Ta-Nehisi Coates may have written the definitive Marty Peretz put-down. There’s always been a lot to dislike about the Peretz-era TNR — the “edgy” contrarianism, the racism, the plagiarism and fabricated stories. But I didn’t know until this day that Stephen Glass and Ruth Shalit fabricated stories to support edgy contrarian racist theories:
Proceeding from there, the article goes on to contrast the flagging work ethic of African-Americans, with hard-working immigrant taxi-drivers–many of them Muslim. The article ends with a flurry of spectacular reportage, in which the journalist witnesses the robbery of one of his cab-driving subjects by a black man, and then tracks down a folk-hero of the local cab-driving community–Kae Bang “a Korean cabdriver-turned-vigilante who is to the D.C. cab community what Stagger Lee was to the Mississippi Delta.” Bang, an expert martial artist, attracted his flock after he beat down “three brick wielding black teenagers” who’d assaulted him.*
The story was a whirlwind of spectacular “gets” which could only have been executed by a crack reporter on his best day, or an outright liar willing to invoke every odious stereotype from Steppin Fetchit to Bruce Lee to Willie Horton. Martin Peretz put “Taxis and the Meaning Of Work” on the cover of The New Republic, a first for the article’s author, Stephen Glass.
So many great versions of Stagger Lee, by the way.