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Ed Driscoll

The View of the World from Pinch Avenue

February 18th, 2014 - 12:36 pm

The Kitty Genovese case is explored by James Lileks in a brief item on his work blog at the Minneapolis Star-Tribune:

Speaking of New York: the Post revisits the infamous case of Kitty Genovese. If you recall, the New York Times “reported that 38 of her neighbors had seen the attack and watched it unfold without calling for help.” Word spread:

The Times piece was followed by a story in Life magazine, and the narrative spread throughout the world, running in newspapers from Russia and Japan to the Middle East. New York became internationally infamous as a city filled with thoughtless people who didn’t care about one another; where people could watch their neighbors get stabbed on the street without lifting a finger to help, leaving them to die ­instead in a pool of their own blood.

Too bad it wasn’t true, as the piece reminds us. But it confirmed what people wanted to believe about other people — or at least what some people at the NYT wanted to believe.

As Fred Siegel wrote at the start of his new book, The Revolt Against the Masses: How Liberalism Has Undermined the Middle Class, “The best short credo of liberalism came from the pen of the once canonical left-wing literary historian Vernon Parrington in the late 1920s. ‘Rid society of the dictatorship of the middle class.’”

Long before Pinch Sulzberger declared he had no problem with American troops dying in battle because “it’s the other guy’s country,” long before Timesman David Carr declared the American midwest “the dance of the low-sloping foreheads,” long before Timesman Bill Keller dismissed Catholicism and Lutheranism as “fervid subsets of evangelical Christianity,” long before Ta-Nehisi Coates declared the entire city of Manhattan racist, the Times was busy trashing the reputation of its core readers.

Along the way, the publication transformed itself from the world’s greatest newspaper of record to the aspirational talisman of “Progressives” — and rid its editorial bullpen of the need for grownups along the way — resulting in today’s “Fast Times at Eighth Avenue High,” as Matthew Continetti of the Washington Free Beacon recently dubbed the increasingly adolescent and punitive Times.

Yet another reminder, as Christopher Caldwell wrote over a decade ago, “For these people, liberalism is not a belief at all. No, it’s something more important: a badge of certain social aspirations. That is why the laments of the small-town leftists get voiced with such intemperance and desperation. As if those who voice them are fighting off the nagging thought: If the Republicans aren’t particularly evil, then maybe I’m not particularly special.”

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Even though it's right by the railroad tracks, the location where the murder occurred in Kew Gardens was and still is one of the nicer parts of Queens. Which is probably why the story gained legs because it was one of those "man bits dog" situations where just the location alone was surprising, but the media of 50 years ago had to turn 'surprising' into 'shocking'.
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