Easy Chair — From the April 2014 issue

Search and Destroy

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Gutter punks throw bottles at the cops near Tompkins Square Park, a police cruiser is flipped upside down in Crown Heights, two men fight under the marquee of a Times Square porn theater, and a fearful old woman clutches a pole in a graffiti-covered subway car. It was a photo album of the bad old days of New York — and during the final month of the city’s recent mayoral race, it showed up in a TV ad called “Can’t Go Back.”

The ad didn’t mention stop-and-frisk, the state law that enables police to question and search pedestrians without probable cause. But that was the underlying subject. The Democratic candidate, Bill de Blasio, had said he would reform the practice, a pledge that his opponent Joe Lhota called “recklessly dangerous.” If we stopped the illegal searches, Lhota suggested, crime would swallow us whole.

As fearmongering attack ads go, Lhota’s was pretty slick. True, one of the images turned out to be of a crime scene from December 2012, converted to black and white to give it a suitably old-timey look. But the ad was catchy, and quick to spawn a thousand terrible jokes about the criminal hordes of #deblasiosnewyork on Twitter.

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