For the most part, Angelenos seem to be greeting the extension of the Expo Line, which takes passengers from downtown Los Angeles to the beach at Santa Monica, with appreciation and praise. This afternoon, one dissenting view—which, in fact, announced itself to be an “unpopular opinion”—was available to read on Thrillist today, until it wasn’t anymore.
“Unpopular Opinion: The Subway to SaMo Is a Bad Idea,” reads the headline of a brief editorial by Alexandra Cheney, which was published to Thrillist’s Los Angeles vertical and deleted this afternoon. (A cached version is still available via Google.) Cheney, who identifies herself as a “born and bred Santa Monica local,” fears that the street-level train line will lead to overcrowding, car accidents, and increased crime in her neighborhood. She writes,
And that’s not even mentioning overcrowding — which could lead to an increase in crime. And before you cry “privilege,” it’s not just me that’s worried about this. Santa Monica’s city manager Rick Cole says he’s expecting 4,000-8,000 new people per day to flood in via train; this first weekend, we saw a massive influx of people via the new train cars. If that didn’t worry the city, then why has the Santa Monica Police Department added nearly a dozen officers, and why is it looking to add another dozen?
The idea that access to public transportation may taint a neighborhood with unfavorable people isn’t a new one, and its history is intimately tied with ugly ideas about race and class. In the early 20th century, when Robert Moses was building his sweeping public beaches on Long Island and the parkways that gave New Yorkers access to them, he built crossing bridges over the roadways that were too low for buses to pass under. That way, anyone who relied on public transit—many of them recent immigrants who couldn’t afford access to cars of their own—couldn’t get to the beach and disturb the happy wealthy people. Whether she means it maliciously or not, when Cheney writes about “an influx of crime in areas that seemed at one time to be totally safe” along the Expo extension, she is echoing these same loaded arguments against public transit.
It’s impossible to know for sure why the post was pulled down, but it likely had something to with the backlash it received on Twitter, where users have been piling on Cheney all afternoon. Cheney and Jeff Miller, the editor of Thrillist LA, did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
But the piece was clearly intended as a contrarian take on a hot-button issue. Without handwringing about the ethical implications of disappearing your own journalistic work—Gawker Media has done it before—or about the erosion of traditional boundaries between business and editorial divisions at digital media companies—the Thrillist Media Group’s tagline is “The digital crossroads of content and commerce”—I’d say the moral of the story is this: When you publish a hate read, you shouldn’t be surprised when readers hate it.