Barack (Baruch) Obama, the current incarnation of American puppet theater, has concretized his position as master propagandist, hell-bent on leading the entire world to war if not nuclear annihilation. The office of the resident president – in reality an oligarchy managed by the biggest money players and lobbyists on the globe – has a long history of rhetorical oratory at the expense of The Other.

In the March 27th edition of Counterpunch Nathalie Kuroiwa-Lewis writes about the “War Syllogism” of the American Presidency. It is telling that Ms. Kuroiwa-Lewis uses the term syllogism in advancing her argument, when we here at kulturCritic know in fact that syllogistic reasoning is what historically locked the West and its Curriculum into a never ending legalistic battle with ourselves, with the Other, and with our world.

But, let us stay with the theme of war. Ms. Kuroiwa-Lewis says the major premise of this War syllogism is of course American militarism. Simply put: ‘If I am a hammer then everything else is a nail.’ But, I would say the major premise should be a bit broader – let us call it ‘bellicose American exceptionalism.’ Simply put: ‘We are chosen to save the world from Evil and spread the American Dream.’ Like most of his predecessors, Baruch has learned well the rhetorical niceties of this syllogistic form; and through it, he is setting us up – along with the entire Western world – for what may be the rightful end to Western Civilization and the Curriculum that grounds it. And maybe this is an appropriate endgame given our current overlapping unsolvable planetary crises.

It is more than likely, if the rhetoric keeps ratcheting up, that Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin will have no other recourse but to defend his country against a virulent attack from the West. Then we can witness Baruch Obama and Angela Merkel – a lady who herself learned the art of the syllogism as a Stasi propagandist (a.k.a. ‘Erika’) spreading agitpro in East Germany before the fall of the wall – marching along hand-in-hand with the new neo-Nazi rulers of Kiev.

All of this is not to say that Baruch can’t muster as much intelligence as poor dead JFK did when he made his private pleading to Nikita Kruschev asking him politely to back down from Cuba. Perhaps our Baruch will discover how to show a similar wisdom and humility. But, this really does nothing to solve the problem of America’s deluded self-image and its sociopathic need to demonize The Other – “the scapegoat” – and prostitute the rest of the world so that we may always get our way. There is a real sickness in the soul of the American populous, their constitution, their leaders, and the capitalist oligarchs, a ‘sickness unto death’ that needs desperate remedy.

As Kuroiwa-Lewis writes:

In his book, A Grammar of Motives, [Edmund] Burke explains that the scapegoat is a substitute or vicarious stand-in for a community’s ills and must therefore take the blame for those ills and be sacrificed in order to purify the community of its sickness (406)

So we, as the sick community, demonize whomever we can to assuage our deluded sense of global entitlement. We take our own sickness, our own weakness – a weakness hiding behind our macho exceptionalism and our apparent military might – and we project it onto someone whom we then can attack. But really, all of this is too psychological. The foundation of our militaristic mindset is our desperate need for diminishing resources in a fast closing negative-sum game.

The oddly reassuring part in all this hysteria is that we never hear the same kind of rhetoric or belligerence out of Moscow. But, perhaps it is not odd after all. Perhaps it is the only natural response from a more lambent Russian character – that emotionally more mature, archaic Russian soul. On the other hand, the American attitude is agitated and agitating – reminiscent of the three-year-old child who believes the world revolves around him and him alone. Like that child, we instigate trouble, and when we are upbraided, we then go into a tantrum until we get our way. And, oddly enough, our hegemony seems to be playing both roles in this Greek tragedy. Just like the militaristic Spartans before us, the West is spoiling for a real firefight. But Baruch, our ebony hegemon, is strutting more like the Persian god-king Xerxes, demanding that Putin bow before his divine majesty.   However, what must not be forgotten in this current scenario is that…

Unlike the United States, Russia does have legitimate security interests in goings-on in the former Soviet republics [like Ukraine]. Obama and the others are therefore like little kids playing with matches. Fortunately, though, it seems that the Russians also know how to resist egregious provocations… In recent days, anti-Russian animosity seems even   to have overcome Washington’s gridlock. And where Democrats and Republicans go, so go the mainstream media. The usual suspects are busily doing all they can to whip up a ruckus… If the Russians were to stoop to Obama’s level by taking his bait, the consequences would be dire.***

But, perhaps Russia’s long-suffering messianic mission still stands firm in the Siberian wilderness, albeit less vociferously than before: quietly attempting to recall us from the abyss of an alienated spirit that haunts the self-understanding of the West and its militaristic syllogism – a self-understanding that seems to be marching all of us hyper-rationally (irrationally) to global collapse. Unfortunately, the delusion of ‘manifest destiny’ and ‘American exceptionalism’ driving the Western hegemony and its belligerent culture is chipping away relentlessly and callously at that archaic Russian soul, perhaps more rapidly than she is able to redirect the self-destructive trajectory of Western imperialism and its global appetites.

46 Responses to AgitPro

  1. Disaffected says:

    So we, as the sick community, demonize whomever we can to assuage our deluded sense of global entitlement. We take our own sickness, our own weakness – a weakness hiding behind our macho exceptionalism and our apparent military might – and we project it onto someone whom we then can attack. But really, all of this is too psychological. The foundation of our militaristic mindset is our desperate need for diminishing resources in a fast closing zero-sum game.

    Couldn’t have said it any better if I tried! Perhaps none other than the Beatles hinted best at true detente WAY back in the day?

    or this:

  2. Disaffected says:

    Have to add,

    But, perhaps Russia’s long-suffering messianic mission still stands firm in the Siberian wilderness, albeit less vociferously than before: quietly attempting to recall us from the abyss of an alienated spirit that haunts the self-understanding of the West and its militaristic syllogism – a self-understanding that seems to be marching all of us hyper-rationally (irrationally) to global collapse. Unfortunately, the delusion of ‘manifest destiny’ and ‘American exceptionalism’ driving the Western hegemony and its belligerent culture is chipping away relentlessly and callously at that archaic Russian soul, perhaps more rapidly than she is able to redirect the self-destructive trajectory of Western imperialism and its global appetites.

    That is is a mighty fine summation as well. MUCH TRUTH in that paragraph, MUCH TRUTH!

    NICE POST Sandy!

  3. the Heretick says:

    “So we, as the sick community, demonize whomever we can to assuage our deluded sense of global entitlement. We take our own sickness, our own weakness – a weakness hiding behind our macho exceptionalism and our apparent military might – and we project it onto someone whom we then can attack. But really, all of this is too psychological. The foundation of our militaristic mindset is our desperate need for diminishing resources in a fast closing zero-sum game.’

    i like that part, you have seen into the heart of the beast right there.

    i didn’t post the last couple days, seemed no one was around.
    i have def noticed that they are not letting this rest, they are worrying it like a dog with an old bone.
    i have said to myself, why?
    probably you are correct with your last line.

    how about a little Okie tune?

  4. bholanath says:

    Damn, beautiful and most excellent. That immature little macho bastard child metaphor is exactly how I’ve seen this population and its politicians for a long time. As long as I keep reminding myself of that fact/image, I can maintain some semblance of sanity, with a bit of humor and detachment. But ultimately, how does one deal with weapon-wielding little a-holes prone to continuous tantrums?
    My respect for Russian archaic soul has been growing for years. I seriously contemplate relocating. And, holy crap, a leader who’s clearly not a psychopath! What a concept.
    I don’t understand exactly how you mean “the delusion….is chipping away at that archaic Russian soul”. I’m hoping these sick bastards have crossed ‘a bridge too far’ with this re-animation of the cold-war trance. Hoping the grownups are gathering in force, about to enter the playground.

  5. An excellent summation. The US is in a state of arrested development, an adolescent society: self absorbed, fascinated with its own perceived wisdom, obsessed with sex, yet afraid of it at the same time, and we have an adolescent president and state secretary (the “haircut in search of a brain”) completely outclassed and out-statesmanned by their Russian counterparts again.
    Obama’s hideously dishonest and laughable comparison of Iraq and Crimea was the groanfest heard round the world. Saying we left the Iraqi people free to determine their own future, when really we left them in a hell hole of sectarian violence, including an AlQueda element that wasn’t there before. And in actuality it is the Crimeans who have overwhelmingly made their own choice: abandoning a bankrupt dysfunctional government to join a solvent corrupt one.

    • Disaffected says:

      Kerry makes his defeat in the Prez sweepstakes in 2004 look better everyday, doesn’t he? Who knew that the Shrub was going be the lesser of two evils way back then?

  6. Regarding the Cuban crises: precipitated by the invasion of Cuba by the US and repeated terror attacks from groups based and harbored on US soil. Khrushev agreed to withdraw after Kennedy promised to dismantle Jupiter missiles from Turkey and to not invade Cuba or continue terror attacks. The missiles in Turkey were withdrawn (that had actually been planned before the crisis, as they were obsolete), but the terrorism promise was broken immediately with an attack on a Cuban factory killing 400 workers and continues to be broken. When Cuba increases security in response, it is criticized for suppressing civil rights.

  7. Ron McCafferty says:

    I have to insert this link to a video that continues to haunt me. For these are the true victims of all this horseshit.

    • the Heretick says:

      searched the title on You Tube, it does exist, and it is really powerful, i like that he says there are not “casualties of war” but victims of murder. a message like that reawakens the old pacifistic spirit which has been absent for so long. in all seriousness, worth searching for.

      • Ron McCafferty says:

        It was very hard for me to watch as I have seen it in person. Left me wondering was it all worth it? No, it wasn’t. We get sent off and take orders and don’t question. That video is the result. Defending yourself is one thing. But what the US and Britain and other conquering nations have done or are doing is just plain old wrong. Soldiers everywhere need to stand up and question what it is they are actually doing. What is the real purpose of THE MISSION?

  8. Ron McCafferty says:

    My last post I was attempting to display a video. If you click the playlist in the upper left a list will appear. View video six An Open Letter to World Leaders.

    • Disaffected says:

      Found the video. Sums it up pretty well I’d say. Answer to the question when is enough, enough? When the oligarchs pulling the strings own everything and have exterminated or enslaved everyone else. That’s the end game

      Lets try the link again:

  9. Martin says:

    We (the US & it’s ‘leadership’) are nothing like a tantruming 3-year old. More like a 16 or 17-year old adolescent male who is suddenly 6′ tall and 200 lbs and full to the brim with raging hormones and singular self-importance. Three-year olds aren’t dangerous…

  10. Just saw this report……
    Once the US Government lies to it’s people and the world!! *side eyes*

  11. source dweller says:

    “The foundation of our militaristic mindset is our desperate need for diminishing resources in a fast closing zero-sum game.”
    Just a quibble, Sandy, it seems to me that we’re talking about the biggest negative-sum game around. War is not poker night with the guys, you know. Nothing can chew through capital, resources, environments, infrastructure and human lives and souls like a war machine, as Russians remember all too well. Obviously the Russian collective memory of the Great Patriotic War is an effective antidote to the frothing at the mouth delusionalism that has gripped Washington.
    Great post, as ever.
    Robert Beckett

    • kulturcritic says:

      Robert, I would agree… it is a “negative sum game” for sure.  Thank you for the clarification.  I have changed the wording as well.  Glad you enjoyed it.  Sandy kC 😉

  12. Colin says:

    It does seem as if the Western Imperialist Dreadnought is targeting something more ancient from Siberia. You know those photos of Vlad shirtless and fishing in the Siberian wilderness actually were the first time I viewed him in a more positive light. The dude obviously loves his Siberian wilderness and I always get this vibe that Siberia is Russia’s beloved backyard – the part it will never yield to any foreign Government on the planet. The Nazi’s tried in vain and were brutalized by the Russian winter in their failure. Also, nothing screams “I’ve never gone in the woods” louder than Obama’s psuedo-urban-tardiness and metro-hipster-Facebook-likability schmooze – what phoney…..

  13. Disaffected says:

    Kunstler continues his recent string of salient points with his latest: Attention Deficit. James’ recent abbreviated style seems to suit him well, which his comments section reflects as well.

    His closing sums it up pretty well, I think:

    The USA is exhibiting pretty severe signs of that sclerosis in the demented behavior of its leaders in episodes such as the current unnecessary manufactured fiasco over Ukraine to the physical deterioration of our towns, roads, bridges, and all the plastic crap we managed to smear over the mutilated landscape to the comportment of our demoralized, mentally inert, drugged-up, tattoo-bedizened populace of twerking slobs.

    In short, it is self-evident that Russians have an abiding interest in the Crimea and we have none, while both the material and cultural life of the US is in a shambles and much more worthy of our own attention.

    Something about the Matthew 7:3 Bible quotation (which good Christians are always only too quick to quote), roughly, “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?”, comes to mind. Oh well. Hardly surprising in a nation of self-confessed Christian sinners, who worship the idol, rather than the ideal.

  14. Disaffected says:

    Wow! This just in:

    Yet another mass shooting at Ft Hood TX by yet another active duty soldier. Think they’re trying to tell us something?

    • the Heretick says:

      it’s the big disconnect, what happens when what you’re told doesn’t mesh with what you experience. what else should we expect when people are taught to kill?

      The Big Lie, Le’ Big Mac, Big Oil, Big Sky Country, Mr. Big, Big Government, Big Boss Man, The Bigger the Better, geez, seems we like it big here in the USA.

      don’t know what prompted that line of thought, The Big Lie probably.

      as to your previous comment.

      “the physical deterioration of our towns, roads, bridges, and all the plastic crap we managed to smear over the mutilated landscape”

      how Dali couldn’t go to town, just think if the inside was apparent on the outside, man, talk about a dreamscape.

      but then, all youse has to do is turn on the boob-tube, nothing Freudian there at all.

      when we have people engaging in the dirty business of Empire some of them are going to snap, probably some would snap anyway. but the same as the subjugation of the planet by the ruling elite is coming back onto the privileged West in the form of mass unemployment and downward wage pressure, so will the violence inflicted upon upon the planet come back on us in the form of disturbed soldiers.

      now, PTSD may have nothing to do with this, but Obomber standing up there saying we will get to the bottom of this is pure baloney, we know what causes this sort of thing. it’s not rocket science, it’s behavioral science, if a HS graduate can figure it out, well then, the high dollar shrinks can also; only they either don’t want to, or are lying about it, your choice.

    • Disaffected says:

      Police helmet cam video of Albuquerque NM Gestapo squad murdering a homeless man in the foothills. DOJ investigation pending, but so far no charges for the murderous cowardly thugs masquerading as “law enforcement.” Police state yet? Umm… YEP!

      • Disaffected says:

        Of course APD Chief says “shooting justified.” Surprise, surprise!

      • the Heretick says:

        Wild, Wild, West!!!

        No seriously, it’s horrible the guy got shot dead, I don’t know what to say.

        The original beef was about “illegally camping”, it’s the truth, being poor in America is a crime. It’s a closed system, the commons are not common. Yes, the guy had a criminal record, he’s disturbed, this discussion could go all kinds of places, who is really disturbed being one of them.

        But it’s the truth, you have no right to be on “public property”, it’s a completely controlled environment, can’t pay? You’re suspect.

        The fact is you are not free, you cannot wander upon the face of the Earth as what we would call a free creature. There are borders, there are laws, and if you are destitute you will suffer, hence peoples fear of being homeless. The support system behind all the fascism is a world view that divides the planet up into ruled areas.

        All this being said, the guy must really have been crazy, I know if a cop is pointing a gun at me, I’m doing what he says.

        There is the way things maybe should be, and there is the way things are.

        • Disaffected says:

          The people who originally turned the cops in were the same homeowners who reported the homeless guy in the first place. They evidently didn’t see the humor in killing the poor bastard just for being homeless. And the knives? Give me a break!

          • the Heretick says:

            cops in my hometown used to carry 38’s, the incident that changed this policy was when this big Indian cop was killed on Skid Row by a speed freak with a knife, after he had emptied his revolver right into the guy at point blank range.

            your points are well taken, we have lots of problems in our society. it’s too bad about his guy, it’s too bad about the people coming home from our wars minus some body parts. undoubtedly our entire militaristic society creates this suffering. here’s the deal though, even if we are able to dial this down we will still have people acting out for a long time, cops aren’t going away anytime soon.

      • the Heretick says:

        OK, you’ve got me on the case now.
        this is really out of control. “every stop is an unknown threat”?
        this really is the militarization of the police.

      • the Heretick says:

        there’s some crooked stuff going on with the Albuquerque PD, that’s for sure.
        got to go to work.

      • Colin says:

        That video makes my blood boil. I can’t watch it. It’s just so wrong on so many levels. It’s like the people in charge just want a fucking violent revolution on their hands so they can bring out the big guns. I don’t like wishing violence towards anyone but those dudes who shot that guy deserve to be hung upside down from a tree and flogged….followed by hanging right side up.

        • Colin says:

          Sorry if my comments attract any negative attention Sandy. You’re free to scrub it as you see fit. As soon as that video emerged I immediately forced myself not to watch it and tried my best to ignore it. That guy who got shot could have been me in my younger years. I’ve slept in numerous state parks and other off-the-beaten path places for free. It’s not a crime. It’s our land – our taxes pay for it….

    • Disaffected says:

      Not to be outdone, the NM State Police performed their best Keystone cops routine last November, while managing to escalate a routine traffic stop needlessly, scare the shit out of and endanger the family involved’s safety, and endanger the public safety of the citizens of Taos NM engaging in a stupid high speed pursuit. At least one officer was fired and the police academy instructed to review its criteria for recruits. Loss of public confidence in their “public protectors?” PRICELESS!

      • the Heretick says:

        $126 is lite for 16 over, I paid $260 for 10. In my own backward state they don’t make you sign nothin’, they just hand you the ticket.
        This lady was a dumbass, sorry, but she was, just sign the damn thing!!!
        Believe me, I’m on your side, but a lot of cops are vets, they are used to pushing around captive populations.
        But then, come on, I’ve been in custody, the last thing you do is run from the cops. Now, he had the license plate, they had it all on camera, what’s the point of freaking out.
        This could have been handled differently, but hey, these people (both sexes) have an authoritarian mindset, that’s why they become cops.
        Cops and criminals are the 2 profiles on the MMPI which most closely match.
        12:20 in at this point.
        The kid is lucky he wasn’t shot as soon as he came out of the car.
        The first video I haven’t watched.
        On this second one? Nobody like tickets the HiPo could have let me slide on mine.
        However, never, never, argue with the Police, you will lose.
        I’ve been in custody, when cops tell you to do something, you do it, it’s called “good custody”.
        There are worse things than cops on the streets.

        • Disaffected says:

          Hmmm… waving a gun in front of unarmed family members, then bashing their window in. On top of that, reinforcements pulling up and not parking so as to block their exit – stupidity. I would have been afraid of these jokers myself and probably ran as well. Of course I’ve got 600HP at the rear wheels. They had better bring a helicopter. The lady was stupid (but scared), the cops are gun waving sociopaths and cowards.

          • the Heretick says:

            “sociopaths and cowards” see my reference to the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory.
            don’t you worry though, they have helicopters, and radios.

            actually, i’m surprised he was so patient, and that no one got shot.
            notice that he never “waved his gun”, he was right handed, his firearm was holstered on his right hip. what the guy pulled was probably his taser. the cop played it by the book.

            i’m familiar with political philosophies from all over the spectrum, i understand the so-called sovereign citizens, i don’t call them whackos or terrorists, i see where they are coming from, they want to be free to walk the earth. by the same token, i understand the control freaks, they want to eliminate all risk, nobody to get hurt, good luck with that.

            all in all, yeah, cops are control freaks, but this lady escalated it, i’m surprised it turned out as well as it did.

            on a final note, she had her kids with her, she is responsible for their welfare, when you have vulnerable people with you? get out of the situation, sign the ticket, go on your way.
            by trying to be cute in a situation that we have all faced, this lady really got herself in a lot of trouble. where are her children now? guests of the State of New Mexico?

            i’ve got to disagree with you on this one, one thing i do agree with is traffic laws, too dangerous to not have traffic laws with all the machines out there.

          • the Heretick says:

            i’m back, not done, this lady makes me madder than the cops, tell you why.

            “The mother of five was arrested on suspicion of intentional child abuse, fleeing and possession of drug paraphernalia. Her 14-year-old son was charged with battery of an officer.”
            “Officials with the state Children, Youth and Families Department assumed custody of four of Farrell’s children. The kids were later released to a friend of the family who resides in New Mexico, police said”


            here’s why i feel the way i do, the son was still locked up. it doesn’t matter what you or i think, you do not get your child arrested for battering a cop, don’t matter if it’s right or wrong, you do whatever it takes to keep your African-American child out of the clutches of the popo. 14 or not, if they go with a felony he could be locked up, depending on how they treat him he could have a record. so someone who will have a hard enough time with police starts out his young life with one strike. a truly irresponsible woman.

            again, there’s the way things ought to be, and there’s the way things are.

            • Disaffected says:

              That’s funny, I thought they were pretty damn heroic for standing up for their mom. The whole thing could have been diffused had the first idiot merely kept his cool and waited for backup. He was clearly worked into a frenzy because she dared to defy him. But I guess we’re a little more liberal over here. In an impoverished state which depends quite a bit on tourism for what little income the people have, that kind of Walker Texas Ranger bullshit don’t cut it. That said, the cops are for the most part a poor, uneducated lot as well. They work the dog shit out of ’em for piss poor pay (which is why so many of them are on the take once they make rank). But regardless, once they go cowboy I have no sympathy for them whatsoever. As for the homeless guy shooting, that was just cold-blooded murder there, open and shut. If the fucker(s) isn’t prosecuted (and he/they likely won’t be), we’ll all know the fix is in. Same as it ever was. But the shit will come back on them one way or another eventually either way.

              • the Heretick says:

                we know how things are, that’s why i think like i do. it may be a wage-slave mindset, but that’s how it is. the cop who shot at the van was fired, if it’s any consolation.
                here’s a local story.

                medical examiner came down with a ruling of homicide, these cops are going down, believe me.

                here’s another
                read the story, the cop had taken a gun off of him, then the kid ran, OK jury still convicted the cop, didn’t follow procedure. shot him in the back, case closed.

                we aren’t as primitive as you might think. i’ve got to go.

              • the Heretick says:

                after sleeping on it, maybe you’re right. here’s something that is more outrageous.
                what is going on with the police out there?

                • Disaffected says:

                  Don’t know, but they do see to be gun happy at times. Granted, there’s quite a bit of drug traffic coming up from Mexico over here as well, but it’s generally non-violent. DUI is the main issue over here, and they’ve all been pretty lenient historically on that. APD in particular though has always been a pretty surly bunch. A fair amount of corruption in both SFPD and APD too. An ingrained culture of corruption around Santa Fe and the whole state government bureaucracy as well.

                • Disaffected says:

                  I will say these statements stand out in your link:

                  Despite the apparent lack of a justifiable cause to compel Anaya to stop in the first place, the DA appeared to blame the victim in the shooting, saying Anaya “was so fearful of getting arrested she lost her life, according to the Albuquerque Journal.

                  and this:

                  The officer, who’s been with the State Police for less than two years, testified “he was in fear of his life and he was terrorized,” Pacheco said.

                  My main observation here is that this whole War on Terror mentality has people so spun up on both sides of the law that they’re blowing small things out of proportion; something I definitely noticed in the Farrell video. And of course Farrell may well have had reason to feel doubly “terrorized” in that she was an African American woman, out of state stopped in an isolated location, and knowing full well that she had drug paraphernalia (marijuana related I believe) in the car. [Sidebar: It is TRULY ridiculous and shameful that we are still have discussions about criminal penalties at all for marijuana in the year 2014!!!] So I give her the benefit of the doubt in this case. But where the cops truly crossed the line IMO was when they bashed out the rear window of the mini van with kids in the back. At that point if I’m in her shoes I’m saying anything goes. We are now in a fight or flight, life and death situation. Fleeing might have been the least of my options, if I was her. If there were weapons available (and the vehicle itself would certainly be one) and it seemed prudent, I think I might have used them.

                  In the end, I see the whole incident as a needlessly tragic case of miscommunication due to hyperbolic fear generated by a US government/corporate/media complex conspiracy/agreement to instill that fear in all of us to further their aims.

        • Disaffected says:

          This might be the best account of why today’s “shock troop” mentality in policing (fewer cops, but up-armored, vehicle bound, and really only prepared for blitzkrieg operations) is self-defeating:

          Taken from this:

          Times Square 1975

          The man with the gold tooth sidles up and mutters “loose joints, loose joints.” 42nd street is a cornucopia of illegal activity. Pimps, whores, drug dealers and an array of hustlers whose scam is not immediately apparent crowd the sidewalks. PCP, heroin, marijuana and sex are all on offer by men who seem spectacularly unreliable. The besuiited commuters stride by, dodging the criminals, trying to avoid eye contact. Wow. For a 17 year old new to the city, Times Square is both exhilarating and a bit scary.

          Even when I do see a cop on the Deuce, he is strikingly ineffectual. The hustlers might be momentarily circumspect but since they know the policeman can only search them if he has “probable cause”, they continue their business without undue concern. The cop recognizes his impotence and walks without confidence or authority, forced to pretend he does not see the illegality all around him. The thugs are more in control than he is. The streets of New York have been abandoned to the bad guys.

          In the early 1960s, for reasons of cost and convenience, the New York City Police Department changed its way of doing business. No longer would the local cop wander the streets of his neighbourhood, chatting with old ladies as they swept their stoops, taking apples from grocery stores, sipping free cups of coffee from diners. That sort of ordinary interaction was seen as a temptation to corruption and so officers were put in squad cars, their mandate not to patrol their beat but rather to respond to reported incidents of crime. Stuck in their vehicles, busy reacting to 911 calls, their very presence no longer prevented wrongdoing. By the 1980s, sirens blaring, cops would flash by drug dealers openly plying their trade or pimps beating their whores and do nothing. Providing public order was no longer their responsibility.

          Entire neighbourhoods were abandoned to the drug trade. The bodegas of Alphabet City stopped stocking milk; all you could buy was dope. Even midtown streets were perilous. I was mugged in the middle of a crowded sidewalk between Fifth and Sixth Avenues at two in the afternoon. The citizens who espied my assailants’ knives just walked around me without a word, noticing but not interfering, knowing that getting involved could be dangerous. The rise of crime, the collapse of civility seemed inexorable. In 1980, John Carpenter directed Escape From New York, a blockbuster motion picture that predicted that within twenty years all of Manhattan would be a maximum-security prison ruled by criminal gangs. At the time, it didn’t seem that far fetched.

          New York is different now. You can’t buy drugs or blowjobs on 42nd street anymore. Little boutiques on Avenue C sell $800 lamps. What happened? Yes the rise of finance brought higher paying jobs to Manhattan, yes rents went up, pricing out the mooks. But the simplest, most basic answer is that cops came back to the streets.

          A few years ago, coming out of a bar late at night on 9th avenue just south of the bus terminal, I thought to myself, how sketchy the area still looked, how wary I would have been had I found myself in that landscape a decade earlier. And then, before I even had time to get nervous, two cops strode by, just walking their normal beat, and I recognized the mechanism by which Manhattan was transformed. The police force expanded by a third (to 40,000 officers, one policeman for every 200 citizens) but more important cops returned to their traditional role. With NYPD boots on the ground, they, rather than the criminals own the night. Police presence inhibits criminal activity and so is a prerequisite for any sort of economic growth. Without more cops and their more aggressive policing, the average Manhattan apartment today would not be worth $1 million.

Join the discussion

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s