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The What You Are Afraid Of


In spreading his dire message, he favors colorful curses like “asshat” and “fucktard” as well as the enthusiastic application of exclamation!!!! marks!!!!!!!!! and the twitchy overuse of childish acronyms like ROTFLMMFAO (i.e., rolling on the floor laughing my motherfucking ass off). He likes to cut and paste from The Wall Street Journal and Bloomberg News. He’ll insert a lengthy list of 192 financial institutions that have recently gone under, along with the message, “Boy crack is tasty!” He is prone to writing sentences like, “Look at M1, M2 and M3 FED money supply. They have gone parabolic for the last 6 years,” as well as sentences like, “Y’all are fucking finished and the asshole Brokers who pumped this shit up will get ass-raped!” He went through a period in March 2008 during which he promised to “reframe from using profanity.” (Short-lived.) He’s posted comments such as “First order of Business: Citigroup is planing to sell 400 Billion dollars of their assets. I find this very scary. I think they need to raise their capital base.... The upcoming Depression will prove we overstepped out boundaries. And out children will pay for our folly.” And he’s posted comments such as, “Real Estate is fucking over!!!!! Real Estate is fucking over!!!!! Real Estate is fucking over!!!!! Real Estate is fucking over!!!!!” His posting style is so schizophrenic that one might suspect he is either (a) several very different people posting under the same name or (b) schizophrenic. He sometimes sounds like he’s locked in a basement somewhere, surrounded by newspaper clippings on all four walls. He touches down in comment threads like a rhetorical Tasmanian devil, huffing and puffing in such a hysterical manner as to become, well, kind of hysterical—as when he wrote this (and I’ve made every effort to retain the integrity of the punctuation), in response to an item about Clinton Hill titled “Price Cuts at 936 Fulton Street”:

WHAT?!!!!! Already?!!!! NO!!!!!!! Everyone wants to live on Fulton St. This can’t be happening…… Please help me.… please.….

****Sobs into sleep*********

Chuckie getting ass-raped.

(Chuckie, for the record, appears to be The What’s generic name for the average white Brooklynite. Either that, or it’s a reference to Chuck Schumer. Or possibly Chuck E. Cheese, though it’s not clear why anyone would want to ass-rape Chuck E. Cheese.)

The What also likes to quote Arthur Schopenhauer: “All truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident.” And, sure enough, in the claustrophobic biosphere of Brownstoner, The What, like the truth, has passed through Schopenhauer’s three phases. He’s been ridiculed (particularly in the go-go days of the peaking Brooklyn market, when no brownstone was too dilapidated, no block too dangerous, no renovation too gut, and prices couldn’t possibly go anywhere but up, up, up). He’s been violently opposed (a sampling: “To the subprime mortgage doomsayer, I have no idea what motivates people like you”; “Dear Brownstoner, I am asking sincerely that the ‘What’ be eliminated from posting”; “Crying wolf does nothing but make you look more and more ignorant with each passing post”; “You simplistic old dimbulb. Stick to your Chicken Little Bloomberg linked diatribes”; “sad skullfucker”; “crackhead Kevorkian”; “cumguzzling guttersnipe”; “Fuck The What”). To which criticism, The What, in his signature style, offered this generalized retort: “Go to the happy happy joy joy websites about housing. This used to be one of them but The What came along. I took a shit in the Brownstoner’s punch bowl, man it’s fells good. Look at the log floating by, that’s you equity going down the drain.”

The What’s in the latte,
And cucumber soup.
He hides in the stroller,
And under the stoop!

And, of late, as economic events have, somewhat inconveniently, lent at least a little credence to The What’s erratic raving—when, last fall, the subprime market failed; when, in March, Bear Stearns went in the tank; when, over the past few months, even the sunniest forecasters have put hankies to their foreheads and admitted that, yes, that might be a gray cloud on the horizon, or even a few gray clouds—The What has been, if not vindicated, then at least accepted. Even occasionally lauded. Even occasionally embraced.

On January 16, under an item headlined “Foreclosures in New and Unusual Places,” the comment: I can’t wait to see what The What says about this.

On March 20, under an item headlined “Closing Bell: Architect of Subprime Crisis Dies,” the comment: I can’t believe I am saying this, but I agree with The What.

On January 17, under an item about a house for sale in Clinton Hill, this comment, like a comic-book exclamation, like the bright sweep of the Bat Signal across a shrouded sky: Where is The What when we need him?



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