Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Reverse elitism

is when DC Beltway media insiders yell at the mirror for being out of touch with the rest of the world. It's also the idea that being from a small town or lower income family means you know more about the world than folk from more urban areas and/or who have more income, but we're not talking about Sarah Palin or a particular ex of mine.
Megan seems to have made a conscious choice to be more like Peggy Noonan and less like Ann Althouse recently, perhaps noticing that Ann only gets away with acting like an attention starved prepubescent because she has tenure. Now Megan, the city born, elite prep and Ivy League grad is going to lecture us on coastal chauvinism.

Coastal privilege: To begin, Megan quotes Krugman;

What struck me as I watched the convention speeches, however, is how much of the anger on the right is based not on the claim that Democrats have done bad things, but on the perception — generally based on no evidence whatsoever — that Democrats look down their noses at regular people.
The key to understanding what follows is that a certain section of Harvard, Princeton, and Yale grads do look down on everyone else in the world, because they're assholes. Penn is low in these assholes' eyes, lower than many non-Ivies, probably with reason, but I digress. Megan is talking about these pieces of shit in the following, pretending their denigration of her reflects on the greater views of people in cities of the people who don't live in cities.
I'm surprised--though I shouldn't be, of course--that any number of liberals who are (presumably) comfortable with concepts like unconscious discrimination and privilege when it comes to race, have not even stopped to consider that the same sort of thing might be operating here.
Let's be honest, coastal folks: when you meet someone with a thick southern accent who likes NASCAR and attends a bible church, do you think, "hey, maybe this is a cool person"? And when you encounter someone who went to Eastern Iowa State, do you accord them the same respect you give your friends from Williams? It's okay--there's no one here but us chickens. You don't.
This is such clear projection it's hard for me to believe even Megan doesn't recognize it, meaning this is an intentional strategy. She's yelling at herself. (Btw, for those who don't know, a Bible Church is a non-denominational usually small scale church that pretends to take the Bible literally, except when Jebus said most of the Old Testament no longer applies. They always miss that part.)
Maybe you don't know you're doing it. But I have quite brilliant friends who grew up in rural areas and went to state schools--not Michigan or UT, but ordinary state schools--who say that, indeed, when they mention where they went to school, there's often a droop in the eyelids, a certain forced quality to the smile. Oh, Arizona State. Great weather out there. Don't I need a drink or something? This person couldn't possibly interest me.
And she has black friends who are well groomed and polite and very well spoken who are still treated rudely by asshole racists, even when Megan vouches that they're one of the 'good' ones.
People from a handful of schools, most of them hailing from a handful of major metropolitan areas, dominate academia, journalism, and the entertainment industry. Our subtle (or not-so-subtle) distaste for everything from their entertainment to their decorating choices to the vast swathes of the country in which they choose to live permeate almost everything they read, watch, or hear. Of course we don't hear it--to us, that's simply the way the world is.
Taken out of context, this is actually intelligent. The views of a small number of elites do indeed predominately determine the content and form of most types of mass media. Men like Rupert Murdoch and whoever the current head of GE is dictate the way the news is framed, they define the terms. But that has nothing to do with what Megan is talking about, which is that she wants in on the culture wars gravy train. She's basically yelling at herself for being herself, but since she's using a strawbaby for a stand in she can call it a liberal media elite and score authenticity points on the Broder/Noonan/Mitchell scale.
In the 1980s, I played on possibly the worst girl's basketball team in the state of New York. Every time another Catholic school kicked our asses (I believe one memorable game ended at 48 to 2) we consoled ourselves by making fun of their big, sprayed, permed hair, and the lavish eye makeup that ran down their faces when they sweated. We didn't know that what divided us from those girls was economic class--they were the children of plumbers and bodega owners, while we were the children of bankers and lawyers and lobbyists. We genuinely believed that we had simply been gifted with a better fashion sense.
But I bet those girls knew exactly what we were saying as we got on the bus. And I'm pretty sure they knew what we were really talking about.
You were an asshole then, and you're an asshole now. Fantastic.
And now, a complete 180, from out of nowhere. I guess maybe she realized Matt and Ezra will read this and she has to give herself cover for them not to take it personally.
Red America exaggerates the contempt, of course. It's also true that if you're expecting racism and sexism, you'll probably end up misinterpreting perfectly innocent remarks. But the fact that they aren't right in every particular does not mean that, in general, they've got it wrong. For one thing, in both DC and New York I've spent a fair amount of time listening to liberals make jokes about red states that would horrify them if they were told about blacks. But even if that weren't true, I wouldn't be the best person to assess whether there is prejudice or not. I'm so close to it that I can't see it.
When Michael Moore (neither an Ivy grad nor a coastal native, btw) said that horrible, stupid shit on Olbermann's show about Gustav being a gift from God, I could see it. Besides which, red state jokes are Bush voter jokes. Megan has to receive them like hate crimes, otherwise she'd have to admit that some anger from the rest of the world for the MASSIVE FUCKING MISTAKE she and her fellow Bush voters made is justified. She's just too close to see it.


Anonymous said...

The whole time I was reading this, all I could think was "project much?" She seems to think that just because SHE is a stuck-up snob that looks down her nose on everyone, this attitude naturally applies to every educated urban dweller in the country. I don't know how many times I rolled my eyes reading that.

"But I bet those girls knew exactly what we were saying as we got on the bus."

Probably, but trust me, Megs, they were more than likely too busy making fun of you and your friends just the same to dwell on it long.

Ellis Weiner said...

Have I just not had enough coffee? I don't understand her point. What is she saying? That "liberals" evince class prejudice? That everyone does, but only she has the courage to admit it?

Yeah, I know: walk away. The last thing you want to be around is a libertarian trying to be "honest."

Anonymous said...

People from a handful of schools, most of them hailing from a handful of major metropolitan areas, dominate academia, journalism, and the entertainment industry.

I almost expected an admission from her that she (and, well, folks like Ezra Klein too) benefits from this "aristocratic" state of the American media, but the evidence isn't supportive of a self-aware Megan.

Anonymous said...

Having worked in the entertainment industry for the last fifteen years, I was quite surprised to learn from Megan that it's dominated by Ivy League elites. How long is she going to get away with just pulling nonsense out of her ass before someone at the Atlantic notices that she has no friggin' clue what she's writing about 90% of the time?