Believing Is Seeing

What was most startling about Tucker Carlson’s recent trip to Russia wasn’t his obsequious interview with Vladimir Putin but his gushing days afterward over how wonderful a place Moscow is. But then again, he was a special guest of the country that invented Potemkin villages (even if the original story is dubious), and making sure he saw only good stuff must have been easy.

Imagine, for example, that you brought people to New York and made sure that all they saw was the Upper East Side near the Metropolitan Museum of Art. They’d come away with the impression that New York is a very clean, spiffy-looking city.

The truth is that while parts of Moscow offer a small elite an opulent lifestyle, Russia as a whole is more than a bit ramshackle. Around a fifth of homes don’t even have indoor toilets. For many Russians, life is poor, nasty, brutish and short: Life expectancy is substantially lower than in the United States, even though America’s life expectancy has fallen and lags that of other advanced countries.

Anyway, while praising Moscow, Carlson trashed American cities, especially New York, where, he said, “you can’t use your subway” because “it’s too dangerous.” No doubt, there are some New Yorkers afraid to take the subway. Somehow, however, there were around 1.7 billion riders each year before the pandemic — yes, I take the subway all the time — and ridership, though still depressed by the rise of working from home, has been recovering rapidly.

It’s possible, of course, that Carlson has never ridden the New York subway, or at least not since the days when New York had about six times as many homicides each year as it does nowadays. In this he might be like Donald Trump, who probably hasn’t flown commercial in decades, declaring the other day that America’s airports — which have annoyingly long lines at security but have far more amenities than they used to — make us look like a “third world nation.”

Oh, and while New York’s subway stations don’t have chandeliers like Moscow’s and sometimes do have rats, the system does its job and, as I’ve written, plays a hugely positive role in the life of the city.

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