Our streets are now so unsafe that it might be helpful to rewatch Clint Eastwood’s “Dirty Harry” films. They can remind us of an earlier period in the 1960s and 1970s when crime was widespread, liberal judges were putting criminals back on the streets, and the entire system was anti-cop and pro-criminal.
In the middle of a wave of violence that left everyday Americans feeling both threatened and vulnerable, along came a series of movies that captured the desire for law and order.
The first and most famous of these was the 1971 “Dirty Harry” starring Eastwood as Inspector Harry Callahan of San Francisco. The film was so powerful and so well received that it was selected for preservation in the National Film Registry by the Library of Congress for being “culturally, historically, and aesthetically significant.”
At the end of the film, the American people watched the violent but effective Inspector Callahan throw away his badge in disgust at the pro-criminal, anti-law culture of San Francisco. (Now, the city is even more radically left-wing—there were no human feces maps in “Dirty Harry’s” time.)
The American movie audience responded enthusiastically, and “Dirty Harry” grossed more than nine times its budget in the initial U.S. release alone (with a lot more from foreign sales and later rereleases).
There were four sequels to “Dirty Harry,” and they weren’t the popular culture’s only response to crime and an anti-police legal system. The most famous vigilante movie of the time was “Death Wish,” released three years later (1974), starring Charles Bronson. Like “Dirty Harry,” it was incredibly profitable (the domestic gross was more than five times its initial budget). It also led to four sequels.
The popular response to these cinematic attacks against criminals, which depicted utter contempt for the liberal, anti-cop, pro-criminal system, was reflective of the American people’s genuine fears about a society that was spinning out of control. Ultimately, the violence and collapse of order would lead to the 1993 election of Rudy Giuliani as mayor of New York City. He ushered in bold, no-nonsense, practical steps which made New York amazingly safe and orderly.
Now, we are back in a pre-Dirty Harry world of nightly violence in Portland, Oregon, the expectation that people will riot and loot after various events, and a level of daylight crime and violence that is frightening and ultimately unsustainable within a civilized country.
We are in the middle of an enormous crime wave. The breadth of the violence and the decay of safety and civilization is unprecedented. There is a war on police underway with 264 police killed in 2020, a jump of 96 percent over the previous year. In New York City, hostile forces use Molotov cocktails to set police cars on fire. Murder rates are skyrocketing around the country; 2020 saw the biggest one-year jump in homicides in U.S. history—36.7 percent.
Specifically, 2020 saw an unprecedented one-year spike in murders in all major U.S. cities:
- Seattle saw a 74.1 percent increase between 2019 and 2020.
- New Orleans saw a 61.7 percent increase.
- Atlanta saw a 57.9 percent increase.
- Chicago saw a 55.5 percent increase.
- Boston saw a 54.1 percent increase.
- Portland saw a 51.5 percent increase.
Facing this astonishing rise in murders—and even bigger rises in shootings, carjackings, and other criminal behavior—the anti-police, pro-criminal left is proving it has learned nothing.
Faced with aggressive criminal behavior and violence against innocent people—including young children being killed—Democratic Rep. Rashida Tlaib recently called for “no more policing, incarceration and militarization.” Ironically, Tlaib represents Detroit.
According to the City of Detroit’s 2020 Crime Report, there were 327 homicides in 2020, up from 275 the previous year—a 19 percent increase. There were 1,173 non-fatal shootings in 2020. This is up from 767 the previous year, which is a 53 percent increase.
As the American people grow frustrated by being told they should favor the violent and oppose the forces of law and order, the opportunity for a new generation of Eastwoods and Bronsons will grow in popular culture.
As it becomes clearer and clearer that the left cannot solve the crime problem because it’s creating the crime problem, a new generation of Giulianis will emerge and start dominating in the 2022 elections.
Given a choice between the Tlaib Democrats, who would disband the police and close the prisons, and Republicans prepared to protect the innocent and oppose the criminal, the choice for most Americans will be obvious.
Newt Gingrich, a Republican, served as House speaker from 1995 to 1999 and ran as a presidential candidate in 2012.
Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.