By Steve Weinstein
By Devon Maloney
By Tessa Stuart
By Alison Flowers
By Albert Samaha
By Jesse Jarnow
By Eric Tsetsi
By Raillan Brooks
Press secretary Ed Skyler was reported to be so delighted with these tabloid trashings of the union that he brandished them at City Hall as if they were his own releases, even though the Post made no distinction between Toussaint and his rat members. City operators on 311 greeted callers with the same constant logo as Fox News: "illegal transit strike."
As instantly gratifying as feeding the tabloid beast can be for a mayor, headline writers and historians rarely share the same perspective. Especially when the Brits and Aussies who dictate our front pages have no sense of the city's racial and labor histories or sensibilities. As far as our tabloid titans are concerned, when they can't titillate, they'd just as soon inflame. Anything for a quarter or half-dollar. We've had mayors who governed by tabloid, thought in headlines and sound bites, and imagined every day was a new one, as if nothing they'd spit out the day before would wind up staining them. One of them, Ed Koch, said in 2002, when a transit strike threatened, that he'd talked to Bloomberg and that Mediating Mike said then: "The bridge was yours. I've got to find something else." Instead, when the strike came this time, Bloomberg became Koch, another Brooklyn Bridge bullhorn of bluster. If Bloomberg wants to mimic Koch, so will his history.
Murdoch's tabloid precursor William Randolph Hearst famously told the illustrator he sent to Cuba to depict a Spanish-American War that hadn't started yet: "You furnish the pictures, I'll furnish the war." Presslords are still furnishing any war that will sell a paper, and the politicians who actually wage them do so at public peril.
We don't need a mayor to be mad for us. We can do that ourselves. We need a mayor to be practical, conciliatory, and competent, averting disasters rather than exacerbating them. That's who Mike Bloomberg was and hopefully will be again. There is no rationale for treating striking public employees as if they are terrorists and refusing to negotiate with them, as Bloomberg and Pataki opined, contrary to what both were actually doing and what every mayor and governor before them actually did. Toussaint was not the grinch who stole O'Reilly Day. He was doing what many labor leaders in this town have done before him, including MTA member Barry Feinstein, whose teamster local once shut down the city's bridges.
Bill Cunningham, the mayor's former communications director, who's still operating out of the Bloomberg campaign headquarters, expects the outrage over Bloomberg's thug remark to fade. "If the mayor could see humor in being told to shut up," he said, "I don't think anybody should make a big deal out of him using a word like 'thuggish.' It's not the way he normally speaks but this was not a normal situation." As the trains and buses get back to normal, let's hope Mayor Mike, who's switched to welcoming transit workers back, does the same.