Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

May 11, 2006

Giuliani Time

Filed under: Film,racism,repression — louisproyect @ 6:26 pm


"Gestapo Giuliani" by Robert Lederman, who is interviewed extensively in the film

If there's any other reason need to go see "Giuliani Time" other than it includes an interview with the good Doug Henwood, it is to watch the racist, plutocratic and authoritarian ex-Mayor nailed by his own words and deeds. This documentary, which opens tomorrow at the Sunshine Cinema in NYC, is a stunning achievement. Going against the well-orchestrated PR campaign that undoubtedly seeks to put him in the White House in 2008, it reveals him as little different from George W. Bush despite his reputation in some circles for being enlightened. After seeing this terrific documentary, you will come away with the feeling that he is about as enlightened as a blackjack.

Apparently, the film has struck the jugular vein based on the reaction of Giuliani backers at http://www.draftrudygiuliani.com/, who have begun to raise funds to counter what they consider the film's "propaganda":

"Even though many political pundits feel that the pro-choice, pro-immigration and pro-gay rights platform of Rudy Giuliani is simply nothing more than a longshot to win the 2008 Republican presidential nomination, some far-left filmmakers are taking him seriously enough to drop some cash in attempt to ensure that from occuring."

The main value of the film is that it cuts through the bullshit about Giuliani's claim to progressive values, as seen in the above quote. It actually takes an enormous amount of chutzpah to describe Giuliani as "pro-immigration" after the film makes crystal-clear that the Associate Attorney General became a "made man" with the Reagan administration after he made life hell for Haitian boat people.

After a class-action lawsuit seeking the release of 2,100 Haitian refugees from detention camps was filed in 1982, Giuliani said that repression in Haiti "simply does not exist now" and that refugees had nothing to fear from the Government of Jean-Claude Duvalier. (NY Times, 4/3/1982)

The film relies heavily on interviews with Wayne Barrett, the Village Voice author of "Rudy," a book that attracted attention for the startling revelations that the law-and-order Mayor's father was a low-level mafia operative and that his wife lived in the attic of Gracie Mansion while he was cheating on her with an aide.

Barrett's real contribution, however, was to lay out the almost daily assaults to NYC's progressive traditions by the Republican mayor. Barrett, a gifted and dogged investigative journalist, has been covering the Giuliani beat in the Voice for a number of years now. In the film, he points out that despite the perception (aided by the NY Times and other papers) that Giuliani cleaned up the crime problem in NYC, the truth is that Dinkins had already turned the corner as mayor:

When pressured by Congressman Gregory Meeks during his recent House testimony, Giuliani put his hand up in the air and swore that there'd been 50 percent fewer "police shootings" in 1998 than in 1993, the final year of his predecessor, David Dinkins. Since the Diallo incident was more than a mere "police shooting"— defined as the number of incidents in which police fire at a perpetrator, whether they hit him or not— it was a curious statistical choice. Presumably the mayor picked it, rather than the much more parallel stat of "police fatal fire," because the numbers worked better for him.

Had he focused on police killings, he would have had to admit that the number declined dramatically under Dinkins, falling from 39 in 1990 to 22 in 1993, a 44 percent drop. He would also have had to explain why it soared to 30 in Giuliani's first year and stayed roughly at that higher-than-Dinkins level for 1995 and 1996, declining only in the last two years. In 1998, cops killed 19 people, three less than in 1993, for a drop of only 13.6 percent over the five Giuliani years.

Full: http://www.villagevoice.com/news/9909,barrett,4254,5.html

Giuliani's rise to power owes much to the strategic insights of the shadowy Manhattan Institute, a rightwing think-tank. The film makes heavy use of interviews with Myron Magnet, one of their staff members, who is about as creepy as can be imagined both in terms of the words that come out of his mouth and his appearance, which ironically evokes Ebenezer Scrooge, mutton-chops and all.

Myron Magnet at New Criterion cocktail party held at the Metropolitan Museum

Magnet explains that Giuliani assumed power largely on the basis of the "broken window" theory pioneered by the ideologues at the Manhattan Institute. This posits the notion that petty crimes (or even offenses to bourgeois values) such as street-level drug dealing or panhandling have to be eradicated in order for larger law-and-order values to prevail. Unfortunately, many decent middle-class New Yorkers, who tended to vote Democrat, got suckered into voting for Giuliani because they were fed up with panhandlers, crack vials in their vestibule, etc.

Many probably now regret their decision after seeing Giuliani's mean-spirited assaults on the poor and on freedoms guaranteed by the bill of rights during his term in office. Unfortunately, as was the case with recent presidential elections, the Democrats failed to win office because they could not present a compelling alternative. It is probably the one flaw in this otherwise outstanding documentary that this problem is not given any real attention.

Film website: http://www.giulianitime.com/


  1. Re the “broken window” theory: I think there may be something to this after all. If the US had been halted years ago when it was committing lesser war crimes, it might not have committed its greater war crimes of recent years.

    Re Myron Magnet: I happened to see him years ago on the street in midtown Manhattan, and he is indeed a disconcerting figure — bizarrely anachronistic. I had the feeling I’d stumbled into a time warp and been whisked backed to 19th-century NYC like the protagonist of Jack Finney’s “Time and Again.”

    Comment by Carl R — May 12, 2006 @ 2:28 am

  2. I read the run-down on the film site of basic numbers belying the Guiliani admin’s claims to fame. I wonder about some of these, since I suspect that there might be demographic trends confounding the apparent meaning of the numbers given. In any case, I bet that defenders of Guiliani have their own set of facts to quote. It would be interesting to see what the pros, e.g. the criminologists have to say, esp., about the “broken windows” theory.

    Comment by Paul Lyon — May 12, 2006 @ 3:08 am

  3. […] Giuliani’s crackdown was examined in another fine documentary titled “Giuliani Time” about which I had to say: […]

    Pingback by 108 Cuchillo de Palo; Lost Angels: Skid Row is My Home | Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist — March 19, 2013 @ 6:40 pm

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