In this post on the supposed snobbery of Americans, Clive Crook makes hay out of the fact that he’s British, blowing dust off the old “anthropologist with a pith helmet” version of social commentary that was tired a decade ago. I can only presume that it’s precisely his Britishness that has led him to so misunderstand America. He thinks that this is a country with a snobbery problem, rather than what it actually has, which is a pride-in-ignorance problem, a reverse-snobbery snobbery.
Crook is a designated media centrist, which means that he’s a pure conservative that we are meant to take more seriously because other conservatives in the media call him a centrist. (In general, if you work in political commentary and are called a centrist, you’re to the right of Ronald Reagan.) He’s dusting off the notion that the problem with America is too many latte-sipping Prius drivers, not the salt of the earth types that he would totally be down with if he wasn’t busy avoiding them by refusing to take the subway. The first thing here is just to say– Target vs. WalMart? Did Crook attend the David Brooks School of Pop Sociology Cliches? But more to the point, it’s just wrong. Just plain wrong. There’s far more reverse snobbery than snobbery in this country. This is a culture that celebrates ignorance as authenticity, that thinks it’s shameful to be educated, that takes pride in being closed-minded, that assumes as a matter of course that thoughtlessness is a part of being “real.” When exactly did Crook get here? Did he miss the whole “we should elect the president based on who we’d like to have a beer with” thing? Did he miss the fact that people care more about whether Obama can throw a strike than whether he can find Pakistan on a map? And all in a context where one side is allowed to express its contempt. If you travel in socially liberal circles and you openly mock the rubes, you’re going to get a lot of pushback. If you are a conservative, you’re allowed to openly mock those effete east coast elites that Crook is attacking. Nobody would bat an eye. That’s its own kind of snobbery.
Now, I promise: Clive Crook has nothing to do with the people he thinks he’s defending. This is the most hypocritical, ugliest aspect of conservative media’s love for the snobbery angle; they’re all full of shit. Crook isn’t going down to some working class bars with working class people and shooting the breeze. See, to do that, he’d actually have to regard them as people, rather than as a symbol, or as fodder for his political axe-grinding. If he did, he might find that he doesn’t like all of them. That’s the thing about human beings: some are good, and some are bad, and most are in-between, and you can’t sort them with the vague, empty posturing that Crook is engaging in. Regarding them as human beings has its advantages, but I’m afraid you give up the ability to treat them as convenient political tools.
I’ll leave the nut of it to Michael Kinsley, writing about another anti-snob snob:
Why fake a humble background? Partly for business reasons: Joe Sixpack versus the elitists is a good posture for any talk show host, especially one on Fox. Partly out of vanity: It makes the climb to your current perch more impressive. Partly for political reasons: Under our system, even conservatives need some plausible theory to qualify for victim status, from which all blessings flow. But mainly out of sheer snobbery. And it’s the only kind of snobbery with any real power in America today: reverse snobbery. Bill O’Reilly pretends (or maybe sincerely imagines) that he feels the sting of status from above. But he unintentionally reveals that he actually fears it more from below. Like most of us.