"City of Hate" or Innocent Bystander: The New York Times Keeps Changing Its Mind on Dallas

Categories: Media

Thumbnail image for NYTFrontPageJFK.jpg
The guilt Dallas once felt over the Kennedy assassination has mostly faded. For most Dallasites, the "city of hate" label is an abstraction, useful to riff on for local food blog titles but otherwise bearing no resemblance to the modern city.

That's not to say that it's not worth marveling at how frothy-mouthed Dallas was in 1963. That's the whole point of Dallas, 1963, Bill Minutaglio and Steven L. Davis' book on the subject, and of a Sunday New York Times piece by James McAuley, which Schutze referenced earlier.

The thrust of the Times piece is that Dallas is guilty of "will[ing] the death of the president" and has not yet acknowledged the blood that still covers its hands. This was a place in which a mob of Junior Leaguers spat on Lyndon and Lady Bird Johnson and wife of an insurance executive hit Adlai Stevvenson over the head with a picket sign. No surprise, then, that someone might feel compelled to fire a few shots from a school book depository window.

For the last 50 years, a collective culpability has quietly propelled the city to outshine its troubled past without ever actually engaging with it. To be fair, pretending to forget has helped Dallas achieve some remarkable accomplishments in those years, like the completion of the Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport, the development of the astonishingly successful Cowboys franchise and the creation of what remains one of the country's most electric local economies.

But those are transient triumphs in the face of what has always been left unsaid, what the now-defunct Dallas Times Herald once called the "dark night of the soul," on which the bright Texas sun has yet to rise. The far right of 1963 and the radicalism of my grandparents' generation may have faded in recent years, they remain very much alive in Dallas. Look no further than the troop of gun-rights activists who appeared just days ago, armed and silent, outside a meeting of local mothers concerned about gun violence. If this is what counts as responsible civic dialogue, then Dallas has a long way still to go.

This year Dallas has a chance to grapple with the painful legacy of 1963 in public and out loud. Unfortunately, that's unlikely to happen.

It's a damning piece, one that screams for a rebuttal. For that, we turn to an article that emphatically declares not only that Dallas has moved past the Kennedy assassination but that it was never really to blame in the first place. It ran in the New York Times on November 21, 1988.

That piece portrayed a city that had been deeply scarred by the assassination and the scorn that had been heaped upon it. It cites a study by an SMU psychology professor showing that "suicide, murder and heart disease death rates in Dallas increased markedly in the year after the assassination and that many city residents still exhibit the symptoms of victims of socially unacceptable acts like rape."

Sure, the city had a mean streak, but that had mellowed by 1988. The "business oligarchy that ran Dallas and nurtured its business-knows-best attitude has grudgingly given way to a more open political structure," the Times wrote. "The city now has a Jewish woman as Mayor and black men as city manager and superintendent of schools." The Dallas Morning News had transformed from a mouthpiece of conservative vitriol into a moderate, mainstream big-city newspaper.

But the main thrust of that article was that the "city of hate" moniker was unjust and that, besides, Dallas was a different place.

That's doubly true 25 years later, even if the prediction offered by Dallas historian A.C. Greene at the end of the piece is not.

"The next significant anniversary will be the 50th," he said. "By then, I suspect we'll talk about Dallas the same way we talk about Sherman's march to the sea. Even the grandchildren or great-grandchildren of those who remember it can't really feel any movement of the spirit about it now.''

Maybe by the 75th?

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36 comments
WonkotheSane
WonkotheSane

NY is still pissy cuz we stole American Airlines and AT&T. 

I'm still waiting for an explanation of how right-wing hate could have influenced a communist to do anything, much less kill a president. I suppose it was a useful canard right after the assassination. If it was widely understood that Oswald was a communist, it might have started WWIII. But why does anybody continue to push this nonsensical meme? It just makes Oxford look stupid for admitting the author of the NY Times piece.

Roger_that
Roger_that

I call total BS on Junior Leaguers spitting in public in 1963. Banding together to commit assault and battery downtown would be the one of the last things the ladies of that august organization would ever do...

JackJett
JackJett

I wonder if the finger pointing at Dallas (real or imagined) for the assassination of JFK would continue so many years later if it were for some of our political figures that spew such extreme right wing views in the form of Ted Cruz, Rick Perry, Delay, Cornyn, Sessions, Gohmert, and others. 

The a large segment of America or the World fails to see the coolness that is Texas, it may be more than everyone else is WRONG or misguided.  And these right wingers that seem to get the most attention are not always the best representatives of many of the Republican's I know. 

Sotiredofitall
Sotiredofitall topcommenter

"a city that had been deeply scarred by the assassination"  BLAH BLAH BLAH

tb00
tb00

That was a very silly article.

jeffoest1
jeffoest1

Rolling my eyes... silliness to act as if a city is a person.  When you look at the some of the footage of the motorcade, you see happy crowds, families with children, etc.. getting out to see the president - as they would in any town. These articles about "Dallas"  - a geographical place where the murder happened to happen just mean nothing to me. I live in Dallas and am not guilty about anything. Silliness I say! :-)


dingo
dingo

The NYTimes editors overexerted to coin the linguistically challenged "incorrect promise" when forced to backtrack on their Obama support or lose all credibility on the issue.

From that same subjective bedlam we get this gem of a piece utilizing the only the best generalizations and oversimplifications one could expect. 


holmantx
holmantx topcommenter

Boy.  How stupid would we feel if Kennedy had a stand-in and he was actually laid up with Marilyn Monroe somewhere near Azle.  

then he pops up on Bonnaire, running a bar for the last fifty years.

libtardlogic
libtardlogic

A commie killed a liberal President and it is conservatives' fault.

#LibtardLogic

P1Gunter
P1Gunter

I enjoy that the New York Times doesn't think Dallas has a river. Pretty sure RIVERFRONT Blvd is next to one, as spare as it may be. Up until the teens there were still conversations about dredging the Trinity to Houston for shipping purposes.

ruddski
ruddski topcommenter

"But the main thrust of that article was that the "city of hate" moniker was unjust and that, besides, Dallas was a different place."

Yeah, you got a lot more communists there now.

whocareswhatithink
whocareswhatithink

I cant wait to read these articles:

DC - City of Hate (Lincoln)

DC - Double city of hate (Garfield)

New York - City of Hate ( McKinley)

ruddski
ruddski topcommenter

The left and its media have yet to come to grips with the communist murder of their icon/myth, maybe that's why they can't let it go. Shame manifests in odd ways.

Mervis_Earl
Mervis_Earl

The AT&T in Dallas is not the same AT&T that was based in New York.

holmantx
holmantx topcommenter

@JackJett 

Maybe you are the odd one out.  After all, it is only you morons and the press that are at the end of that JFK finger-pointing, and it always comes down to some vague reference to the other guy's politics of Hate (codewords for racism and bigotry), right . . . JACK?  

Too bad you can't articulate your position instead of reciting "they suck!".

So what is it these guys are "spewing" that has your panties in such a wad, Jack?

Or are we merely to first stipulate to the scum we are before you engage in any logical debate, Jack?

friggin' jack off.

crimjunkie
crimjunkie

@libtardlogic Oh, ho-ho-ha-ha-hee-hee!  You got us libtards again, there, Buck Rogers.  #waytogoattaboy!

James_the_P3
James_the_P3

@whocareswhatithink Buffalo, not New York.

Buffalo--the city so inconsequential that people can't even remember that a president was assassinated here.

holmantx
holmantx topcommenter

@ruddski 

Unfortunately, the press needs Dallas to take the heat off of Obamacare.  That's the ticket!  The Justice Department needs to sue Dallas for the assassination of Kennedy as a Hate Crime (ha!).

USS Dallas on the surface in heavy seas: "Stand by for heavy rolls as the ship turns . . .  batten all bulkheads and doors.  Sweepers man your brooms".

I think we're just going to have to have a little fun with this.

JackJett
JackJett

@holmantx @JackJett I am not sure how my post upset you so as I thought it was fairly equal and unbiased.  Certainly less flaming that some other comments here including yours.

My hope is that I failed to explain my thoughts properly and thus created a misunderstanding which upset you, so let me make another attempt.  And please remember I don't know you, just as you don't know me so anything I say will not be directed at YOU.

1.  Yes, I am the odd one out on this thread and this conversation.  I find I am in that spot on certain blogs a lot.  I am not a moron in the press but a guy who has lived around the world but always came back to Texas so my pride is authentic.   I don't recall saying anyone sucked and you are right it is too bad that I couldn't articulate for you as you seem to miss my point if you felt my comments deserved such bashing.

2.  My point was, Dallas is in the spotlight now for remembering a horrible historical event.  It is clearly the fault of Lee Harvey Oswald.  And while many of the reflections OUTSIDE our State have been less than kind and many of US think undeservedly so, that MAYBE....just MAYBE we are still considered an extremely right wing State as we were when Oswald shot Kennedy in Dallas.  In other words, if our political vibe was more to the middle or left, outsiders would see us as having moved away from the political climate that existed when Kennedy was shot.

3.  The mention of Cruz etc was to use them as examples who continual cause a spotlight shown on Texas and not always in a flattering light.  That, sir is a fact and not a "moron" "spewing".  For as you and many others support some of these rasher statements those outside our State do not and thus may add to the current running thread that .....not much has changed in Dallas since Kennedy was shot.

4.  Now that was nothing more than a thought that I had as to why this WAS happening , not that it is right or wrong, but more of could this be a reason we are seeing this more than usual.  

So Holmantx, I would appreciate now that I have take the time to further explain my previous comments and thoughts that were in now way directed at YOU , WHY they pushed such a button with you?  Would you be so kind to explain how you came away from my first post with your thoughts on me being scum, panties in a wad, moron of the press,etc   I have seen you respond to my comments before and I have often tried to figure out how my words evoked such anger and name calling in return.

Really, I would appreciate it.  I will end by saying (and please don't flame/rant me if you think I am bashing you with this comment because it is not that).......I think we are both very proud Texans and proud of even some of the same things.  I think we are defensive of our state and again, even of some of the same issues.  Yet we may be worlds apart on how the State should be run moving forward, we agree that we want to be a part of it and have a say.   

Daniel
Daniel

@crimjunkie @libtardlogic I probably agree with "libtardlogic" on about one tenth of one percent of anything, but in this case s/he actually has a point (if we are to believe the official narrative, that is; no matter what really happened, though,  Oswald was almost certainly involved). Dallas was a city of right-wing rage. The purported assassin was well established as a man of left-wing rage. 

The President who was killed was a staunchly anti-Communist American liberal centrist, kind of the Bill Clinton of his time.  (Also like Clinton [or Obama, for that matter], he was falsely vilified as far-left by crazed right-wingers -- Oswald would have hated those people, even though he resembled them in a lot of ways). The whole "Dallas killed Kennedy" narrative is simply incoherent. 

ruddski
ruddski topcommenter

On Althouse today:

"How are all these JFK retrospectives affecting Obama?"

PureChristianLove
PureChristianLove

When you're a shameless Texan asshole, why worry about being cast in "an unflattering light?"

Fifty years later, a worthy nation still despises the utter scum that is Texas.

AlanWordsmithee
AlanWordsmithee

You sound like an irrational fool, holmantx, lashing out and gnashing your teeth at the slightest provocation to your threatened sensibilities. Someone dares express an opinion, in a perfectly mannered and considerate fashion, that goes against the grain of your personal beliefs, and you immediately stoop to aggression and condescension, even childish name-calling. In short, you sound exactly like you would've been comfortably at home in the Dallas of 63 the NY Times article described. If you really wanna know why the "city of hate" moniker has persisted as long as it has, just take a look in the mirror.

JackJett
JackJett

@holmantx @JackJett Well sir with all due respect I have tried only to share one possible reason in trying to understand this NY Times article.  It is clear I failed to do so, but you really have no clue who I am or what I am about and nor do I you other than you are considered a Top Commenter here so I am assuming you are part of the Staff or part of Unfair Park in some more entrenched way than I. 

So can we agree to disagree and cease with the my afflictions and bias.  The NY Times was a tongue in cheek question and there was no hidden bias, agenda, or affliction in the question.

Have a great  night and the best of holidays in Holman Texas.

holmantx
holmantx topcommenter

@JackJett @holmantx

No need to.  Just read the Dallas Morning News.  No telling how much that rag has to pay for all the Times articles they reprint.

Besides.  The Old Grey Hag suffers from the same affliction you do.

A constant struggle in search of facts to support a bias.  

When in doubt, just say Bu, uh, Cruz.  Then everyone will understand.  Right?

JackJett
JackJett

@holmantx @JackJett Well, I thought we might find some common ground but it is clear that doesn't exist. 

I couldn't follow all your thoughts except to say you seem very angry and particularly at me for some reason.  However your view of me can not detract from the fact I consider myself a proud Texan.  One can be proud and admit to faults. 

Can I assume you will not be renewing your subscription to The NY Times?

holmantx
holmantx topcommenter

@JackJett @holmantx

Hey.  Yer alive I see and you have spent much of your post establishing your bona fides to say this: 

“just MAYBE we are still considered an extremely right wing State as we were when Oswald shot Kennedy in Dallas.” 

Could you establish the relationship between the diagnosed schizoid (a mentally ill individual) and self-proclaimed radical left Marxist who defected to the former socialist Soviet Union then returned to America . . . with right wing extremism here in Dallas?  Any known connections?  

Or must we first stipulate to your statement that all the people you hung out with on the planet think we’re right wingers? 

After all, 200,000 lined the motorcade from Fort Worth to Dallas, to see the President.  Who were these people? 

“The mention of Cruz etc was to use them as examples who continual cause a spotlight shown on Texas and not always in a flattering light.  That, sir is a fact and not a "moron" "spewing".” 

Fact?  Seriously.  Think real hard.  How has Cruz et al placed Texas in “an unflattering light”?  Again, you’ve said nothing.  You have not even taken something out of context. So you don’t like most of this state being right of center.  BFD. 

And the term “spew” is your term.  Which is the manor and demeanor of your initial post, despite your sudden civility so feigned in your first paragraph. 

You threw (or spewed) unsupported accusations, which is nothing more than invective and libelous slurs, got your feelings hurt when you were called on it, then demand to know what set me off? 

And BTW, you cannot be a “proud Texan” and remain in such a state of embarrassment over your state vis–à–vis  the ”world” you think you have met. 

All you did was express a bias.

Sotiredofitall
Sotiredofitall topcommenter

@libtardlogic Interesting editorial in yesterday's WSJ showing how non-liberal Kennedy actually was and how the true liberals of the time did not care for him.

"Fifty years after John F. Kennedy's assassination, a surprising fact has been rediscovered: In his time, he was not considered a liberal."

ruddski
ruddski topcommenter

New York has always been a frothy-mouthed city.

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