Arts & Culture

The Ira Glass Infatuation Post/This American Life Review: Petty Tyrant

Mid-November post-elections, how fitting that this week’s This American Life analyzes the Petty Tyrant. Read More

By / November 17, 2010
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Mid-November post-elections, how fitting that this week’s Life analyzes the Petty Tyrant. And just as the demise of the world economy can be coaxed in a TAL hour, so too are Ira, Koenig and Co. capable of providing insight on the minuscule domain of the Kim Jong-il of custodians. Ira tells of “tyranny writ small, tyranny happening in a setting where you don’t usually expect Machiavellian scheming, the maintenance office.”

Act 1: They’d most certainly be punished for it.

Sarah Koenig reports in two astounding acts on Schenectady manhandler Steve Raucci. His temper and disposition with other people is that of a limp-peckered alcoholic who does not make up for shortcomings with his charm. His vindictiveness and manipulative behavior in the name of powermongering went unbelievably unchecked: jealous crushes, reassignments, leader takeovers, explosives, graffiti, faking to rape his secretary, all in good fun. He took over that maintenance office like a Mongol in Moscow.

“And all this time no one said anything because if they did they knew they’d face the same kind of retribution from Steve.” Through all of this collective suffering, Mr climbed up the ladder in three positions with overt conflict of interest. As if trying to simultaneously top while on the bottom, Raucci was not only the office’s Bossman and energy-monger, he was also their Jimmy Hoffa. What are the limits of control?

Is it so wrong that employees defaulted to “I’m just doing what my boss tells me to do?” While Nietzsche would hurl from the massive sheep collective, Carl Strock of the Daily Gazette observed during the trial that the moving accounts of the fearsome victims made him empathize with their inaction and self-preservation. “He was surrounded above and below by people who turned the other way,” remarks Koenig.
Aside from employee silence, the union, schoolboard, district administration, and even the media turned a blind eye voluntarily, like a self-imposed Chernobyl with no hope for glasnost.

Act 2: He was surrounded above and below by people who turned the other way.

In all, I’m not sure which historical tyrant best fits the egregious takeover Raucci was jailed for. With a poster of Don Corleone behind him, Steve Raucci ravaged the entire system and its citizens, with explosives.

Not everyone can be as smooth as Glass. Maybe one day someone will write about Ira’s deserving radio punim on the weekly.