Emotive Topics and The Bonfire of the Vanities


By Not Sure

21 May 2023


                In 1987, Tom Wolfe published a novel entitled The Bonfire of the Vanities.  The story is about racism, social class differences, the greed of 1980s Wall Street, politics and ambition.   The 1990 film was not successful, critically or commercially.  I never read the novel, so I cannot compare it to the movie for tone and faithfulness, but Alan Watt and I watched this movie at least twice and he’d seen it himself near the time it was released. He said, “There’s more truth in this movie than most.”

                Here is a brief summary of the film.  Sherman McCoy is a wealthy and successful Wall Street trader.  He is married to social climber who spends her time on philanthropic causes, diets and treadmills.  McCoy is a WASP.  White, Anglo-Saxon, Protestant.  He has a mistress who is sexually insatiable with a potty mouth.  A wrong turn one night lands McCoy and mistress in a Black neighborhood where they are involved in a hit and run accident.

                The Bronx County Jewish district attorney is Abe Weiss, an ambitious man who will soon be up for re-election.   When he realizes that the defendant is a rich white man, he immediately understands how a conviction will dramatically increase his popularity amongst his mostly black constituents.

                The Black pastor, Reverend Bacon, sees an opportunity to galvanize his congregation and he willingly plays several angles at once.  Though Wolfe said his novel’s characters were composites of different people and some purely fictional, it is widely thought that Reverend Bacon was based on the Reverends Al Sharpton and/or Jesse Jackson, who have extended their ministries into civil rights, social justice activism and campaign under calls to end racism.







© Alan Watt 30 Nov. 2006


                In this Redux from November 30, 2006, Alan said “You cannot USE this system or BEAT this system by USING the system. The complaints do not work. We've watched that in our lifetimes. We’ve watched the European Union come to pass. We've watched the people in different countries voting “no,” they didn't want it. They got it regardless, even when they voted “no,” the majority of them. These, again, are "must-be's".  These are high Masonic "must-be's."  You're going to get it whether you like it or not. That's the thing.”

                Alan went on to say, “…we’re dealing with a system that you and I are not allowed into. It's like a religion. It is a religion, in fact. They have their own version of things and law, and they have their own meaning of law. Law is of utmost importance to them.  That's why in the U.S. Constitution they said that: "the people under law."  They never explained what they meant.  THEY NEVER DEFINED LAW, you'll notice, AND THEY WERE ALL MASONS OF COURSE.”



Mayday! Mayday!


                We are told that it was hard to distinguish the “S” sound on a telephone, so a new international distress signal was needed.  Mayday is the phonetic equivalent of the French “M’aidez” which means “Help me.”

                May the first isn’t much of a thing in the U.S., but in Europe May Day marks the beginning of summer and has some pagan fertility themes associated with it.    International Workers’ Day is also called May Day, and though the date was actually chosen by the American Federation of Labor to commemorate the May 1, 1886 general strike which culminated on May 4 in Chicago’s Haymarket Affair aka Haymarket Riot aka Haymarket Massacre.

                For those of you interested in a bit of history, look into the Panic of 1873, which was a financial crisis of speculation that triggered years of inflation in the U.S. and the Long Depression in Europe and Britain.  Look at U.S. unemployment reaching 14%, wages dropping to 45% of previous levels and thousands of failed businesses.  Just a little journey for those of you who want to heed Alan’s advice to “Follow history.  History is a horror show.”




                On May 1, 2023, a Black man named Jordan Neely entered a Manhattan F train and began to threaten passengers on the subway.  Depending on what news you read or watch, Neely is described as a dangerous, mentally ill man or a street performer (Michael Jackson impersonator) experiencing homelessness.  Daniel Penny is a 24-year-old white man who was riding the subway that day on his way from school where he was studying architecture.  Thinking that he and his fellow passengers were in danger from Neely, Penny grabbed Neely and put him in a chokehold.  Film footage shows that Penny was aided by at least one other passenger, who happened to be Black.  Depending on the paper you read or station you watch, Penny is a white supremacist, or he is a decorated Marine who acted as a “sheepdog” to protect others from harm.

                Penny was not charged with a crime right away, but on May 12, Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s office charged him with manslaughter in the second degree.  In 2021, Alvin Bragg was elected to the office of New York County District Attorney, making him the first African American man to hold that office.

                According to Wiki, “On January 4, 2022, after three days in office, he [Bragg] announced that his office would no longer prosecute low-level offenses such as fare evasion, resisting arrest, prostitution, and cannabis-related misdemeanors unless accompanied by a felony charge.”  We can look to other cities and regions across the U.S. that have adopted a similar policy to learn that the outcome has been predictably disastrous where this is implemented. 

                George Soros’ backing of Attorney Generals and District Attorneys is now well-known but because of Bragg’s involvement in a suit brought against Donald Trump, the rush to distance him from Soros happened months before the Penny case.

                Another player in this unfolding drama is the Reverend Dr. Johnnie Melvin Green, Jr., who for more than thirty-six years has been the senior pastor of Mount Neboh Baptist Church of Harlem, New York.  Known for his bold activism and social justice work, Rev. Green serves as a National Board Member of National Action Network (NAN), headed by Reverend Al Sharpton.   Reverend Dr. Johnnie Melvin Green, Jr. preached the funeral of Jordan Neely.  The Reverend Al Sharpton delivered the eulogy.  U.S. Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez attended the funeral.

                In 2007, Rev. Green preached the funeral of Neely’s mother, Christie Neely, who was choked to death by her boyfriend, her body found stuffed in a suitcase in the Bronx.




                Novelist Tom Wolfe was trying to capture the historical context of 1980s New York.  There had been two high-profile murders of Black men in White neighborhoods, Willie Turks in the Gravesend neighborhood of Brooklyn in 1982 and Michael Griffith in Howard Beach, Queens in 1986.  Bernhard Goetz shot four Black men who tried to rob him on a subway in 1984.  Goetz became a hero to some and even ran (unsuccessfully) for Mayor of New York City.

                The Reverend Al Sharpton said that the Penny case reminds him of the Goetz case and warns that “We cannot end up back to a place where vigilantism is tolerable.”     


                Emotive topics and stories are put out there for us to fall into.  Daniel Penny is a decorated veteran.  He “loves” all people.  He chose to study architecture because of the wonderful feelings he had in Guatemala with people who were so welcoming.  Ironically, just before this event, he had been planning a trip to Africa.  Tall and fit, he has let his military crew cut grow out and his golden curls brush across his forehead.  Golden locks.  Goldilocks.  A handsome sheepdog for a new drama.


                In The Bonfire of the Vanities, the no-nonsense Black judge is played by the actor Morgan Freeman.  Tired of disruptions in his courtroom, he chastises those gathered for their lack of basic human decency.  “Go home and BE DECENT,” he tells them.  Not bad advice.


© Not Sure


Additional reading:



Daniel Penny, charged in Jordan Neely death, breaks silence: ‘I am not a white supremacist



Daniel Penny speaks for first time after manslaughter charge for killing Jordan Neely on New York subway



The Sheepdog Defense



Jordan Neely's Death Reminds Some New Yorkers of the 1984 Bernhard Goetz Case



Years Before His Subway Killing, Jordan Neely's Mother Was Murdered by Her Boyfriend



The Bonfire of the Vanities - novel



The Bonfire of the Vanities - film



1984 New York City Subway shooting



Daniel Penny: 5 Fast Facts You Need to Know



Alvin Bragg



Explaining the Ties Between Alvin Bragg and George Soros