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Dec 10, 2016

Car Crashes

Anything that moves eventually crashes. But to paraphrase George Orwell's Animal Farm, some crashes are more equal than others. Here in NYC, double standards exist in the degree of the corporate media's news coverage of crashes, with one relatively high standard for transit crashes, and another irregular but mostly minimal, standard for the much more frequent, and more deadly, car crashes. In this city, car crashes are a kind of slow-motion riot, constituting a genuine public health crisis. Car crash victims -- pedestrians, bicyclists, car passengers and sometimes even the driver who caused the crash -- are routinely crushed to death, burned beyond recognition, dismembered, beheaded. Whole families get wiped out.

Dizzy with car promotions, New York's newspapers look the other way. So, for instance, when a subway train crashes and some people are hurt, headlines in NYC papers scream for days. John 'Mon-Tone' on AM radio somberly intones in his sepulchral monotone: "Sub-Way Terr-Orr." But car crashes in the region involving multiple deaths that occur here every few weeks are buried on a back page or sometimes ignored altogether. Once in a while, if there's nothing else going on that interests these so-called 'journalists,' a car crash becomes headline news. Apparently what thinking there may be behind this shoddy and lazy coverage is that close scrutiny of transit system crashes can lead to institutional corrections, but there's no hope for reforming our unsafe streets, so why bother?

Our Livable City Plan Would Reduce, Not Eliminate, Automotive Atrocities
Will such grisly car crashes still happen once NYC awakens from the car siege and implements Auto-Free NY's comprehensive Livable City Plan? Yes, of course, just much less frequently and less violently. Fewer cars, better public transit and streets recast for residents and safety rather than for racing cars, maniac drivers and sweatshop car services will raise the quality of life -- and the value of life, too -- in our city, and to a lesser extent, the surrounding suburbs.

Blood-and-Guts Coverage Tries to Shift Blame to Victims
A perfect example of the stupidest and most vile 'journalism' is the right-wing NY Post's coverage of the July 10, 2003 atrocity (see below). Here, headline news coverage of car crashes is counterproductive, distracting readers by suggesting that people are helpless, unlucky or even at fault when cars kill them, rather than examining the real issue: why drivers of these oversized, overpowered cars are allowed to speed everywhere in our densely populated city and why our society tolerates the aggressive marketing to the general public of what are in effect street-legal racing cars, in the hands of beginners and crazies. Such reactionary coverage typically goes into great detail about the victims' lives and interests, so that readers are manipulated into identifying with them. Then it's on to the next car promotion.

Racing Cars, Bloated SUV's and Advertising Filth Cheapen Our Lives
Every day our lives and our city are cheapened by the racing car/SUV propaganda relentlessly stuck in our faces by the corporate-owned media curtain, and on TV, in movies and radio, in movie theaters, in newspapers and magazines, on billboards pasted on tenements, on eyesore ads plastered all over our buses, subways, commuter railroads, phone booths and corner delis. In fact, much like an addict requiring ever larger doses of alcohol or hard drugs, the realities of a glutted market for new cars requires that this 'Advertising Filth' push unsafe driving so that a lot more cars end up crashing, resulting in more new car sales. As a public service, as an antidote to this hateful marketing nightmare and economic censorship by corporate-owned media (especially in papers like the NY Times), here, plucked from the steady stream of crashes and unsteady coverage, are just a few reminders of the toll that cars take on our citizens. Coverage analysis is limited to print newspapers.
March 9, 2008:

Cross Island Parkway near Northern Blvd., Queens, Sunday, March 9 at dawn
Around dawn on Sunday, March 9, two cars spun out and crashed on the Cross Island Parkway near Northern Boulevard in eastern Queens -- fortunately, neither driver was hurt. A short time later, a tow truck pulled up, and right after that a third car driven by a Freeport, Long Island man piled into the ensemble, almost certainly at high speed, because this last car burst into flames. The passenger managed to escape but the driver was trapped in the wreck and died in the inferno. The almost medieval barbarity of this scene would simply not be acceptable to the general public if the mainstream media didn't hide the news and took responsibility for reporting on our speeding epidemic.
     In this case the crashes were blamed on ice patches, not speeding. "No criminality was suspected," mumbled the Daily News.
Next Day Coverage:
Newsday: Page A14
Daily News: Page 10
NY Post Page 16 - brief mention in NYPD Daily Blotter
AM New York Page 4

October 7, 2007:

Network Chopper Pilot Mowed Down in Midtown
It's been a veritable highway pile-up for taxis these days in NYC. As the premier commercial entity that has dominated our streets for generations, using them for its sweatshop operations, the taxi industry is now facing some of the strongest challenges ever to its street-hail monopoly. Some background: the taxi industry is essentially a couple dozen wealthy fleet owners who exploit thousands of under-paid cabdrivers. The fleet owners and the TLC tried but failed to crush out of existence pedi-cabs, which have become a popular alternative for people in midtown, particularly tourists. Cabbies' other big enemy -- bicyclists -- also refuse to go away. In fact, the city has been adding hundreds of feet of new bike lanes every year, in an almost random sprinkling! Skyrocketing gasoline prices have eaten into cabbie's take-home pay -- made worse because most taxis have gas-gulping V-8 engines and are driven hard. Meanwhile at City Hall, Mayor Bloomberg is bent on installing GPS trackers and other electronic snoops into cabs as part of the burgeoning runaway police state. So while all the talk in the fall of 2007 was of a potential taxi strike, with one planned for October 22, we continued to be subjected to business as usual: cabs speeding and running people over left and right.
     The latest DEATH BY CAB was 60-year old Paul Smith, a helicopter pilot for WABC-TV. Smith was killed by a speeding cab near East 40th St. and Third Ave., around 10pm, Sunday. Two others, including his wife, were hit and suffered broken bones. Besides his wife, Mr. Smith leaves behind two sons in their twenties.
     Not only was this news item buried on back pages of all of the city's dailies, but some of the headlines made for additional camouflage. The Post, as usual, followed its psychotic, misanthropic party line, casting the cabbie as the victim ("Torment of Death-Cab Driver")! The NY Times' headline read: "Celebration Ends in Death for a Pilot for WABC", implying that celebrating caused his death, not a speeding cab; and the Daily News chose: "Hack's Black-Car Tale Doesn't Add Up: Cops", suggesting a cabbie making up stories about a competitor, a surefire deflection. The question is why would these papers try to make a murder news story disappear like this? Mr. Smith wasn't homeless, poor, working poor or working class, or a different color from these papers' editors, which would be these papers' normal reason. And these same editors are almost certainly chauffeured around or use towncars -- not cabs. Only the crappy free paper Metro was a little more honest: "Man Killed by Runaway Taxi".
Next Day Coverage: [Sunday evening event appears in Wednesday newspapers]
NY Times: [article appears in Tuesday, Oct 9 edition!] Photo of the victim
Newsday: [pending]
Daily News: Page 8. Headline: "Hack's Black-Car Tale Doesn't Add Up: Cops"
NY Post Page 9. Headline: "Torment of Death-Cab Driver"
AM New York [not available]
Metro: Page 5

June 12, 2006:
SUPER-CRASH SUNDAY: Smack-Em-Ups Everywhere, While the Mayor Looks the Other Way About Speeding Epidemic

Crashes on Staten Island; West Side Hwy; Park Ave. at 62nd St.; Bethpage, LI, Sunday June 12
In numerous places throughout the city and region, the early Sunday morning air of June 11, 2006 was filled with screams of anguish caused by speeding cars smashing into people. It started on Staten Island, around 12:30am [Crash A] when a speeding Honda mowed down 4 teenagers on Richmond Avenue in the New Springville section. Bodies went flying - all ended up in the hospital, 2 in critical condition. The motorist was not drunk and did not flee. Around 2 or 3am (newspaper accounts conflict), a speeding cab [Crash B] crashed on Manhattan's West Side Highway, ejecting a 20-year old Pace University student who was then hit and killed by another cab. Three others and the cabbie were all seriously hurt. This gruesome crash generated big headlines in the News and Post tabloids. Also around 3am, on Quaker Meeting House Road in Bethpage, Long Island, a head-on collision between a Mercedes and a limo killed 3 [Crash C]. Finally, around 5:30pm Sunday afternoon, near the Puerto Rican Day Parade in Manhattan, two other speeding cabs collided on Park Ave. and East 62nd Street - six people were hurt [Crash D].
     The common element for all of these crashes is SPEEDING, and apparently not alcohol. Mayor Bloomberg, who doesn't hesitate to speak out about such issues as national gun control and the need for ever more police surveillance, is totally silent about his city's speeding epidemic.
Next Day Coverage:
NY Times: [A]: squib, page B5 [B]: page B4        [C], [D]: NO COVERAGE.
Newsday: [A]: page A15        [B]: page A14       [C], [D]: NO COVERAGE.
Daily News: [A]: page 27    [B]: front cover, page 5       [C]: NO COVERAGE;    [D]: page 32.
NY Post: [A]: page 17          [B]: front cover, page 5       [C]: NO COVERAGE    [D]: page 9.
AM New York: [A]: NO COVERAGE [B]: squib, page 3     [C], [D]: NO COVERAGE.
Metro: [A]: squib, page 2     [B]: page 3        [C], [D]: NO COVERAGE.

January 30, 2005:
Hit-and-Run SUV Driver Kills Man in Wheelchair

West 230th Street, the Bronx, Sunday, January 30 at 5:45pm
In this latest automotive atrocity, a black Mitsubishi SUV heading south on Broadway in the Kingsbridge section of the Bronx just after sunset hit and killed the 41-year old wheelchair-bound victim, Juan Jimenez, who was crossing W. 230th St. near his home, a few blocks from the Marble Hill station of Metro-North. Then the SUV driver, his mind perhaps racing with images of speeding cars seen in ads, then just drove away! This killing merited only a small item in suburban-based Newsday, on Page 14 of their January 31 edition, and the briefest of squibs on the Police Blotter page of the NY Post. Nothing in the Times, the Daily News, or the short-attention-span free dailies AM New York or Metro. Yet all of these papers had plenty of room in that day's edition for all kinds of worthless celebrity glop, astrology advice (the Daily News had a full page!) and the usual pimping car promotions. New Yorkers who look at these trashy papers ask: can human life be presented as any cheaper?
September 6, 2004:
Family Wiped Out in Fiery Tappan Zee Bridge Crash

Tappan Zee Bridge, Monday, Sept. 6 at 9am
A family of three returning to their home on Long Island from a vacation were trapped and burned to death in their Mercedes-Benz when, after it broke down, it was struck by a tractor-trailer truck on the Tappan Zee Bridge.
Next Day Coverage:
NY Times: page B5
Newsday: page A8 (and color photo)
[Daily News and NY Post not available]
AM New York and Metro - NO COVERAGE

October 7, 2003:
3 Burned to Death in Race Car Crash Near Chelsea Piers

West Side Highway at 24th Street, Manhattan, Tuesday, October 7 at 1:50am
Two teenagers from suburban NJ and a 24-year old Harlem man were burned to death in this particularly violent crash-and-burn of a 2002 Mercedes Benz CL500 coupe at 24th Street on the West Side Highway. The $90,000+ car, driven by one of the teens at an estimated 95mph, crashed into a divider, went airborne, burst into flames and partially disintegrated. The engine, torn from its mounts, grew airborne, landing 300 feet away in the city bus loading zone, right at the foot of the car-friendly Chelsea Piers Entertainment Complex! Rescuers reportedly could see the 3 victims moving inside the flaming wreckage, but were only able to pull out the driver.
     The NY Post's crash coverage was by far the most dramatic, with two full pages, one with color photos: an aerial helicopter photo of the highway layout, a picture of the burning wreckage and the massive but forlorn race car engine hunkered down in a pool of oil. The Post apparently couldn't resist a little plug for this racing car -- it included a snazzy dealer's photo of the new car, with specifications, perhaps to egg on prospective buyers. Could the Post headline, "DATE TURNS TO FLAMING DEATH", be implicating that old right-wing bug-a-boo, teen sexuality? (Remember, the Post is the paper that runs 1960's-style full-color 'girlie' photos on its prime pages.) The next day, the Post ran another full page in color, this time focusing on the victims, with a cheesecake shot of the young woman highlighting her backside (she was an aspiring model).
     Beyond the incredible vulgarity of this kind of trash journalism, once again we see the consequences of aggressive marketing of high-powered racing cars for street use, and ads and movies everywhere glorifying speeding, this time taking three young people in the prime of life.
Next Day Coverage:
New York Times: Metro section cover (below the fold); photo of pathetic high school memorial candles
Newsday: page A16; no photos
Daily News: page 8 - photo of smashed chassis and 2 passengers
New York Post: pages 4 and 5
July 10, 2003:
SUV Crushes to Death Two Pedestrians in Queens

Queens Blvd. at 78th Avenue, Thursday, July 10 at 1:20pm
This week's automotive atrocity took place in Forest Hills, Queens when a Subaru Forester ran a red light and struck a BMW SUV (ie a luxury 4-wheel drive racing vehicle) which flipped and crushed two beautiful young women in the prime of life. The women were walking in a DoT-designated "safe area." In order to become airborne so readily, the SUV was probably speeding. Because this crash took place in broad daylight in a very busy neighborhood, the politicians will be gyrating with press conference hand-wringing, and DOT bureaucrats will be rushing to contract out for more anti-walker fencing that will encourage more speeding, but no substantive change to the high speed automotive culture will be made. In all the day-after coverage, only Newsday ("Dangerous Design is Tough to Solve" whined one headline, as if this is rocket science) managed to mumble that enforcement of speed limits on Queens Boulevard may have slackened. The Post concluded that the two women were unlucky -- perhaps it was their fault they were outside of a car in this automotive no-man's-land?
New York Times, July 11: color photo on Metro section cover; article on page B4
Newsday, July 11: cover story, 2 full pages of articles
Daily News, July 11: page 7 - full page
New York Post, July 11: cover story and full page
June 15, 2003: Two Queens Motorists Burned to Death
Merrick Road, Valley Stream, June 15, around 5:15pm
This crash happened when a speeding '99 BMW hit a minivan making a turn in Valley Stream, about 2 miles east of the Queens/Nassau County border. The BMW's passengers -- two brothers, one from Rosedale and one from Jamaica -- burned to death in the car. The driver, from Flushing, was pulled from the wreck before it burst into flames; he was hospitalized. The minivan driver, a New Jersey man, was apparently unhurt. The minimal news coverage and abstracted suburban location meant that next day, politicians would not have to go through their ritual hand-wringing and public relations maneuvers.
New York Times: NO COVERAGE
Newsday, June 16: Page A37 (TOTALLY buried on a backpage, but surprisingly includes photo)
New York Post, June 16: Page 12

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