April 21st, 2024


Spirits of the Age

Mark Steyn

By Mark Steyn

Published Sept. 24, 2023

Spirits of the Age


So much has gone so wrong on so many fronts, from the rise of China to declining life expectancy in America, that one fears to contemplate for too long the big picture lest it fall from the wall and its frame crush one's throbbing skull. So here is a small picture - a vignette, a detail in life's rich tapestry.

Last month, The Las Vegas Review-Journal carried a sad little story about a man who'd died while out on a bicycle ride:

His daughter, Taylor Probst, got an alert from her dad's Apple Watch indicating that the 64-year-old man had fallen. The 27-year-old and her mother, Crystal Probst, drove to the scene of the crash, only 3 miles from their home.

"I come from law enforcement as well in my younger days," Crystal Probst said in an interview Friday. "I was able to ascertain, there's his bike, his helmet is way over there, his phone is way over there. I'm like, this is not good..."

Officers and firefighters told the women that Probst had been taken to University Medical Center.

They waited four hours there, asking everyone where their loved one was.

Finally, a representative from the Clark County coroner's office told them Probst had passed.

"When they know somebody's dead, and a family is sitting out in that lobby waiting, somebody needs to come out," Crystal Probst said, angry at the delayed response.

So that's how it was initially reported. As the characteristically somnolent monodaily's original headline put it:

Retired police chief killed in bike crash remembered for laugh, love of coffee

Must have been a pretty bad "crash", huh? But just one of those things, compounded at the hospital by the usual bureaucratic heartlessness of modern life.

And then this video emerged:

So two joyriders steal a car, hit another vehicle, and then decide to kill a bicyclist for kicks. "Ready?" says the driver. "Hit his ass," responds the passenger. And they do - and whaddayaknow, killing a guy makes for a really cool video when you post it on "social" media!

By the way, that lousy "bike crash" headline remained on the Review-Journal story for a month - from the initial publication on August 18th all the way till Saturday September 16th, after twenty-four hours of widespread derision on the Internet. The paper has become defensive about its coverage, which we'll return to later.

But what happens in Vegas doesn't always stay in Vegas. Back in Andreas Probst's former neck of the woods:

Oh, and following the old Fleet Street rule that it takes three to make a trend, one more - this time from my home town of Toronto:

These bike lanes are great, aren't they? Makes it so much easier to get a nice clear run at these cyclists.

Notice how in all three jurisdictions the media report what happened as a "hit-and-run". I think not. Hit-and-run laws are among the earliest of traffic regulations (1927, even on the rustic byways of British Bengal) because, in the days of dusty unpaved roads, no license plates and begoggled drivers, good luck figuring out who that chap is fleeing the scene of an accident. But that's what the term is meant to cover: an accident. You carelessly hit another vehicle and, in a moment of panic, hightail it out of there.

The above incidents are hit-and-run only in the sense that, say, the 2016 Bastille Day truck carnage or the Berlin Christmas market slaughter were.

Of course, those guys were ploughing you into the asphalt in order to advance the triumph of Islam over the infidel. The good news is that the killers in Nevada and California and Ontario just do it for a laugh.

As is now customary, the American media disdained to report the Vegas video, it not being helpful to the narrative. So nothing in The New York Times, The Washington Post, or the crappy unreadable monodailies of lesser American cities . To the international press, however, it appears to be a bona fide story. Le Journal de Montréal:

Las Vegas: un ado filme le meurtre d'un cycliste

"An adolescent films the murder of a cyclist." Bild in Germany:

Teenager fahren ex-Polizei Chef in Las Vegas um ...Tot und die Taeter Jubeln!

Which means, more or less: "Las Vegas teenagers drive ex-police chief death - and the perps cheer!"

And another - from Belgium:

Acte odieux à Las Vegas: deux adolescents renversent délibérément et tuent un policier à la retraite

"Odious act in Las Vegas: two adolescents deliberately mow down and kill a retired policeman."

Compare and contrast all the above with the hometown paper's anodyne headline. Having remained silent through Friday, Saturday, Sunday, the Review-Journal finally returned to the "bike crash" today to defend its feeble, anaesthetizing coverage:

As the online firestorm evolved on Saturday, editors at the Review-Journal changed the headline of the article, removing the phrase "bike crash" and replacing it with "hit-and-run," hoping the change would calm the online vitriol.

But that isn't true either: it's an act of murder - a vehicular homicide for which that guy in Charlottesville, Virginia is presently serving half-a-millennium.

Even more disturbingly, the paper revealed that its original "reporter" (a "hero", according to the paper) had known about the cellphone footage for over a fortnight:

In fact, a source had contacted the Review-Journal about the existence of the video more than two weeks ago, and a reporter had instructed the caller on how to forward the video to Metropolitan Police Department detectives investigating the case.

Why, they even did another bland, insipid minimal item on the charge getting upgraded to murder.

Er, okay. But in that case - if you knew about the video "more than two weeks ago" - why didn't you do a piece on that? Because, in any real journalistic culture, that's the story - not sentimentalist sob-sister crapola about, aw, he was a nice guy with a "love of coffee" who unfortunately came a cropper on his bicycle.

The video is the story, but the local paper wouldn't cover it. As its comrades elsewhere in the US media still haven't covered it. Why is that? Oh, well: as usual with an American news event, it took Viscount Rothermere's Daily Mail to write it up in any detail.

So, after The Las Vegas Review-Journal sitting on it for over a fortnight, the video very belatedly excited a lot of weekend comment across the Internet. John Hinderaker at Powerline picked up the story:

Two black teenagers steal a car and go joyriding. They film themselves as they rear-end another vehicle, then spot a man bicycling along the side of the road. They deliberately run him over, killing him, as they film the murder, laughing.

John and his commentators quickly detoured into discussions of capital punishment and abortion. But it seems to me much more basic than that:

This is your future.

Life's pretty good, you've got a nice house in an agreeable subdivision in a non-criminal-infested part of town, you keep yourself in shape cycling around the fine municipal bike paths ...and then a couple of your more feral compatriots decide to get their jollies by killing you.

There's going to be a lot more of this, absent a course correction in public discourse so profound it's barely conceivable in today's America. The logical endpoint of what we euphemize as "identity politics" is the dehumanization of your fellow citizens - even on the comedy shows:

That's a mainly white audience cheering its own eclipse. Which, to put it at its mildest, might strike some observers as psychologically unhealthy.

Yet it goes on round the clock. Given American education's decline into an unending relitigation of an ever more remote past, are you really stunned that some people are willing to take it to the next level? It's just the slightly more hardcore end of the same continuum as Ibram X Kendi's lucrative racket, "Critical Race Theory", "white fragility" in America, the awful "Voice" referendum Down Under, the toppling of Sir John A Macdonald in Dominion Square in Montreal, and all the other bollocks of the continual 24/7 assault on, for better or worse, our shared inheritance. And, once it's no longer shared, what's left to hold society together in the bright new dawn of Year Zero?

So why be surprised that it seems to be advancing from Civil War statues to flesh-and-blood human beings?

Mark's international bestseller America Alone: The End of the World as We Know It. If you haven't read the book during its first seventeen years, well, you're missing a treat. It's still in print in hardback and paperback. (Buy it at a 77% discount by clicking here or order in KINDLE edition at a 47% discount by clicking here. Sales help fund JWR)


Mark Steyn is an international bestselling author, a Top 41 recording artist, and a leading Canadian human rights activist. Among his books is "The Undocumented Mark Steyn: Don't Say You Weren't Warned". (Buy it at a 49% discount by clicking here or order in KINDLE edition at a 67% discount by clicking here. Sales help fund JWR)