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Wednesday, October 13, 2010

An Interesting Spat

Oct 13th, 2010

Anyone concerned with the dreary wave of anti-intellectualism from the right over the last year should read Anne Applebaum's piece in yesterday's Washington Post. Her perspective:

"These modern meritocrats are clearly not admired, or at least not for their upward mobility, by many Americans. On the contrary"... "they are resented as "elitist." Which is at some level strange: To study hard, to do well, to improve yourself -- isn't that the American dream? The backlash against graduates of "elite" universities seems particularly odd given that the most elite American universities have in the past two decades made the greatest effort to broaden their student bodies."

Seems straightforward enough. Apparently, Jonah Goldberg wasn't going to take this sitting down. He has picked a fight with Applebaum and launched a defense of the new-stupid. His piece is an exemplar of the situational ethics that have come to define his work.

"Applebaum doesn’t seem to comprehend that it is not status-class anxiety that is driving the main critique of the elite. It is that this particular elite is hellbent on bossing the country around that will make America less meritocratic." Italics his.

Goldberg is stipulating that this most recent wave of disrespect for the intellectual class is okay because it is being directed at his ideological enemies. At least he is consistent. This sort of argument makes perfect sense coming from a committed torture apologist

Applebaum fires back:

"Goldberg seems to think the anti-elitist rhetoric which is in wide use at the moment (the subject of my column) is acceptable because it is aimed at a particular elite: the liberals, the Obamas, “a very specific and self-styled elite.” He should listen harder, because in fact the rhetoric is far more sweeping than that, encompassing not only liberals but anyone with higher education.  Sarah Palin told O’Reilly that Americans are seeking to rid themselves of “spineless” people with an “Ivy League Education.”  Glenn Beck has mocked “the Ivy League” and people with degrees at great length. Christine O’Donnell’s political ad (the one which begins “I didn’t go to Yale…”) doesn’t attack “liberals who went to Yale.”  It attacks anyone who went to Yale."

Jonah hasn't responded to the response yet. We eagerly await watching him dig his hole deeper.


  1. You know, I'd enjoy this argument if Applebaum's correction of Goldberg's take on elites weren't just a wee bit compromised by the fact of her being a Yale graduate.

  2. American politics has a long history of anti-intellectualism. Remember the "know-nothings"? What we don't have is a real understanding of class politics. There are now 60 million undereducated white people in this country whose jobs have vanished overseas in the last generation, and we have not made any arrangements to train them for something any company wants to pay for. So it is Wal-Mart or Meth production.

  3. The problem with the "elites" is actually a simple one. I love Jon Stewart as much as the next Gen X liberal Elite, but we (and yes, we are them, even those of us who did not attend Yale) make fun of the white trash hicks instead of addressing their very real concerns. They need jobs with dignity that pay a living wage. As odious as they are, Sarah Palin and Glen Beck speak to them and tell them they are better than us. People are very vulnerable to hearing that their concerns are legitimate and those who seem to "have it all" are somehow inferior (in this case, morally inferior is the preferred story). The heartbreaking thing is those pundits are firmly in the pockets of large interests who have been hijacking their votes since Jim Crow. And the "elites" they hate so much are advocating policies that might actually help them. What we need is a new Upton Sinclair--probably in film, to let them see viscerally how badly they are being played.