Commentary on Political Economy

Monday 26 February 2024


America’s ‘Chinatown’ Politics

Feb. 25, 2024 1:14 pm ET

Police investigate a shooting and homicide at a gas station in Oakland, Calif., Jan. 23, 2023. Photo: Jane Tyska/Associated Press

“Forget it, Jake. It’s Chinatown” is the signature line that follows a senseless killing in the 1974 film “Chinatown,” starring Jack Nicholson and Faye Dunaway. It’s not so much about the Chinese, though a few of the film’s lines don’t stand the test of time. Instead, it’s about corruption. Chaos. Things don’t make sense because someone with an agenda doesn’t want them to make sense. Sound familiar?

There’s been a lot of chaos lately, starting with the Biden administration’s rushed exit from Afghanistan. No one has explained why it was so rushed—part of someone else’s agenda. Then there’s the border. According to U.S. Customs and Border Protection, agents have had more than eight million “encounters” with illegal aliens—sorry, “undocumented migrants”—since the start of the Biden administration. This includes 20,000 Chinese nationals since Oct. 1. Many find their way to “sanctuary cities,” which refuse to enforce federal immigration laws. In 2019 candidate Biden told an ABC News forum that migrants should “immediately surge to the border.” That was a willful act of chaos. Why? Forget it, Jake.

Two of the illegal immigrants who attacked police officers in Times Square in January were members of the Venezuelan gang Tren de Aragua. Four others were arrested and released without bail by Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg; one was rearrested for robbery. Another few weeks and the attackers might have received a $10,000 debit card from the mayor. Crazy. That’s a chaos-agenda hat trick: Sneak across the border, head to a sanctuary city, then get released by a left-wing district attorney after committing a crime. This goes beyond leniency and bleeding hearts.

Crime is rampant. Pamela Price won the election for district attorney of Alameda County, Calif., on an anti-incarceration platform and with George Soros’s backing. Crime got so bad in Oakland that Gov. Gavin Newsom sent in 120 state troopers. In-N-Out Burger, which has never closed a location, will shutter one near the Oakland Airport in March because of crime. I drove by a gas station down the block and heard a recorded voice over loudspeakers warning motorists not to leave their cars unattended because of theft. Why not arrest and prosecute criminals instead?

Great American cities like San Francisco are in doom loops. KFC is closing locations in Chicago. Chaos often leads to less freedom—ushering in a more authoritarian regime to clean up the mess and make the trains run on time. What I fear is a “burn the Reichstag” moment of change toward authoritarian rule. Is that the agenda? Both sides have tried to spark such a moment: on May 29, 2020, outside the White House and on Jan. 6, 2021, at the Capitol.

For the 40th anniversary of

’s 1984 Super Bowl ad, which introduced the Macintosh personal computer, Steve Hayden, who worked for the ad firm Chiat/Day, told the, “We’re realizing Goebbels’s idea, getting people so confused they have no idea what to believe other than an authority figure.” The line “repeat a lie often enough and it becomes the truth” is often attributed to Joseph Goebbels. It’s strange and even self-referential that Goebbels probably didn’t say this.

Lies are dangerous. We de-emphasize SAT scores. Identity beats merit. The University of Maryland says that “everyone should be practicing citation justice!” meaning “citing authors based on identify to uplift marginalized voices with the knowledge that citation is used as a form of power in a patriarchal society based on white supremacy.” This practice could diminish trust in scientific discoveries for decades. Who wants that? It’s some sort of “Chinatown” syndrome.

Our culture is in chaos as well. The Temptations sang, “Evolution, revolution . . . just a ball of confusion.” You need to be racist to end racism. Pronouns proliferate. Plus males like swimmer Lia Thomas, who the University of Pennsylvania nominated for the NCAA 2022 Woman of the Year Award, are winning women’s sporting events. Sportscaster Bob Costas, not quite a MAGA warrior, recently said, “It’s not transphobic to say, ‘Let’s inject some common sense here.’ ” But common sense doesn’t advance anyone’s agenda.

Oregon may be ground zero for chaos. In 2021 its Education Department claimed that “getting the ‘right’ answer” was an example of the “white supremacy culture” that “infiltrates math classrooms.” The previous year, Oregon voters approved a measure to decriminalize possession of small amounts of hard drugs such as cocaine, though the state has an effective ban on plastic straws. What? Forget it, Jake.

Globalists and the World Economic Forum push degrowth policies. Donors got Mr. Biden to restrict exports of liquefied natural gas, strengthening Vladimir Putin. We even have a “Chinatown” election coming up: Mr. Biden, promising more border and equity chaos and confusion, vs. Donald Trump, promising more personal chaos, “covfefe” and confusion.

I’m still optimistic. Like ESG and DEI, the drivers of chaos will eventually collapse under the weight of their own fallacies and inconsistencies. But not yet. A few weeks ago in San Francisco, a crowd burned a Waymo self-driving Jaguar, thankfully unoccupied. Yes, it happened in Chinatown. Why? Forget it, Jake. The chaos agenda still rules.

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Wonder Land: Whether it’s members of Congress, protesters in the street, even golf tournaments—it’s hard not to notice the rising tide of jerk-like behavior. Images: Storyblocks/TikTok/BidenHQ Composite: Mark Kelly

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Appeared in the February 26, 2024, print edition as 'America’s ‘Chinatown’ Politics'.

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