Thursday, February 26, 2009

Post-Crash Revisionism

Since Wall Street crumbled and the yunnipocalypse began, it seems more and more journalists have come out of the woodwork to say:

1. They never liked investment bankers, hedgefunders, and other masters of the universe
2. They believe such people have half-destroyed New York
3. They miss the old, pre-Gilded Age city and hope the downturn will bring about its return

I'm glad they're speaking up, but where were they for the past 10 years, under a cone of silence? I don't remember hearing these sentiments. At least not until right after the initial crash:

Judith Warner in the Times discussed "a certain kind of resentment and sense of injustice that a particular class of non-monied professionals in the New York area came to feel sometime in the late 1990s... a sense that the wrong people had inherited the earth. They had taken over everything."

In the New Yorker, Nick Paumgarten wrote, "maybe Manhattan will become affordable again, and cool, and dangerous. Dangerous in theory, but not to you or your family and friends. Dirty, but in a good way."

Alex Williams in the Times declared, "Wall Street hotshots were never beloved figures on New York’s cultural landscape. It’s no coincidence that the protagonists of books and movies like 'The Bonfire of the Vanities' and 'American Psycho' tended to be narcissistic jerks, or worse."

Fran Lebowitz told the Observer, "Just when you think how horrible New York has become in terms of things interfering with the tone of the city, they’re finally leaving! The rich people! They’re leaving! They’re leaving!"

The Times of London attested, "in New York, nobody likes investment bankers... In recent years, there have obviously been way too many of them and, as a result, a load of bad restaurants, galleries and bars have been allowed to flourish. Now they’re going, that froth will be off too, and it’s no bad thing."

These quotes all come from last fall, back in September and October, before the sins of Madoff, AIG, and all the rest were made public. Since then, many more people are claiming that New York always hated Wall Streeters and Sex & the City kids, with their indulgent ways, their bottle service and shopaholism, all those values that permeated and wreaked havoc on the city.

But is that true? Did most New Yorkers resent Wall Street culture until last summer's end?

I seem to recall everyone having a pretty good time, riding that golden wave of conspicuous consumption, munching cupcakes, making "resy's," buying shoes with abandon. Let's face it: There wasn't much complaining until now.

(Even celebu-chef Anthony Bourdain has jumped on the disappearing New York bandwagon, visiting almost-lost Sophie's bar and bemoaning, "
Where can a guy get a drink when the last gin mill closes down, when there’s nothing left but the fern bar or the lounge, when the barkeep has been replaced by the mixologist?")

To be sure, everything we now all seem to agree is detestable about the Narcissistic Age will come again. Hopefully, when it does return, New York will resist. And members of the mainstream media will be critical of that corrupt culture from the start. This last time around, they could have provided a strong voice of dissent, powerful enough to help sway mass culture.

Maybe then our city would not have vanished.


Anonymous said...


The bloggah said...

Greed begets greed, indeed. However, we all rode the wave together. Whether we were actually rolling in greenbacks or benefited from public works projects sustained by increased tax revenues from the wealthy, or through their donations to charitable causes, we all enjoyed a bit of the 'high life'.

And you're correct with your inference that reporters were hiding in the shadows until now. Just observe how the press were so reserved during the Bush administration. No one wanted to ask 'the man' hard thought, direct questions for fear of being ostracized. They all played it safe, and at the risk of compromising their integrity.

Anonymous said...

I would argue that these so-called "journalist" are just riding the latest trend.

Ken Mac said...

Journos in high places tend to be whores, I think. Absolute power corrupts absolutely. In the "old days" journalists had blue collar roots (Mitchell, Breslin) now they're all climbers and Ivy League suck ups.

Anonymous said...

yay! Good one!!! BN

Anonymous said...

Quality writing as usual Jeremiah. Btw, I recently saw an article about Annie Liebowitz actually pawning the rights to her work while she refinanced her west village townhouses and her home in Rhinebeck.

Anonymous said...

While I agree they might be "whores" I think it has more to do with watching to see how the wind blows and then jumping on the new trend. That's really what a global corporate media encourages-the whole world to be bandwagon jumpers. This was true with people buying houses, getting into the stock market, and the "marketing" of the "new" NYC.

If the USA is kept afloat by rampant consumerism, the media really has to function like a huge advertising agency, not a social critic. And, of course, since the media companies themselves are huge corporate entities, there is absolutely no incentive on anyone's part to rock the boat.

Jeremiah Moss said...

i definitely see it tied to the bush aura, that "cone of silence," in which so many agreed not to question or critique. this past decade will be looked back upon as a very weird and damaged one in US history.

Anonymous said...

All the greed. Now we'll be paying for it the rest of our lives.

Anonymous said...

As much as I love to dream, the New York that we lost 10 years ago is not coming back.

The social environment that it developed from no longer exists.

Imagine someone in San Francisco expecting the 60s to come back. It's not gonna happen.

Anonymous said...

Wow this blog is so unbelievably infuriating. Too bad so many things I read link to it. This Jeremiah is positively salivating at people getting pink slips. Yay! People are getting laid off left and right, and now finally the press is seeing it my way!

Here's the funny thing - to the MSM, you present this as a silver lining - boo hoo, sorry about the economy but at least we get to have our city back. The truth, which is revealed in the "where were you for the past 10 years" cri de coeur, is that for you, this isn't a silver lining, this is the long awaited salvation! You've prayed for this, you've hoped for this! The only way to make upper middle class professionals leave the east village is to have an economic crisis, and your prayers have been answered!

I am willing to bet that all of you curmudgeonly 70s revivalists have paid a total of, I dunno 10k in city taxes in the last 10 years. Yet you have directly and indirectly consumed and consumed all of the glorious services, financed by all that "GREED!" Booo, greed!!! Greed bad! Freelance journalism GOOD!!!

Now the real fun begins! More heroin junkies, more people getting jumped and I can pretend like it's 1979 and I'm on my way to a Television concert.

Look, the east village of the 80s was great for many. So was the Paris of the 20s, or whatever. It's a part of history now. Nothing stays the same. Yet you are loving this recession! It brings you joy and pleasure that people are losing their jobs. Because of course it's only the evil greedy finance people, not the people making 40k a year providing them with services. No, I'm sure those people, the real people who "belong" here will be just fine.

Why aren't you in Bushwick yet? It's "awesome" over there, and it's within city limits, so you can just go and recreate the NYC you love. That way you wouldn't have to lick your chops at the prospect of an economic collapse just to get what you want. I mean, doesn't that make you feel a little fucked up sometimes?

Tiny Banquet Committee said...

Good point. This is going to be like all the people who claimed to have voted for Kennedy in 1960 when they really had voted for Nixon. And I very much agree with your comment about the Bush years but unfortunately I am also inclined to agree with the most recent anonymous commenter that we can't go backwards. It used to be that people moved here because they wanted to be here for one reason or another - freedom, or to get away from their families, or to be around like-minded people, etc. - but the people who have been moving here the past 10 years or so came here because they felt like they could only have the type of career they wanted here. And I don't think all of those people are just going to split.

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much, 9:26pm. You nailed it. Real people -- smart people -- can see right through Jeremiah's B.S. While he may be reveling in the fall of our economy, in the end, he does not matter. What will be, will be. And soon enough Jeremiah himself will be history. No one will remember, and no one will ever care.

Knowing that, and the fact that he spends so much of his time being miserable, really does it for me.

Anonymous said...


Mileage said...

This blog is a guilty pleasure, but a pleasure nonetheless. A reminder that all of us who have been here for a decade or two are willing participants in the evolution of New York City, even if we cringe at some of the results.

A decade ago broadband barely existed, blogs were unknown, and Starbucks had just gained a toehold here.

The greatest revisionism is the one that says New York had a golden age that is past, and every change since has been detrimental.

Anonymous said...

Jeremiah I love you--you are great--seems some out of work hedgefunders are now in attendence--or some yunnie outside/intowners--angry with the downturn--instead of selling lies they are telling lies. Keep up the good work.

Jeremiah Moss said...

thanks for the love. like you say, people are angry. they're watching their lifestyles vanish, lifestyles that were promised to them by the dominant culture probably since they were in their early teens. it's all they know--many never had the opportunity to develop other aspects of themselves.

my hope is that this economic downturn will push people to think more critically, to be more introspective, and to adopt values greater than mere greed.

if that happens, our society can be richer--in all the meanings of that word.

Susan English Mason said...

I don't think any of them really give a damn - they just think it's the thing to say at this point in time. They are a bunch of posers.

Anonymous said...

Haha, amazing. Of course, when someone disagrees with you and is angry at the insipid tone of your observations, they must be "watching their lifestyles vanishing, that were promised to them in their early teens by the dominant culture." I mean, can you even say that with a straight face? That must be the only reason why anyone would find your editorializing problematic. Must be a yunnie or a laid off hedge funder. Only a narcissist could not see things your way.

Here's the thing - I think your blog does a great service. I was raised on the LES, and as things change, I too get wistful and nostalgic. Your cataloguing of the evolution of downtown is valuable. There are many things that I wish I could pick and choose from what's happened here in the last 15-20 years, but I know it doesn't work that way. Yes, it's sad that Gertel's and Tonic are gone, but it's great that me and my family no longer get jumped on the way home, and there are some non fried food restaurants around.

Unfortunately, your observational skills come loaded with a puerile and reactionary tone, and an ideology bizarrely disconnected from reality.

Look, I know you didn't grow up here - you have all the zeal of the converted. I get it - you came here, you love it, and the fratboy finance kids are slowly taking it away. Such is life - cities change.

But I'm sorry - there is nothing good about an economic downturn. Try telling an Ecuadorian busboy who supports a whole family and commutes from Queens that his restaurant shuttering will cause people to think more introspectively, more critically. Try telling a 50 year old legal secretary who just got laid off that maybe now she can be richer.. in all senses of the word.

In a way, you are just like those NYU kids who took over the cafeteria last week. Their number one demand was that they not get in trouble for what they're doing. Sure, they railed against Israel and the corporations etc etc, but it was clear that their main concern was themselves.

For all of your anti-Wall Street ranting, your concerns are remarkably bourgeois. Someone whose main concern is that people be more introspective is clearly not worried about putting food on the table. I don't know what your financial situation is, but I envy you. There will be hundreds and hundreds of thousands if not millions of middle class and borderline poor people that will get CRUSHED by the downturn in this city. But you are implicitly willing to throw them under the bus, just so god forbid there are no more wine bars on Ave C. The hedge fund guys you hate so much will be okay. They may have to trade down condos or sell the hamptons house or move back to Ohio, but they have plenty of savings. The people at the margins, are going to get crushed, with no such safety net, but you will get your precious grittiness back.

But of course, anyone who disagrees with you must be brainwashed by the dominant culture or whatever. No other explanation for why your callous glee is off putting. said...

I like this article very much. It is well-written and a well-driven nail. What a lot of poseurs the Media is!
And, are you the lucky man with his head on the lap of that beautiful woman?

Jeremiah Moss said...

the negative aspects of the downturn are plenty (job loss, home loss, etc.). and they are being covered by the major media every time we turn on the TV, open a magazine or newspaper, etc.

there are also positive aspects of the downturn. and that's the angle that doesn't get reported every second of the day by the media.

that's the angle i am taking. the major media is doing a thorough job of showing one side of it. i'm discussing the other side.

nothing is ever just one thing: good or bad, black or white. even an economic downturn, yes, has a good side. and i'm clearly not alone in thinking that.

Cav said...

I agree with Jeremiah and no I don't feel sorry for the yuppies who lost their jobs in the finance industry. No, I'm not insensitive but really you just got your comeuppance. I am one of the blue collar people from Queens who was negatively effected by the age of the yuppie/yunnie. These people swept in from Bumfuck Nebraska like a conquering army. Sweeping out the working and middle class before them like so many vermin. When we were losing our jobs at places like Domino Sugar and swingline, our homes to the luxury condo bulding rampage, and when they were driving our rents and house costs through the stratsophere their answer to us was "so what ?, if you can't afford to be a "real" New Yorker like us, then you don't belong here"

Now my answer to you who are terrified of the return of little mom and pop stores (OMG!, they don't sell sea salt or organic tofu !), druggies and muggers is likewise so what ? if you can't figure out how NOT to walk down a street with your i-pod in one hand, twittering on your i-phone in the other at 2am in a bad neighborhood, becomming mugger bait, then YOU don't belong here. You ain't in Kansas no more, Toto.

For those of you making cracks about who pays how much in city taxes. What's your point ?
Don't blame others for your being a retard and paying way too much for your crib. Me, I can estimate I've paid about $30K the last 10 years in property taxes and I couldn't begin to estimate what my father and grandfather paid in taxes over the last 100 years we've lived in this city- In case you're interested or if there's some kind of tax threshold to meet before we can speak our minds.

For those of you who are saying how this will effect the common worker, since when did you ever give a SHIT about us ? Up until last year you couldn't drive people like me out of the city fast enough. Now, because you're getting the short end of the stick you think can buy my sympathy for your plight with a few cheap words of concern for my future ? Thanks, but no thanks. I survived here my whole life of 44 years, long before the yuppie/yunnie came here in the "bad old days", and I'll survive just fine without them.

Face it guys: Yunnies or yuppies the fact is they've outworn their welcome here. They were from the start a bunch of obnoxious douchebags and it's time for them to go home.

I'd rather live with the druggies and muggers in a dirtier city then in the plastic suburban, fascist Disney land they tried to create.