The "Bullshit" Era

This weekend the Times took a look at former mayor Rudy Giuliani's tenure at the helm of the city through the prism of race. While candidate Giuliani reached out to the African American community in 1989, he lost that race (the mayoral race!) to David Dinkins. By 1993, things were different—Giuliani was almost a different person. The paper relates this telling anecdote:

In September 1992, he spoke to a rally of police officers protesting Mr. Dinkins's proposal for a civilian board to review police misconduct. It was a rowdy, often threatening, crowd. Hundreds of white off-duty officers drank heavily, and a few waved signs like "Dump the Washroom Attendant," a reference to Mr. Dinkins. A block away from City Hall, Mr. Giuliani gave a fiery address, twice calling Mr. Dinkins's proposal "bullshit." The crowd cheered. Mr. Giuliani was jubilant.

Is Giuliani a racist? Who knows what lies within each human heart? We're more of the opinion that he's a panderer, but that's neither here nor there: The Times said "bullshit!" It's a rare (if growing) loosening of standards at the paper. Let's look back through the archives and see how the incident was described in previous iterations.

In a 1999 column written from the mayor's point of view, Clyde Haberman described it this way: "When I utter a barnyard epithet at a police rally where the black Mayor is caricatured with outsized lips and called a 'washroom attendant,' that's free speech."

In a piece a week-and-a-half after the incident, Catherine S. Manegold wrote, "At Murray Street, the crowd was less hostile but more inebriated. Beer cans and broken beer bottles littered the streets as Mr. Giuliani led the crowd in chants, using an obscenity to refer to Dinkins administration policies. Most officers in the crowd agreed with his sentiments, though they reacted less warmly when Mr. Giuliani said there was a need to fight corruption and problems within the police department."

Three days after the event, in an article on David Dinkins' reaction, the paper noted that "When Mr. Giuliani spoke to the protesters, he listed a number of Dinkins's policies and after each one, used a profanity to dismiss them."

N.B.: The article did use the word "nigger," twice, both as quotes from Dinkins.

The initial report on the protest barely mentions it at all, unless you count this: "While the rowdier demonstrators refused to leave the City Hall area, most of the group crowded onto Murray Street between Church Street and Broadway, where they listened to sharply worded speeches from Mr. Caruso, Mr. Giuliani and, finally, Michael O'Keefe, the officer who was cleared by a grand jury recently in the shooting death of a Dominican man in Washington Heights."

So what makes an event "bullshit"-worthy? Is it the passage of time, the coarsening of discourse, or does the word have to come from the lips of a prospective president? Because if it's the latter, we are so looking forward to the Hillary coverage. We hear she swears like a motherfucker.

In a Volatile City, a Stern Line on Race and Politics [NYT]