New York Times: Rich North Texas Suburbanites to Blame for Affluenza Injustice

Categories: Media

JamesMcAuley.jpg
marshallscholarship.org
The New York Times' Dallas expert, James McAuley.
James McAuley, Dallas native, '12 Harvard grad, and current Marshall Scholar at Oxford University, is well on his way to a smashingly successful career in academics, journalism or whatever else he puts his mind to. Already, though, he seems to have settled on an avocation: trashing his birthplace in The New York Times.

You might recall McAuley's stinging piece from a month ago in which he labels Dallas a "city with a death wish in its eye" and blames it for murdering a president. Impressively obscure Jimmy Dale Gilmore reference and some legit points about Dallas' inability to reckon with history aside, the piece mischaracterized the city as it exists today and thus largely missed the mark.

This weekend, McAuley was back in the pages of the Times, this time opining about Ethan Couch's "affluenza" defense and what it means that a rich, white 16-year-old can effectively escape punishment for drunkenly killing four people.

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

He frames his argument by saying that North Texas has greeted the the sentence with little more than a shrug, that it's outsiders, inflamed by the 24-hour media outrage machine, who are raising cries of injustice, citing as proof a Fort Worth Star-Telegram editorial defending District Judge Jean Boyd's lenient treatment.

Never mind that the premise is faulty, that the Star-Telegram's editorial was an outlier, that North Texas was shaken by the same paroxysms of outrage as the rest of the country. McAuley uses this as foundation to present his thesis:

"The disparity between the televised outrage over what was perhaps the cleverest legal argument since the 'Twinkie defense' and the relative local indifference to the role of wealth in insulating the guilty from justice illuminates how much of North Texas itself has been constructed for the purpose of insulating wealth from any unpleasant reality," he writes. "Why should criminal justice be any different?"

McAuley goes on to describe how, starting in the 1970s, white families fled Dallas for increasingly far-flung suburbs in response to the long-delayed desegregation of Dallas ISD. They wound up in places like Keller, "plastic fiefs" situated at the "crossroads of bourgeois comfort and ennui," part of a "ring of suburbs that are masterpieces in the art of urban control."

That's the type of place that produced Ethan Couch, whose case "is a metaphor for the dark side of suburban cosmology, for every other barricaded enclave like Keller -- places that, if not entirely above the law, are somehow removed from it. Even after four deaths by the side of the road."

See also: Ethan Couch Should Have Gone to Prison, but Justice? There's No Justice for Texas Kids.

The critique of exurbs as places in which those with means barricade themselves from the real world isn't too far off base. On the other hand, his claim that Couch's sentence says something fundamental about suburban life, rather than about a criminal justice system that can be gamed by anyone with enough money to hire a solid team of defense lawyers, or that any of this somehow endemic to Dallas-Fort Worth, is bull.

It's also a bit rich coming from a St. Mark's grad who grew up in Preston Hollow.
Send your story tips to the author, Eric Nicholson.


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70 comments
gordonhilgers
gordonhilgers

Here's a fun fact:  DID YOU KNOW that, right after World War II, the U.S. military along with urban developers designed the suburbs to keep people from gathering?  If you look at Dallas's older neighborhoods, you'll note that, once upon a time, there was a "convenience store", a.k.a. "the store", on lots of street corners.  Those places, along with near-inner-city gas stations, were gathering places where the men gathered to talk about "the issues" way back when Texas was a Democratic stronghold of the Dixiecrat variety.  Here's what the problem was: 

Fears that pro-Communist activists would take advantage of these natural, neighbohood gathering spots, or take advantage of the old tradition of large front porches where everyone could gather and talk, the military decided that, as a national security tactic, a new type of neighborhood would "downplay" neighborhood gathering spots in order to keep a damper on public discussion that could go awry.  Hence, new suburbs rose up all over America, houses with small front porches and distribution centers and grocery stores separated from the 'burbs simply to keep the talkers from talking. 

We've long heard the gloomy tale of the isolated suburbanite and "The One Dimensional Man", the Herbert Marcuse version, and indeed it is true: People were kept separated in order to strengthen individual "personal responsibility" in front of the old boob tube--a perfect "human foie gras" funnel for commercialism, also known as advertising or commercial propaganda.  Apparently the tactic worked.  At least until the "Be in's" and "sit in's" of the Sixties, something that more than likely scared the devil out of those with the most to lose should the anti-war protesters managed to expand the "revolution" and take over America. 

Which didn't happen. 

So here we are today, living in isolated ranch houses and the typical suburban sheen possibly made a little famous by the Pennsylvania indie-rock group "Fountains of Wayne" with album after album dedicated to suburban ennui and anomie.  Are we getting the backside of what the military and urban planners designed in the 1940s?  I'd say so.  No wonder people have to resort to neighborhood watch groups and keep their children inside: that TV is scaring the wits out of people who simply do not know the world outside the front door isn't really all that dangerous. 

Fear keeps people vigilant.  And of course: Dallas is at the forefront; first vanguard of cultural "whatever" the city has ever been able to claim as its own.  No organizing allowed.  Eat more chikin. 

smithfix
smithfix

Let's hope he does not come back.


rain391
rain391

You boys ought to get out of town more and come to McKinney.  It is filled with nice people who are not very consumed with social status, designer clothes and other playthings of the rich and famous.  There is lots of money on some streets and damn little on others.  We have bike trails, parks and good schools galore.  We have some of the best housing for folks who need financial help in the entire area, a great homeless shelter and other support systems.   Our diversity of race and income is improving but we are still a little short of progressives, hint, hint.  We aren't outgrowing our schools every semester although we continue to build like crazy.


We have lived in Dallas, Plano, Houston, Brussels, Belgium, Wisconsin and many places too numerous to mention.  We love McKinney, close to the culture of a big city but small enough to see cattle, wine vineyards, rolling hills, running water and all kinds of wild animals.  You can go to the store without makeup or get dressed up like a model for an event.

Catbird
Catbird

Sounds like everyone else I've ever met from Dallas that got "educated" at Harvard.

DjonBrown
DjonBrown

Both of these kids need a good ole fashioned donkey punch ;)

gritsforbreakfast1
gritsforbreakfast1

Haven't y'all hyped this tragedy enough at this point? Y'all have been promoting essentially the same arguments and sweeping generalizations, doing all you can to feed the "media outrage machine." Wallow in it long enough and how can you  be surprised if people elsewhere decide it's come to define you?

julia.ruth.barton
julia.ruth.barton

Jesus, Dallas, stop whining! Just make more writers. Don't make fun of them, don't beat them up, don't urge them to get more practical jobs. Let them be writers, and some of them will go out and do a good job of describing what is a big mystery-hole of undescribed wasteland to editors at places like NYT. Lack of a critical mass of writers and a big enough Dallas writing culture is what allows this guy to get bylines. Step up ppl!

mavdog
mavdog topcommenter

James' grandmother sure made him way too ashamed of her.  The comments he makes about her, and Dallas as well, leads me to conclude that James is committed to letting everyone know HE is not anything like them and that he has worked really, really hard to rid himself of any intellectual infection living in Dallas may have caused.

just too much. it's hard to count all the things he seems to abhor about Dallas, although the things he derisively points out about Dallas exist in just about every SMA in America (including Greater NYC...). They didn't produce Ethan Couch, Couch is an anomaly thank goodness.

and Eric, Royal Crest is not in Preston Hollow....

Cliffhanger
Cliffhanger

I guess we're even. I'm not all that impressed about New York, the New York Times, or Harvard.

bmarvel
bmarvel topcommenter

McAuley will get over it. It's a maturity thing.

GAA214
GAA214

Ethan Couch is going to wind up being Jamal's bitch in TDC in a few years.

dingo
dingo

This same writer, who months ago absurdly painted the political climate in DFW as somehow responsible for a mentally ill left-leaning loner killing a president 50 years ago, predictably fabricates a lack of outrage against this judge's ruling by his likewise fabricated North Texas pathologicals hiding from their own humanity.

It is no surprise that the NYTimes continues to allow this fiction to be presented as fact, as this treatment is consistent with all perceived threats to their own insulated world.

The real world is not so prearranged into neat little pockets, easily characterized for self-agrandizing revelation.

Americano
Americano

The NY Times is dead.  It just doesn't realize it yet.

EastDallasEccentric
EastDallasEccentric

My friends who left DISD for St. Mark's really didn't turn out that well: two are total a-holes, one is a jerk who really can't make a living as a lawyer, one committed suicide (and a girl who left for Hockaday overdosed and died) and another is fine, but really doesn't associate with his former public school friends.  I think they would have been better off going to school in the real world.

James_the_P3
James_the_P3

James McAuley seems like he got his ass kicked a lot in high school.

James080
James080

I think I'll interview a dozen New Yorkers, and ask them what people in Dallas think about the Ethan Couch case. Then I'll write a piece for the paper describing what people in Dallas think, based on those interviews. But, how can I possibly be a edgy as little James at the NYT?

Everyone I know in Dallas is sick and upset about the Couch sentence. Mr. McAuley should remove his Ass Hat before he writes about something he knows nothing about. 

I suppose another symptom of affluenza is completing the St. Marks, Harvard and Oxford trifecta, them presuming to write about the opinions of people you have never met. 

Torchness
Torchness

Hey James, why don't you never come back here? Thanks.

Daniel
Daniel

What James McAuley hasn't seen of the world could fill very many books.  

rubberduky
rubberduky

I'll bet he couldn't solve the puzzle of how to get out of a NICE DEEP TRIANGLE CHOKE.  :)

rubberduky
rubberduky

He's just a misguided, pimple faced fuck who humps his pillow at night.

TexMarine
TexMarine

Fuck him, fuck the NYT, and fuck that little worm who (for now) got away with murder.

holmantx
holmantx topcommenter

As with Ethan Couch, you must consider the kid's age.

Think of him as a NE Seaboard tribal Phil.  He speaks their language and is from here so he has street cred.  Blame his editor like you should blame A&E.  Assume he was ordered to write it, was glad to write it, and the editor made sure it was properly loaded for local NY consumption.  The only question is, how can this punk, due to his age, form an opinion worth reading in the first place?  Well, he can't so it isn't his fault.

He serves a larger purpose.  He was used to express a bias.

The Old Grey Hag seeks boors out and gives them a voice for local entertainment.  What drives this punk's editor is no different than why A&E purchased Duck Dynasty .  It is for the Smirking Value of it.  

A prejudice based upon point of origin.  In this case it is delivered with the unknowing crudity of Phil, replete with the reference to JFK.

So don't blame the rich kid.  Don't give him twenty.  Blame the parents who created this little monster.

dingo
dingo

@julia.ruth.barton 

What allows this guy to get bylines is the fact that he makes up the exact stories that his readers want to read.

James080
James080

@Cliffhanger 

I don't know, Harvard has produced some damn fine community organizers. Just saying.

ruddski
ruddski

When it finally dies, you won't read about it in the NYT.

looptwelve
looptwelve

@EastDallasEccentric You don't really take comfort in other people's misery unless you are a total dullard yourself. Congratulations, sad dullard.

Sotiredofitall
Sotiredofitall topcommenter

@EastDallasEccentric  Can we find out what his daddy does for a living?   Maybe his clients/customers/co-workers would like to know what a little shit he raised.

observist
observist topcommenter

@DanielThat's true for every person on the planet.

ruddski
ruddski

Wouldn't be surprised to see him write a semi-fictional autobiography or two before he's 35.

Myrna.Minkoff-Katz
Myrna.Minkoff-Katz topcommenter

@TexMarine Chesty, I read the Times every day.  There is far more to the publication than a silly blurb written by some hopelessly out-of-touch little snoot.

ruddski
ruddski

Have they written anything about the politics of the owner of the shotgun that killed that girl in the school shooting?

pak152
pak152

@kduble your reading comprehension is sadly poor. Ruddski is the one who complained about Brooklyn. i've been all over NYC and beyond

kduble
kduble

@pak152 Brooklyn is really cool. Williamsburg, Prospect Park.... Don't knock it 'till you've tried it.

ruddski
ruddski

There's more than one?

ruddski
ruddski

But I lived in and around NYC for almost eight years, I've stayed in the security wing of the Helmsley Fucking Palace and picked up stewies at The Beach Cafe!!!

AND, I avoid Brooklyn at all cost. Obviously, my cred is top-rate.

I was there just 6 weeks ago, so my intelligence has had a refresher course, i can now speak Farsi Cabby. I get the feeling you haven't been there in years.

ruddski
ruddski

If holmantx had been to the northeast, he would be smarter, duh.

pak152
pak152

@Myrna.Minkoff-Katzlet me put it in simpler terms for you. You asked "have you ever even been to the Northeast?" what does visiting the NE have to do with the subject at hand? comprende? versteht?


as for the NYT's audience it is a very liberal audience

Myrna.Minkoff-Katz
Myrna.Minkoff-Katz topcommenter

Holman says the article was "properly loaded for local NY consumption".  Go to the Times website and see that comments to the article came from all over the country.  The newspaper is not aimed strictly at a New York audience.

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