What Year Is It?

A new add by Republican Mayoral candidate Joe Lhota uses some… curious? familiar? racist?… imagery.

Did you see it?

While attempting to portray his Democratic opponent as soft on crime, Lhota features video from a recent beating at the hands of a group of motorcyclists and images from the New York of the 70’s and 80’s.  But the final still image stands out.  It initially shows several people riding a graffiti covered train.  Then it quickly zooms in on two individuals, an elderly white woman clutching a pole and a younger black man looking in her direction.  The graffiti, presumably the part of the image we’re supposed to be dismayed about, is largely cropped out.  What we are left with is a young black men looking at an old white woman.  This is the only image given this treatment… this quick zoom.  You can see it at approximately the 24-second mark.

Perhaps it was unintentional.  But… I’m skeptical.  It feels like Lhota has pulled a page out of the old, “Play off racial fears,” playbook.  Will it work?

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21 thoughts on “What Year Is It?

  1. I think getting 5000 cops off the street would take at least 2 out of that same biker gang.

    The black man in the frame is looking at the camera, not the woman, and is not a stereotypical ‘scary black man’ of that era or the current one. (and there’s plenty of graffiti in that shot). The ad actually leaves you with the helmet attack on the SUV.

    You are reading way too much into this. Not every Republican political ad is in racial code.

    Lhota isn’t going to win, anyway; otherwise he wouldn’t have this ad either

    There is a general theme in the Lhota campaign (highlighted in the ad you posted) that a de Blasio mayorality will go back to the ‘bad old days’ of Dinkins. Which doesn’t have a overt racial component but probably does have a subliminal one. But regardless, something like 1/2 of everybody who lives in NYC wasn’t there when Dinkins was mayor.

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    • Kolohe,

      As I noted, I can’t say with certainty that the ad was meant to be interpreted as I did. But there is enough there to make someone wonder. Which means there is enough there that it should have set off warning bells for someone in the campaign. If it didn’t, there is a certain tone-deafness going on there. If it did and they ignored it, well, that is just about as good as doing it intentionally.

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    • As for the zoom in, if we are focusing on graffiti, why not zoom in on the graffiti? Why zoom in on the woman’s face? What does she have to do with graffiti? Was she the perpetrator of it? Was she a victim of it? Any more a victim than the other two people in the picture? And while I realize the man isn’t looking at the women, the effect gives that impression. “WATCH OUT, OLD BLACK LADY! THERE’S A DARK GUY BEHIND YOU!”

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      • Does it matter to you that half the cops in the first still frame appear to a person of color? (and 100% of the cops in the 2nd still frame appear to be as well?)

        Does it matter that she’s the focal point of the stock photo they used, and so would be the logical reference point for a zoom wipe transition?

        Does it matter that the stock photo was used because it says, by the choice of focal point, ‘Dour New York Woman on the Subway’ and not ‘Well-Dressed African American Man on His Way To or From Work?’

        Does it matter that this is what Koch-Dinkins New York looked like, and this is what Giuliani-Bloomberg New York looks like?

        Does it matter I think persistent allegations of racism against any and all political opponents are getting kinda old?

        Does it matter that I’m curious why you never weighed in on this when it was thing among two viable candidates for NYC mayor, vice a split second of an ad in a losing campaign with an incoherent message that was doomed from its inception?

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    • NYC politics? Or NYC Republican politics? Because all the cited peeps skew right.

      And, of course, “the bad old days” of NYC are viewed specifically through the lens of white folks. Which is not to say that things were necessarily good or better for people of color back then. But the idea that everything is hunky-dory while things like S&F and gentrification run rampant shows whose opinion really matters in NYC.

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      • The polls I’ve seen show Lhota not only losing but losing very very badly. I think he or his handlers know that trying to scare older whites and the remaining sections of the white working class are his Hail Mary. This add is aimed at people who voted for Giuliani in 1993. This ad is not for Boreum Hill, it is for Staten Island and Bensonhurst.

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      • 50’s nostalgia is the same way. I once was part of a really fascinating conversation about the 50s with a guy who mentioned how much he’d have preferred living then. It was part of a forum conversation, so when he mentioned he was black another person pointed out something akin to “Um, you know it’d be back of the bus, separate water fountain stuff, right?”.

        And he responded with “Oh, I’d just live like New York or up north somewhere”.

        He was surprised to learn that it would not have made nearly the difference he thought it would. Sure it was “better”, but it was nothing like today.

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      • 1950s nostaligia is weird. Besides the usual things mentioned, a lot of white people didn’t live the idea suburban lifestyle during the 1950s. Most of the Rust Belt cities that were hit hardest by suburbanization hit their peak population in 1960 then they started declining. The majority of white people were still in cities or rural areas during the 1950s. Suburbanization occured in mass after 1960s and didn’t become the majority way of life for white people till the 1980s. 1950s nostalgia has white American completely suburbanized sometime shortly after WWII ended.

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      • The 50s sucked ass. Korea. Duck and Cover. Lynch mobs. Elvis. Algerian War. Sure as hell wasn’t bobby soxers and Fonzie and Richie. America sat down in front of the television and still hasn’t gotten its fat ass off the couch.

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  2. This has been the Lhota playbook since De Blasio won the primary. It has also been part of the Quinn tactics as well possibly (though not as obvious). Lhota has always tried to convey that a vote for De Blasio or a De Blasio victory is going to mean a return to the “old New York” of the 1970s and 80s.

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  3. In the zoom-in shot, I saw the focus on the elderly woman surrounded by graffiti; the black guy’s kind of in the background and blink-and-you’ll-miss-him.

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    • I’m with Katherine, I didn’t even notice the man in the background. I thought the implication of that shot was something like “we have to protect grandma” or “we’re all going to be afraid like grandma”.

      So, if this ad is the only evidence, I’d say there isn’t enough to draw the conclusion that the campaign has a racist undertone.

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  4. In response to crime within a community, he went to talk to members of that community! (ominous music)

    We can’t have a politician who talks to people, who gathers information. That’s outrageous. We need politicians who relies on his existing prejudices to make decisions!

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  5. maybe i’m out of touch but when i hear “biker gangs” i think of a bunch white guys. when it comes to crime(and a number of other issues) republicans seem to talk like it’s 1985.

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    • I haven’t followed the story closely, but what little I’ve seen indicates the bikers were primarily black and Hispanic. And at least a couple of the accused were themselves police officers, further complicating the matter and resulting in some unexpected lines being drawn.

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      • ok then maybe it is an attempt to play off race fears. i have no clue if Republican attempts to make crime an issue are based on race or just cluelessness that crimes been low for 20 years and it’s not an issue any more.

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      • I don’t have the time to do all the research now, but it seems completely lost on NYC Republicans that the declining crime rate in the city mirrored declining crime rates nationwide (while a Democrat was in the White House, no less). They want to act as if Guilliani himself avenged crime on the dirty streets at night.

        Which is cool, if they want to delude themselves. But when they use the decline to justify abhorrent policies like stop-and-frisk and continue/extend them, I start to have a real problem. I don’t care how much less graffiti there is in Times Square; it’s not worth the systematic denial of basic civil rights to huge swaths of the city’s population.

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  6. Kazzy:

    You clearly seem to be fishing for the answer you want so let me say it. Oh course this is racist, Lhota is a Repub and every liberal knows that all Repubs are racists.

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