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Ed Driscoll


Back in 2004, blogger Val Prieto coined the phrase “Omnipotent Tourist Syndrome” to describe the love of many on the left to jet into places such as Cuba and scope out the socialist-inflicted ruins, and the ruined lives of its inhabitants, and then jet back a few days later to enjoy all of the benefits of American or European capitalism:

The Omnipotent Tourist Syndrome is a disease common among Americans that is caused by arrogance, egotism and non-chalance. Carriers show a penchant for obliviously overlooking the obvious while delighting themselves at the cost of others. Delerious OTS sufferers refuse to acknowledge their malady and will argue that it is their God given right as an American to travel freely about the world with little or no conscience or consequence. OTS people fequently hide behind their Bill of Rights and Constitution. Unfortunately, there is no cure for OTS nor is there any way to ease it’s symptoms. It is a disease which, no matter how much hard data and facts are introduced into the OTS sufferer, will not ease unless said sufferer finds a compass of morality and humanity.

See also, Dennis Rodman and Ted Turner, just after their visits to the hell of North Korea.

Of course, getting to Cuba or North Korea from America can take a bit of effort. But these days, there’s no need for a leftist with a yen to play omnipotent tourist to ever leave the US, as my fellow PJM columnist Richard Fernandez writes, taking one for the team by spotting an article in the New York Times titled, “How Detroit Became the World Capital of Staring at Abandoned Old Buildings.” Richard sets up his link to this piece by writing:

Mark Binelli of New York Times has managed to portray the collapse of the city as some kind aesthetic triumph. He calls it the “world capital” of beautiful ruined buildings. Where else can you see whole city blocks of skyscrapers in smashed, burned and deserted condition except in movies with titles like “Omega Man” or “I am Legend” or “After Earth”?  And in the movies they do it with CGI whereas in Detroit it’s all live action.

Binelli explains a point which may not have been obvious to the reader. It is only plain to the artist: the city is beautiful because it seems ugly.

now much of the attention being showered upon Detroit from the trendiest of quarters comes, in no small measure, thanks to the city’s blight. Detroit’s brand has become authenticity, a key component of which has to do with the way the city looks.

This is not exactly a question of gentrification; when your city has 70,000 abandoned buildings, it will not be gentrified anytime soon. Rather, it’s one of aesthetics. And in Detroit, you can’t talk aesthetics without talking ruin porn, a term that has become increasingly familiar in the city. Detroiters, understandably, can get touchy about the way descriptions and photographs of ruined buildings have become the favorite Midwestern souvenirs of visiting reporters.

Still, for all of the local complaints, outsiders are not alone in their fascination. My friend Phil has staged secret, multicourse gourmet meals, prepared by well-known chefs from local restaurants, in abandoned buildings like the old train station; John and his buddies like to play ice hockey on the frozen floors of decrepit factories. A woman who moved to Detroit from Brooklyn began to take nude photographs of herself in wrecked spaces (thrusting the concept of ruin porn to an even less metaphorical level). And Funky Sour Cream, an arts collective originally from New York, arranged an installation of little cupcake statues in the window of a long-shuttered bakery on Chene Street. A few days later, the bakery burned down. People debated whether or not this was a coincidence.

Perhaps the article is tongue in cheek, but if not then the bakery fire is probably not coincidence. It was probably intentionally set by the last sane man in Detroit.

One black lady managed to point out the downside of living in ruins at a talk the author attended. “During the question-and-answer period, a stylishly dressed African-American woman in her 50s stood up to make a contrarian point: that devotees of ruined buildings should be aware of the ways in which the objects of their affection left ‘retinal scars’ on the children of Detroit, contributing to a ‘significant part of the psychological trauma’ inflicted on them on a daily basis.”

“Retinal scars” — that’s a classic. How’s that related to the scars that have been gouged in the American landscape  by the legions of those in search of aesthetics, themselves, their life destiny, in making a statement for passion, caring, understanding and all the other planks of liberal policy that led the city to dusty death?

“Retinal scars” was probably her polite way of telling the members of that refined audience that there was something of a downside to living in a dump. But whether that will dissuade artists whose idea of chic is having yourself photographed nude in a reasonable facsimile of Berlin, 1945 remains to be seen.

Berlin, 1945 you say? We’ll talk more about that right after the page break.

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All Comments   (55)
All Comments   (55)
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Cognitive dissonence as a virtue?
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
I believe that the “loss” of the New York City before Mayor Giuliani has been mourned by the Liberal intelligentsia for similar reasons. That the 1970s Times Square with its piss, vomit, and discarded needles was more “authentic” than her “Disneyfied” version that came in after Dinkins moved out.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Bravo Ed!

Im reminded of the description of the dilapidated buildings in Havana, Cuba by your colleague Ron Radosh.

The term shabby sheik comes to mind.

The inability of these people to ascertain cause and effect, with regards to Leftist progressive policies and the sorry state of many of our cities which they have held dominion over for half a century, is replaced with promoting the aesthetic as laudable and admirable.

What a sad state of affairs.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Additionally, Im reminded of the romanticizing of primative and third world cultures, that derives from self hatred born of guilt. These people travel to third world to experience primative cultures which they profusely laud, and then fly back to the luxuries of the evil European Christendom....only to demonize the rural "primatives" of the Western European conservatives who live in the sticks (like Sarah Palin) as uncooth ignorant barbarians....all the while waxing poetic about the wisdom of the elders of that prehistoric Amazonian tribe with bones through their noses.

What a sad state of affairs. The self loathing is now being assuaged by self flagellation.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Wonderful poetry EV, I am reminded of Margaret Mead frolicking in Samoa.
Shabby chic!
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Yes, Margaret Mead.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
that should be

shabby chic!

my bad

also uncouth not uncooth

rough draft
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
...and self immolation.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Industry consolidation did not come about because of some socialist strategy! In its infancy, consolidation came about to expand markets for goods and services and a host of other efficiencies. Having said that, consolidation quickly became a target of much easier controls for government intervention financial controls and of course labor union advancements -- of of which eventuall corrupted the private sector free enterprise system as it continues today.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Not only do they wish to kill the cities - the monuments to civilization and the rise of man from his primitive beginnings - but they would, if they could, remove as much human presence from the face of the Earth as they could (excepting themselves, of course).
Because, The Imperative is to Save Gaia!
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Since 1973, the only good thing coming out of Detroit has been I-75 northbound, especially once you get past Flint.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Agreed. Avoid Detroit and Flint altogether by taking US 23.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
"Nuclear Urban Renewal."
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
look for Obama to propose a Marshall Plan for Democrat controlled states and cities that are in deep trouble and bail them out at taxpayer expense.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
A few years back the History Channel ran a series titled "The World After People." The preposterous premise was what would the civilized world look like 20, 50, 100, 200 years after the extinction of mankind. The appropriate answer was "Who cares? We're all gone."

But the premise could have been tweaked just a bit and the series titled "The World After Liberalism (or Socialism)." Instead of spending a fortune on CGI, the producers could have just run footage the ruination of Kiev and Detroit. But you gotta admit, the fantasy of man's extinction is alot more realistic, right?
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Always seen that series as a green attempt to convince people that exterminating mankind is a good thing, in order to "restore Nature to Her rightful dominance over the planet".
IOW typical environmentalist/leftist propaganda just as most of the rest shown on History (and its offshoots like History, TLC, CI, etc. etc.).
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Think of all the money the H Channel could save with an episode of "The World After People" using only Google Maps - Street View of Detroit.

Well maybe they could CG a few people with torches, some dinosaurs and packs of rabid wolves.

Or just use convenience store flash mob attacks. Whichever.

Or how about a new series which explores the concept of "Which Is More Modern?" and puts up American cities against ancient Ephesus, Hiroshima in 1946, Timurlane's Samarkand, Granada in 1387, Stalingrad in 1943, a temporary hutment by pigmies in 1,000,000 B.C. and some straight lines on the ground.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
The appropriate answer was "Who cares? We're all gone."

Another appropriate answer is "You First, Nature Boy." Let's have all these fanatical "eliminationists" gather in one spot (like the next Burning Man gathering), put on track suits and eat the bad Jell-O. Let's be rid of them and their creepy, depraved nonsense. They can have a giant funeral pyre at the base of The Burning Man himself.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
I grew up near Detroit some years ago and just have to laugh here. If you have followed the ongoing story of Detroit, John and Monica Conyers, Kwami and Cheeks you understand...if you haven't...well, here is a little flavor of how Detroit works...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_TvgtGlcdTE



1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
That, in a nutshell, is called failure, and it is its own explanation. Looking at that and somehow saying it's a problem with industry or the economy is nuts.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
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