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Home Patterns and Incidents

Patterns and Incidents

Last Wednesday, Lashawn Marten was playing chess when he announced, "I hate white people". Then he began hitting random white people who were walking by. By the time he was done, several were wounded and one lay dying.

I have walked by countless times and seen the chess players sitting near the overhang of the Union Square subway entrance; mostly black men daring white passerby into a money game. At the fountain to the left, Moonies squat on a blanket and sing their sonorous chants. To the right, the remnants of Occupy Wall Street set up tables to collect money and dispense buttons.

In warmer weather, break dancers perform on the stairs and office workers sit beneath the statue of George Washington expelling the British and eat lunch. NYU students mingle with Whole Foods shoppers. Elderly Puerto Rican men push makeshift wooden carts piled with unlabeled bottles of homebrewed soda pop and dog owners head for the run underneath the towering edifice of the Barnes and Noble superstore.

On Wednesdays, the farmers' market shows up and if not for Rosh Hashana, I might have been passing by the chess tables, maneuvering between the Moonies, the protestors and the chess players. Jeffrey Babbitt, the man Lashawn beat to death looks familiar to me if only because he has that kind of New York face that you pass on the street. You see it worn by plumbers and high school teachers. It's the badge of the vanishing New York City working class.

No conclusions will be drawn from the murder. Lashawn Marten was obviously mentally ill. And if his mental illness took the form of violent racism toward white people, that is an incidental fact. The murder is an incident. The details are incidental. Even if Lashawn is actually prosecuted on hate crimes charges, no conclusions will be drawn from what happened between the chess tables.

Incidents take place all around us, but patterns have to be articulated. The incident is insignificant. It's the pattern that counts.

Our minds are not trained to hold incidents. They are trained to grasp patterns. The patterns and incidents float all around us like bits of data. They are formed out of the firsthand experience of our memories and the secondhand experiences of the news items that we pick up. They are the chess game that goes on in our minds between our subconscious processing the events of the day and the outside forces seeking to shape our minds. The pieces that they move around are our thoughts.

The patterns that we absorb from reality we call common sense, but the patterns imposed on us are propaganda.

A man can live in a building where a dozen murders have taken place and still believe that he is in a low-risk area as long as he is told hat there is no pattern to these murders. That each single incident does not form any greater whole. And a man can be compelled to believe that he is living in the deadliest place on earth by convincing him that two local murders in one year form a pattern.

The incident is anecdotal, but the pattern is scientific. The incident is something we have to learn to get over so we can get back to shopping in downtown Manhattan or walking through Union Square. The pattern is a social problem that we must dedicate ourselves to fighting. The incident isn't supposed to define our lives. The pattern is.

The murder of Chris Lane was an incident. The murder of Jeffrey Babbitt was an incident. To be a New Yorker is to grow up under the shadow of such incidents that can never be officially talked about. To know the shadow pattern and understand its implications without discussing it.

The Boston Marathon bombing was an incident. So was the Fort Hood Massacre. So was 9/11. No conclusions can be drawn from them and no pattern can be used to tie them together. They are to be processed separately and discarded. Lone bits. Ragged ends of experience with no further meaning than the private pain of their victims.

One incident is an isolated dot. A stop on a train that goes nowhere. Connect enough of them together and you form a route and a map. And now you're going someplace.

The media is not that concerned with suppressing incidents. It is concerned with suppressing pattern awareness. No one can deny that the occasional racial murder takes place and that the perpetrators look like Obama's sons. And no one can deny that Muslims sometimes set off bombs or fly planes into buildings. They deny only that these incidents form a pattern.

Real patterns are replaced with false patterns. Every Muslim terrorist attack is met with media chatter about an Islamophobic backlash. The backlash never materializes, but it doesn't need to. The mere repetition of it does the trick and sets the pattern. It tells readers that the attack is the incident, but the backlash is the pattern.

The attack is only an incident and not characteristic of Muslims while the backlash is a pattern and characteristic of our bigotry and intolerance.

White racism is a pattern. Black racism is an incident. Racism is characteristic of white people, but not of black people. The crowds passing through Union Square are subdivided into the oppressors and the oppressed. Their lives are color coded for morality and justice. Jeffrey Babbitt, who dreamed of being a motorman, loved comics and took care of his elderly mother, was an oppressor. His death is an incident that in no way detracts from the pervasive pattern of white racism.

Jeffrey Babbitt was an oppressor and Lashawn Marten was one of the oppressed. Why else announce that he hates white people? This social dynamic was imposed on them at birth and cannot be altered by any act of violence. The acts of violence only affirm the pattern as the oppressed lash out blindly against their oppressors. The occasional death of an oppressor in no way alters the fixed pattern that it is the oppressors who kill the oppressed. It is an incident. Nothing more.

The deaths of a million white men in their sixties who love comic books and dream of driving trains will be no more than an incident. Their lost lives will never congeal into a pattern, their blood will never outweigh that of an Emmett Till. The pattern is set in stone and embedded through endless indoctrination. It is immune to human realities. The passing of a Chris Lane or Jeffrey Babbit moves it not at all. No more than the Zebra murders did.

The pattern of American intolerance is likewise unmoved by September 11 or by two Chechens who set off a bomb near an 8-year-old. The blood and ashes of 3,000 dead is nothing but a stain on the liberal pattern. The blood and ashes of three million would make just as little impression. More people die of cancer or in car accidents, the liberal can always answer. Numbers alone do not make a pattern. And if the pattern is not recognized, then it does not exist.

We live in this world of unreal patterns and real lives where inexplicable things happen all the time.

Overhead, I see two beams of pale light piercing the sky and reflecting at an angle. The towers of light remind us of an incident. Not a pattern. After over a decade of war, no one in authority will admit what we are fighting or why. All that ash and rubble, the twisted steel and the falling bodies, are not part of a pattern. But when a Muslim cabbie is stabbed by a sloppy drunk, that is a pattern.

Most of us see the real patterns, even if only hazily, like the beams of light cutting across the sky. And we see that the unreal patterns, the obsessions with Muslim backlashes and the martyrdom of Trayvon Martin, are unreal things. Not true patterns, but false patterns that reflect at an angle from the true light.

We do not speak of these true patterns. But we know them. They stir in us when the right moment appears. They keep us alive.

Millions walk through life with this double vision, the lenses of their minds blurring the real and the unreal, paying lip service to the grave threat that someone will spray paint a mosque while nervously studying the Muslim sitting in front of them on the trip out of Logan Airport or voting for Obama but moving out to the suburbs.

Those who fail to develop that double vision, who mistake the false patterns for the true patterns, often come to bad ends because they are unequipped to recognize danger when they see it. They see incidents where they should see patterns and patterns where they should see incidents. And finally one of those invisible patterns that they can't see swallows them whole.

We deal with problems as incidents or patterns. An incident is resolved once, but a problem requires a more enduring answer.

Patterns are power. The pattern-makers and pattern-dealers derive theirs from being able to dictate the problem and the solution. They are determined to educate us, to explain us to ourselves, to understand things for us and explain them to us so that we will see the same patterns that they do. They know all too well that if we stop seeing their patterns, their cause and their power will die.

For now it is men like  Jeffrey Babbitt or the spectators in the Boston Marathon and the soldiers at Fort Hood who die. They die caught in an invisible pattern that they cannot see. The pattern is no great mystery. It can be seen by anyone with their eyes open. It does not need to be manufactured or spun. It is simply common sense.

Meanwhile their governments attend to false patterns, chase moderates and promote democracy in the Middle East. In the Ivy League or any European NGO these patterns seem very real. But the patterns are manufactured to promote ideas about who should run things. The patterns themselves do not run things. They cannot change reality, only our perceptions of it.

The gathered pattern, like the lives of men, tells a story. The story has many themes and characters, but it is always mainly about two things; who should run things and what should be done about it.

We live in a world of phony patterns, of global environmental apocalypses made to order, of shadows and illusions, of phantom fears, panics and doubts. But beneath the illusions of ideas that clothe the false world is a world of real patterns and real observations. This world is the one where problems can be solved as long as we learn to see the pattern.

But even in the liberal world of ghosts and shadows, where rogue air conditioners and cow flatulence are a greater threat to the planet than the nuclear bomb, where Lashawn Marten was oppressed by the unconscious white privilege of Jeffrey Babbitt who died for what he did not even know he had, where every social problem can be solved by destroying the patterns of the past and replacing them with the terrible blank slate of the future, where Muslim terrorism is a phantom fear of bigots, these true patterns intrude.

Terrible acts of violence momentarily tear apart the world of illusion with blood and fire and reveal the terrible truth lurking inside the lies.

On September 11, thousands of New Yorkers standing at Union Square looked downtown to see a plume of smoke rising over Broadway. I was one of them. Some fell to making anti-war posters on the spot. Others enlisted in a long war. On another distant September, some New Yorkers came to the defense of a 62-year-old man being beaten to death for the color of his skin. Others walked on to the farmers' market, bought their organic peaches while the liberal memes in their heads told them to see no evil.

Our lives are sharpest and clearest when we see the pattern. In moments of revelation, the comforting illusions are torn away and the true pattern of our world stands revealed waiting for us to act.


  1. Common 'tater12/9/13

    Daniel, for a variety of reasons, this was one of your best. It cuts right to the problem. Unfortunately, while a number of us have been seeing the pattern and warning others about what it means, our leadership remains blind and deaf. They see and hear what they want to hear and see. They want to see the OPEC oil money continue, hear the adulation of the ignorant, and tell the rest of us what to do. When are enough of the people going to wake up and realize that we are not servants to the elitists and oligarchs? I could go on, but I suspect you get my drift. Thanks for the great thought provoking blog. 9-11 speaks for itself.

  2. Brilliant. And frightening because so many have been/are clearly buying the propaganda. Thank you for articulating this so clearly.

  3. Anonymous12/9/13

    Your writing is a tonic and the antidote to the Kool Aid.

  4. Anonymous12/9/13

    Happened to watch an HBO documentary called "Manhunt" last night, a film about how a group of analysts in the CIA first identified the thing called al Qaeda and how, more than 20 years later, their work led to targeting and killing bin Laden.

    Their strategy was a simple one that relied on one factor -- pattern recognition. It's a phrase that intelligence operatives and predictive analysts all know very well. At its core, a connect-the-dots exercise that leads to a conclusion.

    As you have written, our media needs a basic education in the difference between the "dots" and their connection.

  5. I can only add that this is one of the best columns I've read in a very, very long while. It sums up perfectly the increasing sense of unreality around us.

    Of late, I've often compared the world to "Invasion of the Body Snatchers," and I'm feeling like Kevin McCarthy. You articulated my creeping horror better than I ever could. Thank you!

  6. Anonymous12/9/13

    You have outdone yourself, Daniel. And I didn't think that was possible. You've officially cracked the PC code.

  7. That was incredible. As many times as you have been able to bring to the surface that which many of us knows is there, but just can't find the proper words, this article was one of your finest. This phenomenon needs more attention and study. If those of us who actually see these real patterns learn how to show others these patterns, Liberal/Progressivism is dead.

    And Progressivism is the ultimate pattern. A party whose beginnings involved the creation of the KKK, the rise of Margaret Sanger the eugenicist, whom some how was able to then do a complete 180 and claim to be the savior of minorities, yet 60 years later the minorities are arguably in worse conditions than they were before all the "Social Engineering" and "Community Organizing" the pattern is clear. This is the world under Progressive control. Until people understand the Progressive pattern of destruction, oppression and bigotry, the Obama's of the world will continue to hold power over us.

  8. Clear as well when we see those behind the pattern and the reasons for it.

  9. Anonymous12/9/13

    An excellent article!

  10. Anonymous12/9/13

    Interesting comparison, thanks

  11. DenisO12/9/13

    Nicely put. It shows the propaganda we are constantly bombarded with very clearly. It is a true Orwellian tactic propagated by people in Government and Media that believe it, and keep their eyes closed to reality. Their belief is "religious" and they have "faith" in it.
    To say they need to "see" the pattern is like saying they should see that Socialism leads to slavery. They cannot doubt their religion, so the truth is that the People need to see.
    Unfortunately, most are too busy to see and would rather trust their "betters".

  12. Anonymous12/9/13

    Most interesting thing I have read all year. Strongly brought to mind Kipling's Gods of Copy book Headings.

  13. Altalena12/9/13

    Daniel, how do you differentiate between real patterns and ghost patterns when both can seem real to the person believing in them?
    To say that "we" believe in the real ones and "they" in the ghost ones only multiplies the problem: they also believe that they believe in the real ones and we in the ghost ones...

  14. the only test that counts is the reality test, what holds up predictively in the real world counts, what does not, does not

  15. ericcs12/9/13

    My God, Daniel... just brilliant, incisive and brilliant. Thank you for writing this. I only wish that it could be distilled down to some essence that would immediately burrow into the thinking, the mindset of an overwhelming majority of voters. As for our vaunted leaders, well they are beyond redemption.

  16. Anonymous12/9/13

    Welcome to the intellectual environment of the SU where the official propaganda and real life collide.

  17. DenisO12/9/13

    There are many obvious things that people don't want to see, mostly because they distract from the already trying problem of making a living.
    Unfortunately, history shows that "PAIN" usually gets their attention, and it a pity that's what it will take, once again.
    The question is how much.

  18. Anonymous12/9/13

    Brilliant! We as humans are always attracted to patterns. As an artist, I know this and make it part of my work. The brain will always seek to fill in the missing bits to create a pattern and thus a feeling of understanding and satisfaction. If one wants to obscure an obvious pattern one must leave out the bits it hinges upon and force ambiguity, ( ie Obama, no terrorist attack at Benghazi ). Then write an artist statement (ie Susan Rice on 5 talk shows), telling the viewer anything you like. Just use "artspeak" ie (plain old lies repeated often using big words). Curators (media) will love it. No wonder Americans are confused. Their brains "see" the pattern but the propaganda makes them doubt themselves. It takes courage to look past the propaganda and then the pattern smacks you in the face. Thanks for doing so.

  19. This comment has been removed by the author.

  20. Brilliant, Daniel! On the one hand it is encouraging to see that you and your readers get it. On the other hand, it is frustrating and depressing to know that those who prefer to keep the patterns obfuscated do so because they choose to believe that patterns and truths are irrelevant.

    The best tool for recognizing patterns is plain vanilla common sense. Unfortunately, that’s a rapidly declining attribute nowadays that is being replaced with a glittery feel good self-righteous meme. I fear my generation started it in the sixties. Took me a long time to realize that. We were young and foolish and easily duped.

    “A long habit of not thinking a thing wrong, gives it a superficial appearance of being right, and raises at first a formidable outcry in defense of custom. But the tumult soon subsides. Time makes more converts than reason.” Thomas Paine, Common Sense

  21. David Spence12/9/13

    I've been a fan of your blog for years and have read some truly brilliant posts, but this one tops them all. Ever had one of those moments of true clarity? I just did-thanks! I will hit the tip jar for this "beauty!"

  22. Anonymous, indeed a discontinuity, who are you going to believe us, or your lying eyes

    David, thank you

    meema, common sense is essentially trusting your own experiences to guide you

  23. For those interested, I wrote a bit more on the pattern breaking effect of political correctness here


    "Investigations consist of connecting the dots. If you can't conceive of a connection, then the investigation is stuck. If you can't make the leap from A to B or add two to two and get four, then you are dependent on lucky breaks. And lucky breaks go both ways. Sometimes investigators get lucky and other times the terrorists get lucky.

    Federal law enforcement was repeatedly warned by the Russians that Tamerlan Tsarnaev was dangerous, but operating under the influence of a political culture that refused to see Islam as a motive for terrorism, it failed to connect the dots between Chechen violence in Russia and potential terrorism in the United States, and because it could not see Islam as a motive, as a causal factor rather than a casual factor, it could find no reason why Tamerlan was a threat not just to Russia, but also to the United States."

  24. Anonymous12/9/13

    This is at once obvious and brilliant, like much of your writing. I recently came to the conclusion that the nightly news is in fact a Potemkin village made just for us. Unfortunately for the regime, too many of us have realized just how farcical the narrative has become. A word of warning: remember that the last recourse of the left, after all their utopian plans fail, is violence. A hundred million souls are there to remind us of the final play of the leftists.

  25. Anonymous12/9/13

    To Common 'Tater and Undine,
    Almost every one of the Sultan's columns has been "one of his best" It is a "pattern". God watch over you Daniel.


  26. Anonymous12/9/13

    You are swiveling the panopticon's viewfinder dangerously in the direction of the Cathedral.

    Surely you're not going to drift any further?

    The Dark Enlightenement beckons...

  27. Anonymous12/9/13

    Your description of NYC life is so foreign to that we have out here in fly-over country. I look out my window and see a quiet street and my neighbor's homes and cars. If I go 'downtown', I see a business here, a restaurant there, maybe a few homeless wandering aimlessly toward something only they know of. There are no congregations of the mentally ill, no Occupiers, nothing like that at all. Our business districts are in 'parks' that have huge parking lots. Our streets are clean, uncluttered with trash, kids and adults ride bikes without incident.
    Your world isn't mine, it's so foreign that it might as well be in another country.
    NYC, and most big northern city, is unlike the rest of the country. Even LosAngeles is unlike NYC.
    It's not like we don't have any crime, because we do; what we don't have are hundreds of witnesses that see it happen.

  28. urbanization is transformative

    it changes the way that people live and interact

    We could have the left without cities, but not the brand of elitist liberalism we have today

  29. You have the ability to make the inchoate suddenly, blissfully choate. King Choate!


  30. Every day, on her way to work, a woman passes a pet shop, where a parrot sits on a perch outside the door and every day, as the woman passes, the parrot screams: “you’re ugly, you’re stupid”

    This goes on for some weeks until the woman decides to confront the pet store owner

    The pet store owner hears her complaint and understands that her self esteem is being diminished by the parrot says: Don’t worry ma’am, I’ll have a talk with him”
    So he has a talk with the parrot about civil discourse, courtesy, self esteem, feelings etc.

    The next day, the woman walks by, the parrot looks her in the eye and says: “you know”

    We know.

  31. Anonymous13/9/13

    I grew up in NYC and have lived elsewhere. I don't think flyover country is as alien to NYC as people think nor is NYC as really different as many people suppose.

    What makes a city work is the middle and working class and when there is a disparity between the interests of those classes with corporate interests and the political interests that supposedly represent them you have a problem. The five boroughs became alien territory to Manhattan. Manhattan was where monolithic corporations fell into a bubble and believed they could run their businesses into the ground for an easy buck by outsourcing labor, using advertising as a substitute for quality and promoting a form of equal opportunity employment which meant less opportunity for all and a "victim" elite which had a lot more wealth than real victims usually have.

    Then you have the Democratic political machine which came down from the immigrant gangs and opportunities for graft that used racial politics and threats of gang violence as cover. Prohibition didn't help.

    Flyover country isn't that honest and its politics inherently conservative. Plenty of Obama loving hipsters from the Midwest in Brooklyn now helping the most Leftist and most corrupt "represent" oppressed minorities. The more they help the more expensive and whiter the neighborhoods get.

    All the Midwest needs is to marry that attitude with entrenched interests and it will be no different than the coast. After all Illinois is technically flyover country.

  32. Most thinking people intuitively know of what Mr. Greenfield writes. Very few of us can articulate it. Nearly every Greenfield column I read is an "ah ha!" moment for me, like my all my scrambled thoughts coalesce into a coherent understanding. This is one of those columns.

  33. Anonymous14/9/13


    Excellent piece. John Derbyshire got canned at NRO for writing about one of the patterns you've described here. Sometimes--actually, lots of times--the truth hurts.

  34. I've been observing their pattern for at least 40 years. They've insisted we're all racists, as though it is the Original Sin that can't be blotted out. I've even seen godly, wise, but younger men succumb to the pattern of it, as ignorantly as fish that don't know they are wet. I am of the last generation that has enough experience to weigh against the tide of the Narrative.

    Kick, people. Swim! Any dead fish can go with the flow.

  35. Anonymous14/9/13

    "After all Illinois is technically flyover country."

    But it hardly represents all of the mid-West or other non-NYC parts of the USA. Your first and last sentences are in complete disagreement.

  36. Anonymous14/9/13

    I was up early watching Manchester United, one of the reliable patterns of my life. A easy day ahead. I read this. My day is made uneasy. Twenty years ago, I spent a year's worth of weekends in NYC, from another culture with the view to permanency there with the Jewish love of my life.It didn't stick. NYC that is. Brilliant and unnerving.

  37. Anonymous14/9/13

    After all Illinois is technically flyover country."

    But it hardly represents all of the mid-West or other non-NYC parts of the USA. Your first and last sentences are in complete disagreement.

    No the sentences are not in disagreement. I said that no place is immune from the problem the urban coastal areas have in terms of politics and I gave a Midwestern example. I also qualified it by saying "technically".Just because Chicago may be anomalous now does not mean it will remain anomalous in the future. You are closer than you think.

  38. Anonymous15/9/13

    Great post on patterns. I noticed that on television back in the late 60’s—it seemed Hollywood was trying to teach everyone that black people see the world just as do white people. Yet on the news, we saw Malcolm X screaming about Blue-eyed Devils, black people burning down cities during bloody race riots across the country, armed Black Panthers talking about exterminating “whitey”, yet TV shows showed us that the black person was always the smartest and most tolerant guy in the room. Too, he was the most honorable, fair and noble. The black straw men were actually BETTER than all of the white straw people shown in the fictional story. At least one white racist was always depicted, yet the black hero rose above it, without commenting on or complaining about the injustice he had to endure. He just took it in stride. The way white people are supposed to now, as they’re being raped, robbed and/or murdered.. The same approach was seen in the ‘70’s with shows about single mothers who didn’t need a man to help raise their kids, straw women who were always much smarter than the straw men with whom they interacted in the fictional play. Lots of those shows were situation comedies, so that the message seemed humorous, rather than “preachy”. The 80’s had the rise of the evil businessman as played by Larry Hagman, with lots of copycat and spin-off shows to reinforce the idea that rich people are evil, and little people in their lives are always victims. In the late 90’s TV shows showing the moral and intellectual superiority of gays became the rage, with cute slice-of-life comedies like “Will and Grace”, cable TV hit “Queer as Folk”, movies like “The Crying Game” and others ad nauseum.
    Today, it’s “reality” programs, and competitions for instant fame and stardom like “American Idol” and “Dancing with the Stars” that seem to teach us all to be a lot more shallow, and “real” just like the “normal people” on shows like “Jersey Shore”, while ingraining in society’s collective mind the obvious mental illness of those misfits on “Doomsday Preppers” or “Hoarders”. In fact, “hoarding” of various things has recently become a “crime” again (food “hoarding” was a federal crime in WW II), people in NM have been fined, their property seized and jailed or placed in mental institutions for “hoarding” pets, junk cars and other things that the founders would have never dreamed of giving govt the authority to prosecute…

  39. Anonymous15/9/13

    Daniel, you recognize the pattern yet choose to live in NYC. Common sense, get away from there.

  40. Anonymous16/9/13

    "Last Wednesday, Lashawn Marten was playing chess when he announced, "I hate white people". Then he began hitting random white people who were walking by. By the time he was done, several were wounded and one lay dying."

    Excuse me,Mr. Greenfield, but I find this claim highly dubious.

    He was playing chess? I might believe dealing drugs,but it'll be a pretty tall order to convince me there's actually any negroes alive who know the names of the pieces. Nice try, but you'll have to get me drunk before I fall for that.

  41. 10,000 plus muslim terrorist attacks world wide since 9/11 are a pattern


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