liberalism destroys everything and riots and looting and Antifa and [Donald Sutherland ejaculating in 1900 strangled cry].

The New York Post, as anyone familiar with Rupert Murdoch tactics will have guessed, pounds De Blasio on the regular, e.g,: “NYCHA residents praise Trump’s leadership, blast Bill de Blasio in RNC video,” they “report” from a GOP press release. (If you think a majority of housing project residents love Trump, you really must be from out of town.) “NYC moms fleeing Upper West Side amid crime and chaos,” cries another story. Their columnist Michael Godwin called De Blasio New York’s “first mayor who doesn’t care about the city,” and repeated that “Violent crime is soaring, the homeless are everywhere, empty storefronts proliferate and people are fleeing neighborhoods that were safe six months ago.”

Six months ago! What happened then? Guess that’s when De Blasio first became the mayor… who doesn’t care about the city.

At Forbes, Jack Kelly cries “Mayor Bill De Blasio Plans 22,000 Layoffs, As People Flee New York City In Droves.” While briefly acknowledging the City was “America’s epicenter of the Covid-19 pandemic,” Kelly soon starts drifting into talk of the Bad Old Days:

Growing up as a kid in Canarsie, Brooklyn, I vaguely remember, but distinctly recall the stories from my parents about how bad New York City was in the 1970s and early ‘80s.

[That’s when I was first moved there, and had the time of my life.]

A trip to Manhattan was referred to in an ominous, dark and menacing way—as going into “the City.” The streets were dirty and grimy, crime ran rampant and morale was at an all-time low. It was common for me to see burned-out shells of cars sitting on the shoulders of the Belt Parkway...

With less tax revenue coming in, the city government has to make drastic cuts. The results will cause a rapid degradation of everyday life. In response to the changes in the city, residents have already started fleeing in droves...

Eventually he gets around to other scare-the-suburbanite shtick, too — “crime ran rampant and morale was at an all-time low... many people found themselves stuck in small and crowded apartments.” And they hadda ride in trains under the ground! You can see where Kelly’s going with this: soon New York will be Death Wish times The Warriors, and that’s why everyone in their right mind will flee.

If this doesn’t sound like a New Yorker’s perspective to you, bear in mind that there are many rightwing operatives living in New York, too, who are pleased to play the hayseed to bedazzle the rubes. (Check the Twitter feed of any Manhattan Institute factotum.) And while they’d love to terrorize enough Staten Islanders and Howard Beach Boys to elect more Republicans, their primary audience is people who don’t know much about the city except what they used to see on midtown excursions to Broadway and Bubba Gump and whose thoughts, when they hear that things are not going so hot in New York right now, go straight to old movie images of Charles Bronson blowing away skeevy perps.

They’re on Twitter, too. Here’s yet another Kelly, former New York top cop Ray’s no-good boy Greg, showing a line of people at an unspecified New York U-Haul location at the end of August (when, you may know, a lot of leases expire):

Using moving company activity and anecdotes to “prove” New York is dying is a rightwing trope I’ve been writing about for years.

You and I might laugh at this — as do non-insane New Yorkers — but the conservatives on Kelly’s feed buy it wholesale, and are either gleeful at the imagined prospect (“Another great American City brought to ruin with Progressive rule”) or lie to make it sound worse (“1-2 million people have left nyc wait for the census”).

And it’s not hard to see why — Trump has more or less declared war on America’s cities, which refuse to pay him the tribute of their votes, and portrays them all as hellish dystopias ruled by riot warlords. (His shock troops are invading the cities in hopes of stirring up violence to make it look as if it’s so.) DC gets plenty of this bullshit — I’ve noted some of it here, and someone else planted just such a ludicrous story on Twitter just last weekend:

“How badly the city’s been destroyed by rioters” — as a resident of DC I can tell you, this guy is as full of shit as it’s possible to be without bursting.

But the operatives spreading this stuff don’t care about reality, and they certainly aren’t trying to show any 9/11-style sympathy for New York as it pulls itself out of the COVID-19 hole. Because their pollsters have certainly advised them that stoking their base’s hatred of highfalutin’ city folk might energize them to come out and vote Trump, and that is far, far more important to them than any old-fashioned idea of solidarity with one’s fellow citizens in a time of crisis.

I’m confident New York will not only endure but prevail after the COVID crisis is settled. About the sad, sick country in which it’s embedded, I’m not so sure.