People have been laughing at this video tweet:
It is laughable. The man whose face has been pasted into these Clint Eastwood scenes, and is portrayed blowing guys away, is Tate Reeves, the Republican governor of Mississippi, who actually looks like this:
In a real spaghetti Western context Reeves more strongly resembles the fat boy made the dance by the badman’s bullets than the Man With No Name.
But spoiling some of the humor for me is the continuing snarlfest of Tate Reeves types who really, really, really want to justify the long minutes Subway Strangler Daniel Penny spent choking the life out of Jordan Neely on the F train last week.
There is and has long been a vigilante streak among many Americans. While the setting for their violent fantasies used to be the Old West — and indeed, places like Texas have plenty of gun murder — the vigilante fantasy setting of choice was long ago transferred to city streets.
This phenomenon probably started with the Death Wish/Escape from New York era, from back when I first arrived in New York, when crime was actually high and suburbanites were both repelled and fascinated by it. The boys in the burbs were frightened by the pimps and punks they saw on TV and at the movies and on the cover of the New York Post.
But they also liked to fantasize that, under the right circumstances (maybe when inspired by their favorite tune on the jukebox!) they’d be sufficiently amped to sweep in and regulate.
As I mentioned in my previous newsletter on this subject, this fantasy closely matches the arc of Travis Bickle — though back in the old days, most suburbanites weren’t into Scorsese and would be repulsed by the stylized violence (not to mention the ambiguity) of Taxi Driver. They were much more comfortable with dumb TV cop shows that just showed tuff cops smacking down skels over wah-wah guitar. When TV time was over these fellows tucked themselves into bed and dreamt of being that cop — or maybe just a more cop-like version of themselves: The righteous honky who showed those skels what for.
They got a little charge out of Bernhard Goetz in 1984, but it was rather spoiled by the fact that Goetz was so self-evidently a poorly-socialized creep. That hit a little too close to home.
Flash forward to today. These guys (and their children, literal or figurative) have a heavier diet of gore. But they’re even less likely than once they were to have a blue-collar job, or indeed any contact with physical reality beyond greeting the Starbucks window guy from their SUV on the way to the office park.
Their dream hasn’t died, though. Their taste now runs more to CGI-heavy, physically ridiculous superhero violence, but they still dream, in their heart of hearts, of being that lone Clint Eastwood hero. Because as far-fetched as that is, at least Joe Account Coordinator looks less ridiculous in a sarape and bolero hat than as a Guardian of the Galaxy.
These are the killer nerds: Men (pretty much always men) whose lives are mostly office work and streaming and gaming (and maybe an occasional foray to the axe-throwing bar), who despite their privilege and ease yet retain their fascination with and resentment of those weird people beyond their suburbs and laptops —protestors, socialists, professors, feminists, skels.
The quintessence of nerd-dom is Twitter, and thus the place has become infested of late with killer nerds taking a break from their desk jobs to cheer the guy who murdered Jordan Neely. Daniel Penny is no nerd like Goetz — for one thing, he finished his victim; for another, he’s a Marine, as all the news stories told us before reporters even learned (or at least before they reported) his name, and his lawyer put out a press release saying how sorry Penny was that he had to kill the guy, which shows that he’s smart, too — maybe he and they could be office buddies someday!
Only, times being what they are, these guys are getting pushback from people who don’t agree with them that the indiscriminate killing of people who yell on the subway is a positive trend. This drives some of them batty — like rightwing columnist Mark Hemingway (Twitter name @Heminator, boo yah!), who backslid all the way into the Antifa Burned Down The Cities shtick from 2020:
The pushback trods on their fantasy, so the killer nerds work their office communications skills on it. I’d say the results are what you’d expect, but they’re actually worse.
Take the respondents to Elizabeth Spiers, who answered the National Review buffoon Dan McLaughlin’s Subway Strangler-related ravings about how New Yorkers are unable to “take their children out in public without being accosted & menaced by half-naked lunatics,” by saying that she, a New Yorker, had not been thus accosted.
You can go look for yourself, or you can spare yourself and take my word for it: Spiers gets brigaded by killer nerds who accuse her of lying, of claiming no one had ever been attacked in the subway, of being rich and clueless and stupid. They pipe up with stories like “I just saw a homeless guy pull his dick out and pee off the side of one the subway tracks just a few weeks ago” — very much as one would expect from a killer nerd who occasionally meets friends for drinks in the East Village and for whom a glimpse of some guy pissing is the height of depravity, a story to tell at work, a sign that the cities are dying, that in fact they have all Burned Down, in fact the nerd saw something that looked like smoldering and they bet that was from when they all Burned Down, and now here’s this bitch telling them it wasn’t real! I SAW A GUY PISS IN THE SUBWAY!
Spiers patiently kept pitching it back at them, and good for her but I can’t deal with that shit anymore. The Times’ Jamelle Bouie is pretty smart, but when dummies like Thomas Chatterton Williams hair-splittingly harangue him about “imminent danger” — a killer nerd loophole for vigilante murder — and Bouie takes the time to explain to him that no, merely thinking a situation might be dangerous is no excuse to kill someone, I think: Why bother? The killer nerds aren’t listening, would never listen. Why would they? The situational awareness and measured response to potential threats that every city dweller and subway rider knows intimately is a total bringdown for these people. You city skels may actually cope with and circumvent danger, but what the killer nerds want is action! Like The Man With No Name! Or The Marine With No Name Until Days Later After He’s Lawyered Up!
The most optimistic take I can have about this is, the killer nerds are only so well represented online because that’s mainly where they exist, and that they’ll dry up and blow away on contact with reality, rather than vice versa.
They *want* to be scared. That's why they watch Fox News and live vicariously through its hosts (who get chauffeured to work everyday from the suburbs). They *want* the fantasy of blowing away anyone who looks at them cross-eyed.
They always shout endlessly about their "freedoms" yet their commitment to "democracy" is paper-thin.
Oh boo-hoo, GOPers -- I was trying to descend to my station in Center City, two am, in full drag, and turned the corner to find a houseless guy pissing in front of the station door. He was fucking midstream & no stopping him, and since he was not blocking the door, I chose my dainty steps carefully — & he said "Watch your step, miss" as I passed by.
I mean gross, but good manners -- and absolutely not the end of the world. A gurl will get by.