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The truth about the fireworks

Boredom is causing people to light them. And boredom is causing people to share absurd theories

At least it’s not the Russians this time. 

If you’ve heard a lot of fireworks in your neighborhood recently, you’re not alone. People in all five boroughs of New York City report hearing and seeing them more this year than ever before. 

I grew up in Brooklyn. Somewhere around early June, a kid on your block would tell you he had access to M-80s or some bottle rockets. Someone always had an uncle in Pennsylvania who was going to hook them up. As a kid I always pictured Pennsylvania as a wonderland of explosions and lights. 

The older kids had the better stuff, the kind that exploded high in the air. If you watched them long enough, you could always see a minor injury which was usually more entertaining than the firecrackers. The kids lighting the fireworks were never the sharpest tools in the box. 

This year, yes, it’s earlier. And yes, it’s louder. And yes, it’s everywhere. It’s almost as if people have been locked in their homes since March and now have money to burn and a bunch of energy to misspend. 


It’s so obviously tied to the pandemic and our need to break free and do something. And yet, seemingly intelligent people are passing around a theory that it’s actually the US government who is supplying these fireworks to destabilize black and brown communities. 

People are sharing this information on community boards and, of course, Twitter. Nikole Hannah-Jones, most known for her work on the 1619 Project, retweeted a thread by writer Robert Jones, Jr where he dramatically compares the fireworks to the sound of ‘war’ and accuses ‘government forces’ of ‘a coordinated attack on Black and Brown communities…meant to disorient and destabilize the #BlackLivesMatter movement.’

Hannah-Jones apologized for sharing the thread, telling National Review it ‘was an irresponsible use of my platform and beneath my own standards.’ She did not, however, admit that the theory was batshit insane. 

Meanwhile, Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams urged people not to call 911 or 311, New York City’s complaint hotline, if they are disturbed by the noise. ‘We want a good community response to dealing with a nuisance. This is a nonviolent act. So those three numbers that we all dial, 911, get over that.’

Adams explained, ‘What does community policing look like? It’s the extension of everyday residents engaging with people when there are nonviolent acts taking place in the city.’

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Send in the social workers at 2 a.m. to negotiate with the maniacs risking their limbs for loud noises!

Confirming the idea that coronavirus has played a big role in the explosions outside your window, Anthony LoBianco, who runs Intergalactic Fireworks in, yes, Pennsylvania, told TIME ‘Usually there’s one week before July 4 where it’s like a mad rush, but that level of activity is happening now. Everyone is buying radically: they’re bored, and they have nothing to do at night. Fireworks fill in that little void instead of sitting at home and watching TV.’

The easiest explanation is usually the right one. It’s not the Russians and it’s not a covert US government operation. It’s boredom that’s causing people to light fireworks and it’s boredom that’s causing people to share an absurd theory about them. Things will continue to be very weird the longer we spend indoors not seeing family and friends. If it doesn’t end soon we may look back fondly at that time of fireworks in the streets.


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