Kathy Shaidle

Detroit Mock City: Mark Steyn vs Motown

Posted on February 10 2011 9:00 am
Kathy Shaidle blogs at FiveFeetOfFury, now entering its 11th year online. Her latest book is Acoustic Ladylandkathy shaidle, which Mark Steyn calls "a must-read."
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Mark Steyn sat in for Rush Limbaugh on Monday, and among other things, he mused about the Eminem/Chrysler Super Bowl ad (Steyn’s audio is below).

The TV spot purports to celebrate everything that once made Detroit great — and will make it great again, presumably if American taxpayers continue to throw money at (or is that down?) that urban hellhole.

(You paid $9 million for that commercial, by the way — Chrysler was one of the bailout beneficiaries, remember? Oh, and I helped: they got some Canadian assistance as well. Being Canadian born and a U.S. resident, that makes Mark Steyn doubly entitled — if you’ll permit me to use a word Detroit residents are all too familiar with — to his rant.)

Steyn joked grimly that Eminem and his director managed to find the only theater still standing in the Motor City — the city’s more majestic ones have been reduced to abandoned rubble, like so many of its homes and businesses, as famously captured on various websites with names like “The Fabulous Ruins of Detroit.”

Detroit crumbled to dust, says Steyn, not because it was bombed by foreign enemies — but because it was “run” by Democrats and unions for generations.

Steyn called Detroit: “The perfect emblem of America at the dawn of the 21st century” — a ruined city that looks like “a banana republic after a coup” is now being held up as a model for the rest of the country to emulate.

It’s the sort of thing conservatives have been saying to each other for years. (While those “ruins of Detroit” photos have recently gone mainstream/viral, a couple of websites had been serving them up for a decade. They weren’t news to me, at least.)

However, apparently nobody in Detroit has ever heard anyone blame the obvious culprits for its own demise. And Steyn, with his “elitist” accent and habit of employing expressions like “pantywaist” and “nancy boys” in between singing snatches of mid-century show tunes, managed to get under Motown’s skin like a jailhouse tattoo.

He’s spent the last 24 hours doing interviews with local Detroit and national media. Dragged on the air to “explain himself” and presumably apologize, Steyn has merely doubled down, as only he can.

For instance, he’s received hundreds of illiterate (and irony deficient) emails (language warning) chastising him for mentioning the city’s embarrassing illiteracy rate, and has thus been compelled to respond:

Actually, I said that the illiteracy rate within the city limits is about 50 per cent. That being the case, I’m impressed to see that so many of the correspondents below are able to spell correctly the two-syllable word “a*****e”. Great start! You can be anything you want to be! Dream your dream!

Hilariously, one of Steyn’s most prominent critics — local radio host Frank Beckman — admitted that “he agreed with Steyn on some issues: the roots of the city’s decline lay with unions, liberal political leaders and a sense of entitlement.” (Audio.)

But his main complaint, and those of Steyn’s less articulate critics, seemed to be:

That commercial made us feel good about our lousy city for 30 seconds. Then you came along and ruined it, you fruity foreigner!

I hear crack makes you feel good for 30 seconds too.

With childish reasoning like that in evidence, (not to mention all the embarrassing displays of misplaced homophobia) the real puzzle is how the Detroit ever rose high enough to fall so low.

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