Friday, March 21, 2014

Is This Real?

In the late 1990s, I had a roommate with a subscription to The New Republic. One fine summer day, while he was elsewhere, I opened up an issue and read an article called "Hack Heaven." Written by a person named Stephen Glass, the article was about how companies were hiring teenagers who had previously hacked the company's computer systems in order to teach them to avoid future hacking. The article was so wild, the people so colorful, and the things they were quoted as saying so off the wall, that I thought the article was fiction. It had to be!

And it was.

It was all a lie. This article, and others by Stephen Glass, were so sensational, the people and events in them so Monty Python-esque, that it and they defied credulity. Eventually, Glass was revealed to be a fraud, his articles total fiction. A few years later a movie called "Shattered Glass", about this fake article and Glass's deceit, was released. Sometimes truth is stranger than fiction, sometime not. But truth will always out.

This week, while perusing the new Observer online, I came across an article that again makes you think: is this real? Called "Don't hate me because I'm 10021", it's about how rich people in NYC, specifically those denizens of the Upper East Side, are feeling persecuted and marginalized in Bill De Blasio's New York. Apparently, these rich folks all want to move to Miami -- no taxes, no Democrats, no "class warfare", and better weather. This article wants us to pity the rich and their difficult plight. The poor in this town? They got it made! It's being rich in NYC that's so very hard. Pity the billionaire. Screw everyone else.

Of course, this is Orwellian nonsense but this article seems to believe it. Really.

And yet ... I'm wondering if this article just isn't some big practical joke. I hope so. If so, who's it supposed to be punking? The rich -- exposing them as whiny, pathetic, selfish, greedy, narcissistic, mean-spirited pigs? Or the rest of us -- begging us to feel sorry for them? I can't decide. One of the commentators to this article even writes "This has to be fake, right?" I hope he's right. I just don't know.

If it's fake, it's hilarious, brilliant even. 

But if it's real ... it's scary, truly chilling. It shows how totally detached and out-of-whack the wealthy in this city are. This is a "Let them eat cake", Ayn Randian attitude that once permeated Ancien France and Tsarist Russian and led to revolution. I don't think New Yorkers are ready to storm the barricades quite yet but, when I read articles like this and then hear wealthy New Yorkers compare raising taxes on the rich to a Nazi invasion, it's clear that a class war is brewing, and may get hotter. 

Let's hope it won't. And let's hope this article is a joke. 

It begs the question: is this real or is April Fool's starting early? 

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