Back three weeks ago when this would have been a hot take I shopped this piece around to various news commentary magazines in the hopes of getting it published. None took it. Not a surprise considering where most left of center mags are based. Right now its more common to see commentary like this starting to pop up so I can’t claim to be cutting edge anymore with it. So, enjoy this now somewhat out of date op-ed which I would still rather put here than have it go nowhere. Consider it extra bonus content I suppose.
If you would like to see something more current and also more in line the general topics I write about out, I have a new piece out at The Diplomat as well.
A media darling mayoral mediocrity who used crisis to push a personal brand, all while structurally undermining the very society he claimed to uphold, Rudy Giuliani made his national name by standing around and looking shocked in front of the cameras on 9/11. Soon after, the massive and still-unfolding scandal of lack of institutional support for 9/11 first responders continue to beleaguer the nation. Giuliani then leveraged this and the quite debatable results of his ‘broken windows’ policing into an international grift and a comically unsuccessful run for the presidency as ‘Americas Mayor’, phrase it is almost impossible to refrain from adding a trademark symbol onto.
Cuomo now sits atop an austerity and mass incarceration gubernatorial regime akin to something out of Scott Walkers Wisconsin and has the gall to declare himself a savior for his response to the Covid 19 pandemic. It would be hard to doubt that without his recent policies targeting Medicare and hospitals the present crisis would be a lot more manageable. As it is, austerity’s record in Britain, France, Greece, and other nations should have already provided all the warnings needed even without a pandemic. A significant and compelling case has already been made that the policies of austerity played the most decisive role in the shock victory of the Leave campaign in the BrExit referendum. The necessary logistics for civil society to function are seen as disposable by the telegenic front men of the present governing classes while the upper income tax increases that could fund them are seen as unimaginable.
Why is it so easy for New York (city and state) based politicians to do this? To elevate themselves in the public eye for accomplishing very little? The answer is media consolidation. Almost all the big news networks and their pro status quo and terminally unfunny late-night comedy side projects are based there. Journalists and interviewers needing access to power need not travel far, and if they wish to remain in the good graces of the powerful it becomes far more beneficial for them to adopt the position of hagiography than of critics. When talking amongst themselves in private, the media class admits this openly.
What results from this is a morass of self-congratulatory groupthink between affluent, well connected New Yorkers and an aspirational but no longer muckraking media class. Journalism pays little and has largely been taken out of the hands of field reports and given to an increasingly affluent group of lifestylists. This is its own pandemic of patronage transmitted through cocktail parties and legacy media that dismisses criticism as divisive or unreasonable and upholds specific complicit political figures as paragons of crisis response. All while giving short shrift to the healthcare, municipal, farming, and grocery workers who are the true linchpins keeping society running right now.
For sake of context, it should not go unremarked upon that in the 2016 election both campaigns were based in the New York City area. It was an election between the two least popular contenders for the presidency in modern American history. One that ended in tears for the well-connected and overconfident donors in the Javits Center and the rise to ascension of an unparalleled collection of incompetent grifters. All of them integrated heavily into the New York media class.
Perhaps it is time to break out of this media bubble that exerts disproportionate sway over the rest of the world. Maybe then more people could talk about the comparatively much more successful approaches of crisis leadership wielded by New Zealand, Taiwan, and Vietnam and less about the fraudulent victories of Andrew Cuomo. Of course, to admit that societies still capable of mass mobilization and coordination that sidelines the market-first approach of North Atlantic elites might be a step too far outside the comfort zone of a thoroughly neoliberalized media apparatus.