The E-Word

Over at Splice Today, Russ Smith has a thoughtful little essay on liberal elitism in the run-up to the midterms. The last graf is not representative of the piece, but I liked it enough to share:

One last note about my own brushes with liberal elitism. In the summer of 1973, as an 18-year-old anticipating college that September, I worked in a biology lab at Princeton University. My duties including mopping the floor, feeding the rats, emptying the trays of fecal matter and, once the students were finished with their animal experiments, disposing of the critters. One afternoon, I had to dispatch a bunch of monkeys and cats—using chloroform—outside the building near the garbage containers. It caused a stir among students milling about, and a number of them harassed me, yelling, "Animal killer!" It was a very weird moment: young men and women, just a few years older than myself, attacking a minimum-wage worker for doing his job, rendered further ironic by the fact that some of the protesters were, in fact, the very same people who were conducting the experiments on the animals. That's elitism.

Similar thoughts (not about monkey-murdering, but escalating liberal loathing pre-November) from James Bowman and Trevor Butterworth. A different but also interesting take from Anne Applebaum, with dissent from Jonah Goldberg.

As a longtime refudiator of elite anti-elitism, I don't get too excited about this stuff, aside from loathing political consensus most everywhere it crops up.

All kinds of interesting meditations on populism and elitism in the Reason archive.

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  • BakedPenguin||

    Oh, holy shit. I refresh only to see that pic and almost choked on my lunch.

  • Old Mexican||

    From the link:

    Rolling Stone’s Matt Taibbi, a talented writer whose purple prose is leavened by industrious reporting, is a more flamboyant representative of the media’s left-wing elite. In a long article on the Tea Party, based on three extended visits to Kentucky, Taibbi dismisses the loose confederation of frustrated Americans like this: "[A]fter a lengthy study of the [Tea Party] phenomenon, I’ve concluded that the whole miserable narrative boils down to one stark fact: They’re full of shit. All of them... The average Tea Partier is sincerely against government spending — with the exception of the money spent on them."

    I take it that means they're full of shit - if it were true.

    Taibbi was struck that at one of the rallies he attended, where Sarah Palin appeared, giving him the "epiphany" that the "dingbat revolution... is nigh," he didn’t spot a single black face in the crowd. That’s hardly surprising, since as of 2009, the black population in Kentucky was 7.9 percent.

    Quoting that statistic is racist!

  • ||

    They’re full of shit. All of them... The average Tea Partier is sincerely against government spending — with the exception of the money spent on them."

    I take it that means they're full of shit - if it were true.

    It is true.

    Most Americans who say they want more limited government also call Social Security and Medicare “very important.” They want Washington to be involved in schools and to help reduce poverty. Nearly half want the government to maintain a role in regulating health care…
    Nearly six in 10 say they want their congressional representatives to fight for additional government spending in their districts to spur job creation; fewer (39 percent) want their member of Congress to cut spending, even if that means not as many local jobs.
  • ||

    Weisberg, who calls elitism an “epithet,” buries his own elitist bona fides in the middle of his column: “Arguments for raising taxes, expanding health insurance, and fighting climate change are all met with by the rejoinder [by conservatives] that some people should quit telling the rest of us how to live our lives.”

    Weinberg is so stupid that he really doesn't understand that "stop telling people how to live their lives" really is an argument or that burden is on people like Weinberg to prove why they should be able to tell others how to live their lives.

  • ||

    Considering that Smith apparently spent his childhood killing cats and torturing monkeys and by his own admission spent a significant portion of his life living in Tribeca, it is really not surprising that he is a pretty fucked up guy. I hope he some day gets the help he needs.

  • Sean W. Malone||

    You're racist for using "Mexican" as your handle, OM. I don't care if you're from Mexico... You're insensitivity towards illegal immigrants is beyond the pale.

  • Old Mexican||

    And here I though I was being insensitive for the "Old" in my handle.

    By the way, I am Mexican. From Mexico.

  • Sean W. Malone||

    (I know... read my comment again :P)

  • ||

    I saw a T-Shirt for sale in San Antonio once that said in big white letters on black

    "Listen whitey I am a fucking MEXICAN. Not a Hispanic, not a Chicano, but a fucking MEXICAN".

    I thought it was hysterical.

  • Pip||

    I was talking with a womyn's studies major at a party and told her I had been working with some Mexicans. She corrected me by saying they were hispanic. Since they were from Mexico it seemed silly to call them Hispanic. But I didn't want to start a heated dfebate.

  • ♥♥♥||

    But I didn't want to start a heated dfebate.

    Pussy.

  • ||

    Lately, all the grocery store aisles around here with Mexican food are now labeled "Hispanic Food."

    First off, some of it is FROM Mexico, and the rest is labeled "Mexican food." There's no such thing as Hispanic food -- I've had a sampling of food from all over Latin America, and I lived near the Mexican border most of my life, and Mexican Food is not the same as, say, Peruvian or Ecuadoran food. It just isn't. And none of these stores are selling South American foods or ingredients.

    It's truly bizarre, since I can't imagine anyone being offended by "Mexican Food." Should I expect the German restaurant down the street to start advertising "Aryan Food"?

    Betcha didn't know there was a Godwin way to spin this! :-D

  • ||

    Sounds like she thinks Mexican is a bad word but you don't. Probably because you know more Mexicans.

  • ||

    Are you the same Sean Malone who has had problems with women repeatedly hitting him, kicking him in the nuts, and putting him in a choke hold?

  • ||

    Maybe that was some other guy, but I could swear it was you who wrote on another thread that the women you date tend to hit you a lot.

  • Fluffy||

    You know what? Fuck this guy and his minimum wage self pity.

    I'll stick up for folks earning minimum wage and getting fucked by FICA taxes for the benefit of affluent seniors, but if you're standing outdoors in the view of the public and killing cats and I happen to come along, don't expect a friendly wave.

    "Hey, I'm just a minimum wage guy doing his job." Tough dots, cat-killer.

  • Fluffy||

    BTW: you can kill monkeys all you want. Monkeys are assholes and deserve what they get.

  • ||

    Monkeys are hilarious! Geez, they're monkeys!

  • ||

    I have killed monkeys. Just so you know. Pumped sodium thiopental right into their hearts. They were diseased and dying anyway, but I killed them.

    And yes, monkeys are assholes. Disgusting, violent, dirty, aggressive assholes. Is it any wonder we're related to them?

  • ||

    Did you spank them first?

  • ||

    Uh...of course. Idiot. Why would you even ask?

  • ||

    I was making sure you weren't being spoofed.

  • ||

    And how do I know you aren't?

  • ||

    You don't. But some chance is better than no chance.

  • ||

    I grew up around farms where animals are killed all of the time. And frankly I have never seen anyone be as flippant and weird about it as Smith. I am serious. Smith is really fucked up.

  • Russ Smith ||

    I've killed monkeys... Monkeys that you've seen. But you have no right to call me a murderer. You have a right to kill me. You have a right to do that... but you have no right to judge me.

  • ||

    Did Kurtz have monkeys in his army? I bet he did.

  • Ragin Cajun||

    Someone had to be responsible for bringing Brando all those Twinkies.

  • Ernie the Bear||

    Indeed! Gassing them is just plain stupid, though. I think everyone here well knows, you give the coke, knives and comical costumes and then...

    3)Profit!

  • ||

    I'd pay to see that.

  • ||

    The truth can now be known. Fluffy really is "Fluffy" and is actually a Persian with opposable thumbs and internet access living in an upper east side apartment with his two male owners.

    I agree with you Fluffy. Also, I understand the job has to be done. But Smith seems largely undisturbed by it. If I had ever held such a job, I would still be bothered by it and would remember it as something besides my experience with elitism. If all Smith can remember about his job killing cute animals is the dirty looks he got from the college students, he is a seriously fucked up individual. Like goes out and picks up male prostitutes and buries them in the crawl space under his house fucked up.

  • Ragin Cajun||

    I'd imagine he'd use chloroform for the job...

  • Montani Semper Liberi||

    Like goes out and picks up male prostitutes and buries them in the crawl space under his house

    Is that wrong? Should I not have done that?

  • dhex||

    eh, animals? not everyone is all wrapped up in cuteness.

  • ||

    Neither am I. But have you ever actually killed an animal? Ever killed a cat or a dog or something you consider a pet? Old Yeller makes kids cry for a reason. It is not the same as taking out the garbage. The fact that it apparently was for Smith is really disturbing. I half expect the guy to be sending anonymous bragging notes to the police someday.

  • Leroy||

    Meh...

    I hunt. If I see a cat in the woods it gets shot. I don't feel bad about it in the least. I've never killed a monkey, but I imagine that also wouldn't disturb me at all.

    The fact is they are animals, and while they deserve to be treated humanely, they still are animals and I (along with many other people) have no problem with humanely 'dispatching' them.

    Maybe I'm just a cold-hearted bastard, but I think my feelings on this are fairly common.

  • Fluffy||

    That's soooo not the point.

    The point is that if you take a cat outside right now and stand in the middle of the sidewalk on Lexington Avenue and strangle it, and are surprised when people give you dirty looks, you are one weird fucker.

  • Brett L||

    What if I tell them it was used in ebola research in a university lab that I'm standing behind?

  • dhex||

    depends on how far up you are & the time of day. the ues don't play, son.

    But have you ever actually killed an animal? Ever killed a cat or a dog or something you consider a pet?

    with or without masturbating?

    seriously though, i think you're being kinda weird and sensitive about this...and honestly, i find it rather attractive.

    call me.

  • Pip||

    "The truth can now be known. Fluffy really is "Fluffy" and is actually a Persian with opposable thumbs and internet access living in an upper east side apartment with his two male owners."

    You can own Persians now?

  • The Other Kevin||

    You know who else used the "just doing my job" defense?

  • Almanian||

    That millwright I just fired?

  • Almanian||

    Spiro Agnew?

  • Almanian||

    Any NASCAR crew chief?

  • Ragin Cajun||

    Brett Favre?

  • ||

    Well, if he did his job (i.e., actually reporting for training instead of staying home and claiming he's "retired") maybe he'd have a defense. As it stands, sucking after you don't practice with your receivers doesn't count as "doing your job." Especially if you're paid several million dollars a year.

    tl;dr: Favre is a douchebag.

  • Ragin Cajun||

    Free Tarvaris Jackson!

  • Pip||

    Fucking-A right. The vikes will be lucky to go 6 and 10 this year. And Randy Moss? WTF??? The slouch couldn't do it in 1999 and he sure as fuck ain't doing this time around.

  • SFC B||

    Aside from his tour with the Raiders Moss has been arguably the best WR in football during his career. And I can't fault someone for sucking in the hell hole that is the current Raiders organization.

  • ||

    If someone told me Randy Moss needed a BJ in the locker room to perform in the game and I was the only one around, I'd deliver, man. There is always that man-on-man attraction under the surface for personal heroes. He is lean and sinewy, and it would probably not be that much different from being with a really fit woman.

  • ||

    And I like really fit women.

  • Abdul||

    I take it you don't eat chinese food?

  • ||

    some of the protesters were, in fact, the very same people who were conducting the experiments on the animals.

    Given their talent for cognitive dissonance, they have undoubtedly moved on to the field of "climate change science".

  • Joe M||

    Props for the Pixies reference.

  • ¢||

    You subscribe to New Criterion? (The link is inaccessible to those of us who don't.) That's bizarre behavior.

    B) There's a typo in your second paragraph. It says "different but also interesting" where it should say "belligerently ignorant."

  • GILMORE||

    It's not "elitism" he describes; it's hypocrisy

    I have never understood the negative connotations applied to the word. Elitism is aspirational. It suggests we should strive for the best possible achievement in all things. Are 'honors' classes in High School, 'elitist'? They certainly segment the better from the average. Is that a 'bad' thing to do, from an educational standpoint? Is catering to the best and brightest and cultivating excellence a thing to be disavowed? Perhaps *only* caring about overachievers is 'elitist', but I fail to appreciate the populist celebration of the average as an ideal. Not everyone can be Michael Jordan, we know - but isn't the motto 'be like Mike' saying something? We all think we can find excellence within us... we are all inherently 'elitist' whether we admit it or not. The idea that we should deny the tendency to want to be better than the average is ridiculous. In fact I find it far more narcissistic to pretend to some holier-than-thou embracement of one's 'averageness' than for people to openly say, "I'm just better/smarter/faster than you, and that's why I get paid, motherfucker".

    It reminds me of people who in the middle of a pool game will start to excuse their own poor performance by saying, "hey man, its just a *game*...we're just having fun. Dont be so serious." Meaning: I'm losing; don't remind me how much I suck. Let's dilute the idea that you're actually *better*, and try and pretend that winning and losing don't really matter! Its the rationale of someone who fears failure to the point of pretending no real difference exists between success and failure.

  • ||

    You miss the point. It is not the existence of elites that people are angry about. It is about two things. First it is the definition of who is "elite" and who is not. No one begrudges real achievement. The problem is that we have a generation of douschebags who have done nothing but suck ass and go to the right schools who claim to be "elite". When someone calls Bill Gates an "elite" no one is offended or has a problem with it. When Ezra Klein or some other bloviating idiot in the media calls themselves an "elite" people who have actually accomplished things get a little offended.

    Second, it is about what it means to be an "elite". Being elite at something doesn't make you morally superior to anyone. You can be great at something and still be an awful person. Morality and achievement are two different things. And most importantly, being elite doesn't give you the right to tell everyone else how to live their lives or give you some kind of divine right to manage everyone else for their own good. If elites would stop thinking that their status gives them the right to control everyone around them, they wouldn't be so hated.

  • ||

    John, I hit refresh and you have made all the point that I intended to.

    So two things; first, I hate you, second, I am just going to repeat what you said anyway. But differently.
    >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

    I think we need to come up with another word for elite. Keep elite for the elite, say an astronaut, or an engineer. But, find a word that describes meddling polisci phds, just so we don't get confused.

    The reason people get mad at "elites" though is that you have some 20 something with a degree in journalism that thinks he knows what is better for your life than you do.

    But, I am an elitist as well. I think that people who cannot make it through calculus should be fed into a wood chipper.

  • Brett L||

    But, I am an elitist as well. I think that people who cannot make it through calculus should be fed into a wood chipper.

    Can we keep some of the hot ones to work in bars?

  • Law Student||

    You're gonna need a pretty big wood chipper.

  • waffles||

    I elitist. I better. I proud.
    You stupid. You weak. You snivel.
    Me win. Me win. Me win.

    That said, yes, it's good to be an elitist in the "be like mike" vein. I'll tell yah, as a working engineer I often feel less self-importance than my un/underemployed friends. Self-deprecation is no good either, elitism is healthy.

    Something.

  • ||

    I would also add a third point. Elites never seem to be held responsible for anything. Back in the day, if you fucked up badly, you were never given another shot at a big job. William Mullholland, for example pretty much built LA. But when one of the dams he built collapsed and killed a bunch of people, that was it. He was done. He died in disgrace. Now, elites routinely fuck up and go merely on to new and better jobs. Fields of elites, like education 'experts' have destroyed entire segments of civic life and still expect to be held in high esteem. That makes people angry.

  • Heroic Mulatto||

    I think that people who write sentences as atrociously as capitol l does should also be fed into a wood chipper. I guess that makes me an "elitist" as well.

  • ||

    Mulatto, I reread my comment minutes after posting, and was immediately taken aback by the mangled structure.

    I have been having serious problems with commas lately, and was hoping no one would notice.

    What is it that you have against punctuation-impaired-Americans?

  • ||

    meddling polisci phds

    I think the above phrase will do nicely

  • ||

    "No one begrudges real achievement. " No, we just tax the hell out of it.

  • Brett L||

    You've never met some of my relatives.

  • Abdul||

    Back when I was a summer associate, I had to help out on a product liability case in which the victim had his neck broken. The Plaintiff's expert witness was a lead researcher in the field of vertebrae torc. In reading his articles, I discovered that he learned everything he needed to know by wringing the necks of monkeys. I counted up the different experiments and found he probably strangled something like 1000 monkeys in his lifetime.

    For some reason, the lead attorney for the defense didn't want to bring that up in cross examination. I thought it would have been awesome.

  • waffles||

    Q: How many monkey necks must one snap to become an expert?

    A: 1000

  • Warty||

    Generally speaking, you need to devote 5000-10000 hours to an activity to become an expert at it. So you're lowballing it, I'd say.

  • ||

    You don't even know how long it takes to catch and strangle one monkey, do you?

    I'll tell you, that it takes at least 5 hours. At the fucking least.

  • Fluffy||

    Even longer, if we dress the monkey up in little gladiator armor and give him a tiny little replica sword.

  • ||

    You're scaring me.

    You Persians and your swords...tsk,tsk.

  • Abdul||

    It gets better--the things he didn't learn from monkeys, he learned through cadaver studies, i.e., twisting the necks of dead people.

    Altogether, I'd say he was in the 5,000 to 10,000 hour range.

  • ||

    I was wondering when you'd get around to my favorite band:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v.....re=related

  • ||

  • s.m. koppelman||

    Russ Smith? The same Russ Smith who for the 15 years he published the New York Press wrote the same letter-from-the-chief column every single week? The column that was equal parts seething about the libruls who tried to keep him down in his youth on one hand, and a chronicle of what $100-a-plate celebrity-chef restaurant he'd just been to and what celebrities he'd tried to network with on the downtown party circuit before retiring to his luxury loft on the other?

    I see he's still that seemingly impossible combo of being completely self-absorbed and being completely self-unaware.

  • ||

    I kill rats every week in my lab, but I mostly do real lab work. We have Mexicans to clean up after the animals, since no American youth would dare entertain the thought of such wage-slavery today. They'll protest "animal-cruelty" but do they actually give a fuck about feeding and cleaning these animal? Fuck no.

  • ||

    I actually know a white dude that cleans the cages for the labs at a local university. Though, he cleans them after they have been used. Don't know if that is easier for anglos,or not.

  • ||

    You just put them in a giant dishwasher/autoclave.

  • ||

    take me back to tulsa is now stuck in my brain for hours...

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