Monday, October 25, 2010

I Like What You Like

(PSP flashback to 09-14-08: The McCains campaign at a NASCAR event)

I knew I shouldn't've read it! That thing at the Washington Post I linked to this morning? The one where the Bell Curve guy warns against the New Elite? OMG, it has been just melting my brain all day.

What kept nagging at me was the growing realization that this is a kinda new way to wage the "culture war." See, the old icons of the culture war, homos and abortions, have become a little too complicated: they're linked a little too strongly to the religious right, kids don't fall for them like their parents (or grandparents) do, and too many ordinary folks just don't see them as bĂȘtes noires like they used to.

What Charles Murray, the author of yesterday's Washington Post outrage, and others of his ilk are doing is much more subtle than using gays, guns and fetuses as a rallying cry. The new enemy is The Elites, understood to mean big city liberals. Why does Murray care whether or not we'd be caught dead in Branson, Missouri, or dislike Harlequin Romances, or openly admit to having evangelical Christian friends? What does any of this matter?

Well, it matters because they are using these cultural stereotypes to send out a quasi-subliminal message to the people they're trying to convince: those things you like? The Elites hate those things, and if they remain in power they will take them away from you and replace them with those awful things The Elites like that you hate/don't understand. The Elites will come for your "Left Behind" books and replace them with esoteric biology journals; they will cancel your NASCAR events and replace them with ballet marathons and French film festivals; they will seize your pork rinds and cram arugula down your throats. Drew Carey on The Price is Right? The Elites will replace him with that guy... you know, that really gay guy on Will and Grace? Him.


And, of course, it's all nonsense. NASCAR will continue to exist no matter how many Democrats are elected. What's fascinating, though, about this new "us versus them" strategy, especially as seen in Charles Murray's WaPo op-ed, is that all the scare-mongering is centered around entertainment preferences and recreational activities rather than the pulpit, the firing range, and the bedroom. It strikes me as very effective, because it takes a less "hot button" approach and personalizes the threat of "the other," and furthermore cleverly casts "the other" as pretty much anybody who was ever mean or ever snubbed or lectured the perceived victim of this insidious "new" threat.  It really is the shallowest and most primitive form of politics ever, so I'm deeply impressed and fascinated.

Keep an eye open for this new kind of "I like what you like; they don't" politicking. It's so hot right now!

13 comments:

Anonymous said...

When I read this, I saw "WaPoop-ed", instead of WaPo op-ed. Great use of subliminals!

Aunt Snow said...

Yes, and if you read Charles Murray's bio, he IS the Elite he is talking about.

Christopher said...

@Aunt Snow -- I think there's something to that. I mean at least I understand it. My bio looks New Elite enough, but I'm really so very tired of the New Elite. I'm tired of deck shoes being an acceptable fashion choice, I'm tired of foodies, I'm weary of gym memberships and brunch and netflix and Mad Men. All these harbingers of good breading, and the snooty responses you get when you admit that *yes, I sometimes I eat McDonald's." So yeah, he's basically looking around him and saying: "these are my peers? why are they all such boring, dipshits?" And then building a contrarian meme out of the whole thing. I get that.

sfmike said...

Found this in the lovely Wikipedia roundup on Mr. Murray:

"In the April, 2007 issue of Commentary Magazine, Murray wrote on the disproportionate representation of Jews in the ranks of outstanding achievers and says that one of the reasons is that Jews "have been found to have an unusually high mean intelligence as measured by IQ tests since the first Jewish samples were tested." His article concludes with the assertion: "At this point, I take sanctuary in my remaining hypothesis, uniquely parsimonious and happily irrefutable. The Jews are God's chosen people."

Words fail me.

Anonymous said...

Fear is pretty handy stuff til the dogs feel cornered. class war anyone? have people ever done better? must nap.

Frank said...

The strategy may or may not be effective, but it certainly strikes me as inherently unstable. I mean, tastes change; what's "Elite" one minute suddenly becomes vulgar and vice-versa. And were aren't and aren't going to be a nation of rural, small-town dwellers; we're only getting more urbanized.

Anonymous said...

Wow, PSP posted twice on this subject and somehow managed to avoid referring to Hummel figurines. How did you do that?

BeRightBack said...

Isn't this just an extension of all that "Liberals drink lattes like this" bullshit David Brooks has been spouting since he wrote that Bobos book in 2000?

Peteykins said...

Anonymous, won't "Precious Moments" figurines do in a pinch?

Eric NC said...

Huh. For some reason I thought this post was going to be about Jeff Gordon's ass.

samael7 said...

And the wind is still blowing due Palin. Murray tasted the air, decided his cash cow was going to be riding in the populist train's cattle cars, and said, aw shucks, "I'm You."

Will the Just Folks populism of the Tea Party successfully conceal, integrate, and promulgate the current conservative hegemon, or will the slumbering Real Elite -- the ranks of the powerful and wealthy who comprise the old-money core of the GOP -- get sick and/or terrified of the damage a President Palin and her Know-Nothing Brigade could really do?

Stay tuned!

Bartman said...

And what about Sidney III in his trademarked bleached blue button down, nearly white chinos, and blue blazer? What kind of political wifey lets her candidate husband out of the house like that?

westnorth.com said...

Last time David Brooks was parroting this kind of red/blue retro/metro divide, I remember thinking "so what? We all play status games." It's not like the "non-elite" don't compete as well; they want bigger trucks, more porcelain figurines, etc.

My city friends all have rather spiffy bicycles and compete for status that way, but folks in the suburbs and countryside alike look down upon the entire genre as beneath them. So why is it any different that city people look down upon pickup trucks?