Friday, June 20, 2008

A misplaced sense of self-importance (I: "elitism"-ism)

A month ago, I made the point that accusations of elitism tend to come from people who are in fact from an elite group themselves.

Whether it's to deflect attention from their own situation, or an attempt to "get in" with a group to which they do not belong, or simply an attempt to shut up a message they don't like, or for some other reason, it's a common occurence.

This was recently brought home by the ironic situation of David Brooks of the New York Times claiming "Obama had a problem" because he wouldn't be comfortable with the people at an Applebee's. Except Brooks fucked up, showing he's completely ignorant of what can be found at an Applebee's himself.

This is not an occasional happenstance - the "charge" of elitism always seems to come from a member of some elite. It's hypocrisy writ large - writ large because the stakes are usually big.

They're making another person or group scapegoats for a "crime" that they themselves are guilty of, in order to incite support among a group of people to which they simply do not belong.

[And really, it's not such a surprise that this is almost always the case. An ordinary Joe doesn't use a word like elite. It's insufficiently exoteric (as are words like "insufficiently" and "exoteric" - the irony isn't lost on me, but at least I've linked to a definition - I may be an elitist bastard, but anyone's welcome to join me!)]

I'm almost tempted to call this a law:
(1) If a person calls another an elitist, they are almost guaranteed to be a member of a social, economic or political elite themselves.

If that law is true, it carries with it something like Godwin's law as a corollary -

(2) the first person to level a charge of "elitism" is a loser

The appropriate response is to simply indicate that we know the speaker is hypocrite - a loser of the worst kind. Let them know you're onto them. You know you want to.

I think this hypocrisy comes from a misplaced sense of self-importance - that the rules they play by don't apply to them. Helping deflate that sense of self-importance is a public service.

(Image from Demotivate Us)

(Part II is here.)


Anonymous said...

I actually don't even know what Applebee's is...but then, I have the excuse of living in another country. I don't know, maybe residing in Europe makes you elitist as well? :P

But all joking aside, I agree with you on this one. I've never heard someone claim elitism who wasn't fairly elitist themselves, consciously or unconsciously.

Efrique said...

Hi vitaminbook,

I don't live in the US myself (I'm Australian), but I've been there a dozen or so times - enough to have been in an Applebee's.

They have steaks, salads, hamburgers, pasta, seafood, burgers and so on.

And, yes, living in Europe probably makes you an elitist in the eyes of David Brooks; his criteria seem to be pretty broad.

Dana Hunter said...

David Brooks is totally elite: an elite media clown. Gah, what a putz. I hate our Village idiots. Love your smackdown!

This accusing others of what you're guilty of yourself is fast becoming an art form. The Republicons used it as a conscious tactic, if I remember my reading on political fuckery rightly. Wish I remembered where I'd seen that article... what it basically said was that they decided to go after their own weaknesses in their opponent, I think on the theory that leveling such charges against someone else would make Average Joe think they couldn't possibly be guilty of the same failing, only worse, because they wouldn't attack someone else for their own weakness, now would they?

Republicons + guillable rubes = our current disaster.

george.w said...

Yeah, I totally got distracted by and spent a 45 minutes reading all the demotivational posters and cracking up...

Easily distracted I guess. Anyway, who's elite: the privileged son of a wealthy east-coast insider or the son of a car dealer?

Wait - the first one pretends to be from Texas so I guess it's the other one!