Magazine article The Spectator

New York, Mr Mayor, Is a Single Big Apple, Not a Bunch of Ethnic Cherries

Magazine article The Spectator

New York, Mr Mayor, Is a Single Big Apple, Not a Bunch of Ethnic Cherries

Article excerpt

Frequent visitors from Europe to New York, like myself, have reason to be grateful to Mayor Giuliani. In a single term of office he has brought about a bigger improvement in the well-being of the city than any mayor I can remember. He has cut down street crime dramatically. He has cleared the aggressive professional beggars off the pavements. The zero tolerance policing policy has now made it possible to visit Harlem and other fascinating quarters in safety, something ruled out since the early 1950s. No wonder the mayor's methods are now being imitated in many British and Continental cities. He is up for re-election this year. Good luck to him! We all understand that he has to be nice to every group in the city, including the Puerto Ricans. But that does not excuse his vindictive behaviour towards The Spectator's Taki.

The Spectator is a peculiarly English institution, going back in earlier incarnations to a time when New York had a population of well under 10,000. It has no collective opinion. All the writers on it do their own thing. Subject to certain inescapable legal restraints, they are permitted complete freedom, provided only they inform and delight readers in the elegant manner they expect. The paper is a college of talent, a synod of heterodoxy and, at times, a beargarden. It is also an engine of infuriation. But those so angered are catered for too. The correspondence columns are crammed with vitriolic ripostes. The paper's writers are assassinated weekly, sometimes without provocation, by some of the world's sharpest pens. The Spectator is an acrimonious notice-board for the vendettas of the English middle and upper classes. But it is open to the workers too, and indeed to foreigners.

If Mayor Giuliani, instead of calling a press conference, had chosen to write us a letter denouncing Taki unmercifully, it would not only have been printed but accorded star treatment. Indeed, had the mayor demanded the right of reply, he would have been given the hospitality of our editorial columns. The paper is often crammed with articles in which our writers are attacked, and indeed attack each other.

But the mayor did not exercise this right. He not only called a press conference to denounce Taki - fair enough - but demanded that the editor sack him and, failing that, that the proprietor of the paper sack the editor and, failing that, that the properties of Conrad Black in the United States be subjected to sanctions. He also uttered threats against Taki personally, that he would have him banned from the country etc. It all sounded like King Lear on the blasted heath: 'I shall do such things, what they are yet I know not, but they shall be the terrors of the earth!' Taki, as a United States citizen, is beyond the power even of the mayor of New York to be banished from his own country. And the mayor's threats provoked derision in the corporate office of Hollinger plc. Such rantings are unworthy of the man who holds in his hand the dignity and honour of the Big Apple.

Moreover, they raise two important points which friends of America find increasingly disturbing. First, what happened to freedom of speech and the First Amendment? The right to express unpopular, ornery and even inflammatory views is written into the title deeds of the American Republic. Thomas Jefferson argued that a free press was even more important to American liberties than all the apparatus of constitutional government. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.