Art for Fresh Hell.
Jason Arias
The Baffler,  February 26, 2021

Fresh Hell

The best dispatches from our grim new reality

Jason Arias
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Bound, Gagged, Evicted

Early Sunday morning, while the tenants of Albany, New York’s Grandview Terrace tossed and turned, dreaming of unpaid bills and usurious interest rates, three armed men broke into one of the apartments, bound its two occupants with zip ties, placed pillowcases over their heads, and loaded them at gunpoint into a Dodge Durango. The victims were then driven thirty-five miles outside the city and abandoned in an isolated, snow-swept cemetery just before dawn. Was this a workaday kidnapping, the likes of which populate every blandly violent police procedural polluting the televisual landscape? Or was it an innovative eviction undertaken by a landlord frustrated by draconian restrictions on unhousing tenants for nonpayment during a mass death event? Reader, in this squalid nation numb to violence, driven by avarice and indifference, its collective spirit corroded by the mighty enchantments of individualism, the answer comes as no surprise. As of Tuesday afternoon, the landlord-cum-kidnapper in question, a Mr. Shawn Douglas, was being held in Albany County jail on $50,000 bond.

 

It’s a Death Wish!

Elsewhere in the Empire State and only a few hours after the aforementioned kidnapping victims stumbled from Ghent Union Cemetery to find help, yet another human life was taken by the gender reveal. Just before noon in Liberty, New York, two “mechanically inclined” brothers were preparing an explosive device to announce the gender of the elder brother’s forthcoming child when the jerry-built device detonated, killing the father-to-be and injuring his younger brother. The gender reveal is now responsible for at least two other deaths since 2019, two major wildfires, and inestimable severed limbs, shrapnel wounds, and other mutilations that, in a different time, did not come to mind when one considered parties where adults gathered to eat cake and Name That Poo! Once isolated incidents, depraved curiosities worthy of a disparaging chuckle, the gender reveal can now only be seen as a bleak manifestation of our collective death drive. No longer “funny,” they affirm that something is very deeply wrong with us.

 

FREE with Purchase

To sunny Arizona now, where two parents who managed to bring a new life into this world without burning down an ancient forest and/or maiming a relative received an unexpected gift with purchase when they bought a Glo Worm toy for their child at a thrift store: over five thousand fentanyl pills

 

Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil, and Totally Not Real

Mr. Douglas of Albany wasn’t the only American who reimagined the tired trope of “kidnapping” to serve their own ends this month. In northern Arizona, one young man decided to kidnap himself. Though he claimed to police that two masked men attacked, gagged, and abducted him only to inexplicably leaving him in the middle of nowhere because his father had allegedly hidden a large sum of money throughout the desert—which strains credulity—it turns out he staged it all so as to be excused from the tire store where he worked. 

 

Wild, Yet Tasteful

Keeping on that beat, Lady Gaga’s longtime dog walker was out with three of the singer’s prized French bulldogs earlier this week when a gunman approached, shot the dog walker, and stole two of the dogs, Koji and Gustav. As TMZ breathlessly reports, the condition of the dog walker—who, we should note, was shot with a gun—is of so little importance that it is not until the ninth sentence of their article, and only after informing the reader that Gaga is “extremely upset” about her missing pups and is offering a $500,000 reward for their safe return, that the reporter deems it important to note that the dog walker is “expected to recover.” The New York Post, which took the shooting as a chance to offer readers a tour of Gaga’s $28 million real estate portfolio, does not even mention the fate of the dog walker but gushes over the “eclectic, wild, yet tasteful” Tudor estate you’d expect from “a celebrity who is known for meat dresses.” 

 

All the Money in the World

Lest we give you the impression the United States is an utterly lawless place overrun by kidnappers and thieves with nary a thought for the sanctity of human life, allow us to direct your attention to Pfizer’s earnings call earlier this month. During said call, the pharmaceutical giant’s CFO Frank D’Amelio gushed that, while “pandemic pricing” for the Covid-19 vaccine is only $19.50 per dose, “a normal price that we typically get for a vaccine” would be closer to $175 per dose. That “pandemic price” already gives Pfizer a comfortable 20 percent profit margin on a vaccine largely developed at the public’s expense, but D’Amelio assured investors that “there’s a significant opportunity for those margins to improve once we get beyond the pandemic environment.” And, look, the untold millions of Americans who are un- or underemployed, starving, and in debt—to say nothing of the seven hundred thousand who are homeless—are, frankly, fucking stoked to “get beyond the pandemic environment” . . . because they’re sitting on a sweet-ass pile of cash they’re itching to spend? Senate Minority Leader McConnell certainly thinks so: “Nobody thinks our health or economic fight is finished yet. But on a broad national scale, households are sitting on a historic pile of pent-up cash waiting for the economy to reopen.”

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