Clive Crook does not live in the same America that I do

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.

73 replies
  1. 1
    joeyess says:

    I clicked over on that link and couldn’t make past paragraph 3. I don’t know how you do it. I read that and tried to parse the bullshit lining in the bullshit canister filled with bullshit.

    It’s articles like that that make me glad I’m me and you are you.

  2. 2
    James E. Powell says:

    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.”

    Also too, that over-the-top violence equals strength.

  3. 3
    Paul in KY says:

    I guess any git who attended ‘Oxford’ can get a gig writing in the Atlantic.

    Cripes…

  4. 4
    Anthony says:

    I read this article last night, and it pissed me off so much. What’s insane is how he thinks this is his own personal revelation and not a 4-decade-old smear to make liberals the bad guys.

  5. 5
    Shinobi says:

    I think the belief that the only actual snobbery in this country is the reverse snobbery is sort of similar to the idea that Christians are being persecuted.

    Granted, snobbery is not really the word I would use. But in some cases it fits. There are serious class divisions in this country. Unfortunately the people who are most unaware of these class divisions are the upper class. People who live in big cities in nice apartments and maybe take the subway to work because their company gives them a pre-tax discount on the pass. Everyone looks the same on the subway with the exception of a homeless guy or two.

    So to the rich, there doesn’t seem to be a class divsion. Everyone rides the subway, or takes a cab, everyone lives in happy apartments in or near the city, or takes the train in from the suburbs.

    And even when there is a situation that exposes us to people not quite as well off, we don’t hate them. That would be snobby and it would be declasse to hate a subset of the population that is less fortunate. Looking down on people because they live in small towns and don’t understand the virtues of kale is just pointless. We don’t need to be snobby, we have CSAs and all natural hand made jams shipped in from Amish country on electric cars.

    Of COURSE we don’t think we’re being snobby by spending an extra $5 for an organic orange. Just like the under educated, desperate, poor people who shop in places that don’t even HAVE a Wal-Mart don’t think they are being anti intellectual when they sneer at city folk.

    I’m sorry but Freddie is completely wrong here, but to that end, so is the Brit. We don’t have a snobbery problem or an anti snobbery problem. We have an opportunity gap. We have people given every advantage from birth spending thousands of dollars on a fucking purse, and people struggling just to stay in their trailer. So, we have to hate each other a little, if only so we can live with the guilt and jealousy that that kind of gap engenders.

  6. 6
    Marc says:

    @Shinobi: “We have an opportunity gap.”

    This is true. But conservatives like Crook play the reverse snobbery card in the interest of discrediting liberals and maintaining that opportunity gap.

    This is a really, really poor issue on which to play “both sides do it.”

  7. 7
    Freddie deBoer says:

    I don’t completely disagree, Shinobi. But I still find Crook totally full of it.

  8. 8
    Anthony says:

    Of COURSE we don’t think we’re being snobby by spending an extra $5 for an organic orange. Just like the under educated, desperate, poor people who shop in places that don’t even HAVE a Wal-Mart don’t think they are being anti intellectual when they sneer at city folk.

    ONE OF THESE THINGS ARE NOT LIKE THE OTHER

    Seriously if your example of snobbery is simply buying the expensive thing on one side, and hating different people on the other, you should probably reconsider your equivocation.

  9. 9
    srv says:

    This is about inferiority complexes. There’s a reason it’s Thomas Jefferson and not Bubba Jefferson. Pride in ignorance is not a virtue.

  10. 10
    What Have The Romans Ever Done for Us? (formerly MarkJ) says:

    Also, if he actually went to a working class bar and talked to some of those people, he might find out they aren’t all ignorant right wingers. He might actually find out that they often vote for effete elitist liberals, and support their policies. He might find out that his perception of that entire class of people is largely wrong. In short, he risks a blow to his supposed intellect that his ego could not withstand.

  11. 11
    Shinobi says:

    @Marc: I’m sorry but knowing actual people who feel like liberals are sneering down at them, I get why they feel that way. Because that’s how it looks to them. And the conservative media is good at playing off the differences there.

    I’m not trying to say the conservatives are the angels here. But I also think that there is some opportunity for a little self reflection, instead of “hey we’re not snobs they are anti snob.”

    Speaking from vast experience, you don’t actually have to mean to be snobby to be a fucking snob. It takes work to not come off that way, and I’m not sure liberals are all that great at that.

  12. 12
    Ian says:

    The word ‘oik’ isn’t used much any more, but that’s because it’s been replaced in the UK by the even more sneering ‘chav’. And the supermarket hierarchy still exists – granted, Tesco/Sainsburys/Asda-WalMart sit on the acceptable axis, but buy food from, say, Iceland, and yes, you’ll get similar comments to the Wal-Mart attitude he describes in the article. So if he can’t even get it right about his home country, I’m not trusting him on the US…

  13. 13
    Shinobi says:

    @Freddie deBoer: Oh YES he is unequivocally full of shit.

  14. 14
    Anthony says:

    @Shinobi:
    Great, liberals are snobs by virtue of fucking existing, thanks for the tip Agnew.

  15. 15
    schrodinger's cat says:

    Crook is full of crock. Back in the day when Sully was till at the Atlantic I used to read other Atlantic Bloggers fairly regularly. The one I hardly ever checked out was Crook. He is BORING. I think he is rehashing these old tales of latte sipping liberals is because no one reads him otherwise. He is just generating page clicks. So I am not going to give supercilious CC a page click.

  16. 16
    Shinobi says:

    @Anthony: Why would a person who can afford a $5 orange bother to hate poor people? You’d have to be a serious asshole to hate someone just because they are less fortunate. No one actually walks around saying “Fuck the poor.”

    Though they will go on at great length about the virtues of an all organic locally sourced vegan diet. Can’t afford it? What do you mean? it’s only a little more expensive! And you don’t want to put all those toxins in your body.”

    It’s not hate, it’s indifference, and ignorance. Which is better?

    And deserved or not I think Liberals have managed to become associated with this kind of new age privileged BS. Largely because conservatives have managed to associate us with it.

  17. 17
    Anthony says:

    That doesn’t make sense, you’re premising that whole statement on the idea the upper middle class liberals expect poor people to be just like them without giving any fucking evidence. I’m asking what’s inherently snobby in making your own purchasing decisions for yourself.

  18. 18
    dslak says:

    @Shinobi: I’m skeptical of these $5 organic oranges actually existing, unless they’re something rare like blood oranges, in which case the cost is due more to scarcity than labor.

    In any case, these people also tend to consider US agricultural policy to be ill-thought, and want it modified so that healthier, less contaminated food is more available to everyone.

    Are some of them snobs? Sure, but you’re picking on a sentiment some people who eat organic food might have and saying that, because these people exist, it’s reasonable for other people to infer that all liberals are snobs.

    There’s a step missing in your argument.

  19. 19
    daveNYC says:

    @Shinobi:

    Everyone looks the same on the subway with the exception of a homeless guy or two.

    Are you shitting me? Are you talking about the Prague subway or something?

  20. 20
    Bob2 says:

    Jon Stewart had one of my favorite clips on this sort of anti-intellectual behavior and the conservative media pandering/condescending/catering to it.

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/.....85158.html

  21. 21
    Rev. Dada Grind says:

    Nice of this Oxford chap to take time off from preparing for his Aspen Institute seminar (and yes, David Brooks will also be attending) to tell us how elitist the liberals are compared to “Real Americans”.

  22. 22
    handsmile says:

    Clive Crook has all the insight and impact on American mores and public discourse as, say, Jackson Diehl or Cal Thomas (one might even suggest Crook’s compatriot, Andrew Sullivan). Comparatively, Michael Kinsley and David Frum are veritable titans in the arena of public opinion. I strive to be reasonably catholic in my reading habits, but I don’t have enough time left on this planet to continue to read the Rt. Hon. Mr. Crook.

    That said, Freddie deBoer, I am curious whether you might be posting on Andrew Delbanco’s recent polemic, College: What It Was, Is, and Should Be or even Anthony Grafton’s review of same, “Can the Colleges Be Saved” in the current NYRB. (Don’t recall these being cited in your recent education threads, and apologies if hastily missed.)

  23. 23
    geg6 says:

    @daveNYC:

    I had the same reaction. That could only be said by someone who has never ridden the NY subway. Or didn’t pay attention at all, if he/she did.

  24. 24
    Egg Berry says:

    @Shinobi:

    No one actually walks around saying “Fuck the poor.”

    Really?

  25. 25
    Rafer Janders says:

    @Shinobi:

    Everyone looks the same on the subway with the exception of a homeless guy or two.

    You’ve never actually been on the subway, have you? Everyone most assuredly does not look the same. I have no idea how you could have written this, or what you could possibly even really mean by it.

  26. 26
    DFH no.6 says:

    I get this nonsense all the time at work (from sales and management), in my neighborhood, and among some family members, who portray themselves as “horny-handed sons of toil” and “victims” of some elitist liberal conspiracy to keep them down, when in fact they are six-figure earning white collar fortunates who are very high on the socioeconomic ladder.

    To hear them tell it, every one of them got where they are through sheer dint of their own effort, with no help from anyone else, while the liberal elite take from them and give handouts to the lazy and shiftless so these undeserving layabouts continue to keep the liberal elite in power.

    That’s the powerful narrative that’s a key part of the core of modern movement conservatism, and it’s believed implicitly by scores of millions in this country.

    Believing this bullshit story is what made most of the politically-conservative people I know personally conservative to start with.

  27. 27
    Mark S. says:

    Many of my American friends have an irrationally intense loathing of Wal-Mart, as though delivering bargains to the masses isn’t quite proper.

    Riiiight. That’s the reason people hate Wal-Mart. It has nothing to do with any of their business practices or how they treat their workers. It’s because they deliver bargains to the masses, and that really pisses people off.

  28. 28
    Gus says:

    In language Mr. Crook might understand, he’s a tosser, a wanker and a git.

  29. 29
    Mnemosyne says:

    @Shinobi:

    Of COURSE we don’t think we’re being snobby by spending an extra $5 for an organic orange. Just like the under educated, desperate, poor people who shop in places that don’t even HAVE a Wal-Mart don’t think they are being anti intellectual when they sneer at city folk.

    So upper-class and middle-class people should stop buying organic and start shopping at Wal-Mart so we don’t make other people feel bad about themselves for being poor?

    You’re buying into Crook’s claims hook, line and sinker and you don’t even seem to realize it.

  30. 30
    schrodinger's cat says:

    @Mark S.: So true. I used to shop fairly regularly at Walmart in the 90’s, mainly for stuff like shampoo, laundry detergent etc. We did not have a Target, where I lived till the early 00’s.
    Currently where we live we have both, in the neighboring strip malls. The prices at both are similar, Walmart has a better garden store, and better back to school sales, but otherwise Target is better in every way, cleaner, better lit and more choices. So even if you don’t take into account the strong arm tactics Walmart indulges in with respect to to its supply chain and labor, Target comes out ahead.

    I also think that due to their rapid expansion, the quality of Walmart stores and their merchandise has gone down over the years. For example the appliances GE makes for Walmart are crap.

  31. 31
    handsmile says:

    Finally looked at that “Coors Light” clip appended to FdB’s post and realized ruefully that I have as much in common with my fellow Americans cavorting there as I do with these Andaman Islanders.

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/worl.....fari-video

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/worl.....new-videos

    Of course I suspect that Mr. Crook would opine that the islanders should be grateful that tourists are introducing them to consumer electronics and other advantages of civilization.

    I gotta go check the telescope and see how that meteor’s doing.

  32. 32
    schrodinger's cat says:

    @Mnemosyne: Actually Walmart is the biggest buyer of organic food, in the country, due to its sheer size.

  33. 33
    Roger Moore says:

    @schrodinger’s cat:

    I also think that due to their rapid expansion, the quality of Walmart stores and their merchandise has gone down over the years. For example the appliances GE makes for Walmart are crap.

    It’s not so much their rapid expansion as it is their emphasis on price over any other concern. They’re constantly pushing their suppliers to provide stuff at lower and lower prices. Once you’ve stripped out unnecessary frills, you can only lower costs further by cutting corners, and the way to get your product on the shelf at Walmart is to be willing to cut more corners than anyone else.

  34. 34
    Daulnay says:

    Freddie, you’re mistaken when you say,
    “If you travel in socially liberal circles and you openly mock the rubes, you’re going to get a lot of pushback.”

    Alexandra Pelosi and Bill Maher feel comfortable ‘mocking the rubes’, and they have a lot of company. This may not be true in your liberal circles, and it isn’t in mine, but it’s plainly true in some.

    Some of the posts here on BJ are openly contemptuous of ordinary, ‘flyover-country’ Americans, and I haven’t seen “a lot of pushback”. Some, but not enough to keep it from cropping up again.

    Do you really think America has a “pride-in-ignorance problem, a reverse-snobbery snobbery?” Consider that maybe it is a feature, not a bug. That you see it as a problem is then a form of snobbery, no?

    The country gets a nice dynamic, experts are always challenged. They cannot (outside the Village) get complacent and lazy. The country is full of skeptics that do not accept their pronouncements at face value. It’s frustrating for people who think they know better, but also much better for creating intellectual ferment.

  35. 35
    Mnemosyne says:

    @schrodinger’s cat:

    Clearly that can’t possibly be true because only SNOBBISH ELITISTS buy organic and we all have to be aware of how we appear to Wal-Mart shoppers.

    Maybe it marks me out as one of those snobbish elitists who look down on the poor and uneducated, but I do think it’s a problem with our culture that believing that climate change is happening and that evolution exists are defined as culture markers and not, ya know, actual facts.

  36. 36
    DFH no.6 says:

    @Shinobi:

    Why would a person who can afford a $5 orange bother to hate poor people? You’d have to be a serious asshole to hate someone just because they are less fortunate. No one actually walks around saying “Fuck the poor.”

    You couldn’t be more wrong about this. Have you actually met very many conservatives?

    Being a “serious asshole” is not only common as dirt in that crowd, it’s a mantle that’s often deliberately and proudly taken up.

    I’m surrounded by them (living for decades here in Sheriff Joe Arpaio County), and I guarantee “hating the poor” is a key component of the conservative “value” system.

    Certainly by most of the well-off conservatives I’ve known (like the majority of my Scottsdale neighbors), but even by many who are relatively poor themselves (these are the conservatives who earn at or below the median income, say, but consider themselves middle class and only temporarily non-wealthy). The “crabs in a bucket” conservatives.

    I’ve even heard “fuck the poor” stated just that baldly.

    It has to be the right kind of poor, though. Primarily urban, non-white likely Democratic supporters.

    You seemed to have missed this part, but fascism is at heart a hateful ideology.

    “Devil take the hindmost” is bedrock conservatism.

  37. 37
    Mnemosyne says:

    @Daulnay:

    The country is full of skeptics that do not accept their pronouncements at face value. It’s frustrating for people who think they know better, but also much better for creating intellectual ferment.

    And by “intellectual ferment” you’re referring to the whooping cough and measles epidemics that are happening because skeptics don’t get their kids vaccinated, right?

  38. 38
    schrodinger's cat says:

    The country gets a nice dynamic, experts are always challenged. They cannot (outside the Village) get complacent and lazy. The country is full of skeptics that do not accept their pronouncements at face value. It’s frustrating for people who think they know better, but also much better for creating intellectual ferment.

    Not accepting scientific fact does not create intellectual ferment. Case in point, evolution. It stops the creation of consensus where immediate action is needed, like taking steps towards reducing emissions and towards a greener economy.

  39. 39
    Roger Moore says:

    @Mnemosyne:

    And by “intellectual ferment” you’re referring to the whooping cough and measles epidemics that are happening because skeptics don’t get their kids vaccinated, right?

    No, that would be “biological ferment”.

  40. 40
    Rafer Janders says:

    Some of the posts here on BJ are openly contemptuous of ordinary, ‘flyover-country’ Americans,

    Ordinary, flyover-country Americans like John Cole and Soonergrunt?

  41. 41
    SteveM says:

    He loses the plot here:

    Many of my American friends have an irrationally intense loathing of Wal-Mart, as though delivering bargains to the masses isn’t quite proper. I mean, have you seen the people who shop at Wal-Mart?

    Many of your American friends loathe of Wal-Mart, Clive, because of its corporate practices, not because of its clientele. You can argue that those corporate practices are not awful if you’d like, or that the retailers Wal-Mart loathers favor do awful things themselves — but no, it’s much easier to have a jolly time putting the boot in with liberals as your target. And, of course, if you’re a foreigner and you decide to try to understand America by asking Charles Murray to be you’re guide, you’re as much of a fool as if you were an ex-monk and virgin who wanted to know how to meet a compatible woman and you sought out advice from Rush Limbaugh.

  42. 42
    schrodinger's cat says:

    Also isn’t it elitist to assume that the so called non-elitist, non liberal, “real Americans” don’t care about the environment or what they put in their mouths. I mean for example you may not be able to buy organic meat because it is too expensive but you could still buy organic fruits and veggies from farmers markets or grow them yourself. Isn’t it condescending to assume that the “poors” only want to eat junk food.

  43. 43
    schrodinger's cat says:

    Also why does not living on either coast make you naturally more worthy? Is it because many of those places vote for the GOP?

  44. 44
    Mnemosyne says:

    To back up a little bit, I don’t think anyone believes that there’s no such thing as liberal snobbery. The argument here is that liberal snobbery is not as damaging to our culture because it doesn’t insist that evidence of climate change be ignored or that Wal-Mart’s harmful business practices have to be excused.

    Bill Maher is an asshole, but frankly the harmful part of his assholery is his stupid, anti-scientific anti-vaccination stance, not his calling out Republican stupidity.

  45. 45
    Another Halocene Human says:

    @dslak: I’ve run into serious food snobs in alternative nutrition communities, but I would hardly call them liberals.

    They’re more like the wealthy vegans Penn Jillette confronted on Bullsh!t, when he wonders how the vegans intend to feed the worlds billions of people with their impractical diet and the privileged failmonkeys blink and him inquisitively and ask “But what kind of people would they be?” [=people fed on a non-vegan diet]

    IOW, they’re cool with a global dieoff because people like them are higher quality.

    Just because a lot of liberals are involved with a certain subculture, it does not follow that membership in that subculture makes you a liberal. There are lots of rich Republicans who buy organic because they’ve bought into claims of it being healthier, safer, etc.

    FTR, the communities I’ve wasted the most time in are paleo. Lots of liberals and politically neutral people but also plenty of social dominators who think that people who don’t eat their way are mentally, physically, and morally lacking and deserve to be kicked repeatedly.

    Food snobbery is about access, education, and wealth.

  46. 46
    Another Halocene Human says:

    @daveNYC: Everybody looks the same on the Prague subway? Were we on the same Prague subway?

  47. 47
    Daulnay says:

    @schrodinger’s cat:
    “Not accepting scientific fact does not create intellectual ferment. Case in point, evolution.”

    One of my college professors, a geologist (Brian J. Skinner), said that fundamentalist Christians make very good geologists. They come in thinking they are going to prove part of evolution wrong. They think critically, find weak spots and problems, and end up advancing the field.

    I was surprised to hear this, being a ‘look down on the ignorant fundies’ type then, but it makes sense. People who challenge the orthodoxy will advance knowledge, as long as they accept the tools of logic and evidence that science is built upon.

    The ‘can’t even open my mind a tiny crack’ types won’t do anything, of course, but there are plenty of others who will engage, and argue, and end up following the evidence.

  48. 48
    Dan says:

    I buy organic food at Walmart. And at Target. I am a double reverse anti snob. I hate myself so much.

  49. 49
    Daulnay says:

    @Mnemosyne:
    “Bill Maher is an asshole, but frankly the harmful part of his assholery is his stupid, anti-scientific anti-vaccination stance, not his calling out Republican stupidity”

    You don’t think his “people who disagree with us are stupid rubes” attitude isn’t harmful? That it doesn’t alienate people who might be reasoned with? Bill Maher helps poison political dialog. Funny, but not helpful.

  50. 50
    schrodinger's cat says:

    @Daulnay: Bill Maher is on HBO, he reaches far fewer people than Hannity or O Reilly, not exactly people known for being nice to their political opponents. OR is it OKIYAR.

  51. 51
    Mnemosyne says:

    @Daulnay:

    You don’t think his “people who disagree with us are stupid rubes” attitude isn’t harmful?

    Given that the “stupid rubes” in his opinion are people who want to protect their children from preventable diseases like measles and pertussis, I’m pretty sure I said that I find his attitude to be EXTREMELY harmful since it’s leading to actual deaths.

    But you don’t want to hear that “skeptics” like Maher are actively harming others with their anti-scientific stances, so you completely ignored that part of what I said.

  52. 52
    Another Halocene Human says:

    @<a href="#comment-3246350">Bob2: Nice. Thanks. I didn’t see that clip when it came out. Wow, she’s an amazing violinist. But I could see dumbing down when you work with Steve Doocy every day. I suspect it’s sexism, though… wouldn’t do for the femme to be the smartest one in the room. (Gah, it’s Steve Doocy. That’s not hard.)

    @geg6:

    I had the same reaction. That could only be said by someone who has never ridden the NY subway. Or didn’t pay attention at all, if he/she did.

    Apropos to another thread, perhaps it was meant figuratively and not literally. Reminded of that music video with “Jenny from the block” (JLo). There’s a reason celebs aren’t often spotted on the subway… we are all equal within its maws (except for the masturbators). You can’t make a grand entrance or have your driver illegally double park or have your “people” shove the hoi polloi away. If you can pay the fare, you’re in. Perhaps that is what is meant?

  53. 53
    Mnemosyne says:

    @Daulnay:

    The ‘can’t even open my mind a tiny crack’ types won’t do anything, of course, but there are plenty of others who will engage, and argue, and end up following the evidence.

    So they follow the evidence and realize that evolution is real? Or was your prof claiming that they maintained their firm belief that the Earth is 6,000 years old and yet somehow made scientific advances despite maintaining that belief?

  54. 54
    Another Halocene Human says:

    @schrodinger’s cat:

    I also think that due to their rapid expansion, the quality of Walmart stores and their merchandise has gone down over the years. For example the appliances GE makes for Walmart are crap.

    Feature, not bug. Walmart turns the screws on suppliers once they are captured to cheapen the product and also to squeeze out the suppliers profits so that Walmart makes more money.

  55. 55
    Daulnay says:

    @Mnemosyne:
    “And by “intellectual ferment” you’re referring to the whooping cough and measles epidemics that are happening because skeptics don’t get their kids vaccinated, right?”

    Yea, I live in one of the counties in the country where the people who don’t vaccinate their kids were causing a major health problem. It’s not ‘flyover country’, but one of the most wealthy and liberal places in the country.

    The “liberals are open-minded and scientific and conservatives are ignorant and medieval” attitude is pretty obnoxious. In my experience, liberals can be as ignorant and unscientific as those on the right. Many of the people in the country, on both left and right, wouldn’t know logic if it bit them on their nether parts. Reasoning either.

    Rather than put it down to anti-intellectualism, consider that our schools don’t teach logic, dialectic, rhetoric, or reasoning independent of other subjects. IMO, they should.

  56. 56
    schrodinger's cat says:

    @Another Halocene Human: It is not a sound business strategy. After my hand mixer, melted in the soup (Made by GE for Walmart). I have not bought any appliances from Walmart. Also I returned the said mixer and got my money back. Yes I like a good deal but if stuff doesn’t work it is not a good deal at all.

  57. 57
    Daulnay says:

    @Mnemosyne:
    My prof was claiming that the skepticism they brought to the subject ended up making them very good, productive geologists. They also ended up accepting the evidence of a very old earth. I suspect that those who didn’t quit trying to be geologists.

  58. 58
    Another Halocene Human says:

    @Daulnay: It turns out human beings respond pretty strongly to the confidence of the speaker. Authoritarians and fascists use this to their advantage. While it may be unkind and offputting to some to hear nonsense firmly ridiculed, there’s no vice in confidence when it is earned (decades of study and experiment) and it may actually be useful for those who are looking for an expert opinion in something they know not of.

    It’s a problem when you have, say, pharmaceutical companies pimping products of marginal value and then having to withdraw their product from the market and pay thousands of people off. Overconfidence in the nutrition field, likewise, helped fuel great distrust of both nutrition science and scientists and science reporting in general.

    The competent have a fear of sounding too confident because they know, as Hume did, that nothing is certain. So it takes someone who is slightly delusional, like a Maher, to express such confidence. And yeah, I think he’s a jackass. But the British do have the right idea on one thing: homeopathy is a crock, and stating that with utter confidence is in the public interest. Too many people are having their pockets picked and, in some cases, delaying needed treatment, leading to diminished health outcomes.

  59. 59
    Daulnay says:

    @Mnemosyne:

    Given that the “stupid rubes” in his opinion are people who want to protect their children from preventable diseases like measles and pertussis, I’m pretty sure I said that I find his attitude to be EXTREMELY harmful since it’s leading to actual deaths.

    But you don’t want to hear that “skeptics” like Maher are actively harming others with their anti-scientific stances, so you completely ignored that part of what I said.

    Sorry, I missed the part where I had to acknowledge what was obvious. My point was that his attitude is very harmful in other ways. It goes way beyond merely ‘calling out’ Republican stupidity.

  60. 60
    Mnemosyne says:

    @Daulnay:

    Yea, I live in one of the counties in the country where the people who don’t vaccinate their kids were causing a major health problem. It’s not ‘flyover country’, but one of the most wealthy and liberal places in the country.

    The problem started in places like California (though I wouldn’t call San Diego County “liberal” except by comparison to someplace like Arizona) but if you followed my links, you would see that the problem is spreading to “flyover country” since they just had a large, nasty outbreak in Indiana. So you can claim that the problem started because it was fashionable for wealthy idiots to not vaccinate, but the fad certainly has not restricted itself to the wealthy or even the middle-class.

    Rather than put it down to anti-intellectualism, consider that our schools don’t teach logic, dialectic, rhetoric, or reasoning independent of other subjects. IMO, they should.

    And why do you think schools don’t teach those subjects? Could it have anything to do with, I don’t know, anti-intellectualism declaring that those are useless, egghead skills for kids to learn and they should be spending all of their time on practical things like math and reading?

  61. 61
    Mnemosyne says:

    @Daulnay:

    My prof was claiming that the skepticism they brought to the subject ended up making them very good, productive geologists. They also ended up accepting the evidence of a very old earth. I suspect that those who didn’t quit trying to be geologists.

    So they weren’t actually anti-intellectual, since they were willing to learn and accept new evidence in spite of their beliefs. They were ignorant and had mistaken beliefs, but they used accepted scientific standards to examine those beliefs and even come up with some new and interesting theories because they approached from a slightly different angle.

  62. 62
    Daulnay says:

    @Another Halocene Human:

    The competent have a fear of sounding too confident because they know, as Hume did, that nothing is certain. So it takes someone who is slightly delusional, like a Maher, to express such confidence. And yeah, I think he’s a jackass. But the British do have the right idea on one thing: homeopathy is a crock, and stating that with utter confidence is in the public interest. Too many people are having their pockets picked and, in some cases, delaying needed treatment, leading to diminished health outcomes.

    Yea, there’s a downside to all the skepticism and distrust of experts. No kidding! There’s also the upside that I pointed out. Maybe we can agree that it’s debatable whether the one is worth the other.

  63. 63
    Tim in SF says:

    ” 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.”

    It’s not snobbery. It’s that you don’t hit down. Nobody is surprised or impressed by stupid hillbillies getting shown-up by sophisticated city-folk. There are no winners, there. That’s why all the mythologizing is in the other direction – the one time out of a hundred that the sister-fucking bumpkin outsmarts the person with all their teeth.

  64. 64
    James Hare says:

    I live in the People’s Republic of Vermont. We gave Obama his second-biggest margin in 2008. We were the first state to legalize gay marriage through the legislature. If Obamacare stays on the books, we’re going single-payer as soon as possible.

    There is not a single Target in Vermont. We have plenty of Walmarts.

  65. 65
    Daulnay says:

    @Mnemosyne:

    And why do you think schools don’t teach those subjects? Could it have anything to do with, I don’t know, anti-intellectualism declaring that those are useless, egghead skills for kids to learn and they should be spending all of their time on practical things like math and reading?

    Well, if most of the schools in university towns and other ‘intellectual’ communities taught those skills, you might have a case. They don’t.

    My kids attend one of the top schools in my state, e.g. offers classes in biotechnology, taught by a PhD former researcher in genetic engineering, and similar teachers for other subjects. Phenomenally good teachers. “every kid goes to college”. My daughter (who has been taught logic and dialectic at home), complains that none of her classmates reason logically. None of my kids have had received formal in-school training in logic, outside of geometry class.

    Since it’s not anti-intellectualism, why don’t we teach logic and reasoning any more? We’ve abandoned a pair of subjects that has been part of the curriculum since the Romans, a pair that has clear practical utility.

  66. 66
    Daulnay says:

    @Mnemosyne:

    So you can claim that the problem started because it was fashionable for wealthy idiots to not vaccinate, but the fad certainly has not restricted itself to the wealthy or even the middle-class

    Putting words in someone’s mouth is a cheap rhetorical trick. It gets in the way of having a real discussion, and the abuser deserves contempt. (Note, I’m giving you the honor of malice, rather than the option of ignorance and stupidity.)

  67. 67
    MCA1 says:

    @DFH no.6: This. That’s why Crook’s bs is so condemnable. “Snobbery” and “elitism” may or may not be the right semantics, and it’s hard to talk about this issue without confusing it with the emerging undynamic, UK-style class stratification system we’ve got going on here.

    But what Crooks is doing is feeding the narrative that allows rightwing capture of people who’d be much better served by different tax and economic policies than what the GOP espouses. They’ve effectively stayed afloat by making the 2-25% turn their economic resentment laterally and downward, instead of upward at the Masters of the Universe. They do this by getting that demographic to demonize both those below them on the economic ladder, as somehow dragging us all into bankruptcy, and the mythical liberal elite who coddle those hippie freeloaders. It’s a delicate balancing act: the upper middle and middle classes need to simultaneously feel above their actual station, jealous of their own peers, and aggrieved and put-upon by some sort of elite. Freddie’s right in that part of that balancing act has been the encouragement of open hostility toward intellectualism and sophistication, as those things are generally associated with liberals. Thus the demonizing of anyone who would dare eat good produce and drink craft beer without apologizing for it, the reflexive cries of “PC police” all the time, etc., etc. Crook is just doing his part to perpetuate the myth that the snotty group out there looking down its nose at DFH no. 6’s neighbors is yuppie liberals and urban sophisticates, instead of the superrich.

  68. 68
    Joel says:

    Crook’s piece is high irony, if only for the opening line where he identifies himself as a “working class kid” who went to Oxford. Those two facts, plus his Britishness, make him inherently superior to others.

  69. 69
    pseudonymous in nc says:

    I can only presume that it’s precisely his Britishness that has led him to so misunderstand America.

    Bigot. Actually, I think “calculated authenticity” is a very American trait, and it works in both directions, Gatsby-style.

    @Daulnay:

    The country is full of skeptics that do not accept their pronouncements at face value. It’s frustrating for people who think they know better, but also much better for creating intellectual ferment.

    That’s fine in theory; in practice, it’s bullshit. What you actually get is the byproducts of fermentation: heat and carbon dioxide.

  70. 70
    Mnemosyne says:

    @Daulnay:

    Well, if most of the schools in university towns and other ‘intellectual’ communities taught those skills, you might have a case. They don’t.

    What part of “anti-intellectualism is a nationwide cultural problem” are you not getting? It’s not a problem just of the upper classes or just of the lower classes. It’s a problem with American culture all across the board. Upper-class people are just as likely to express anti-intellectualism as lower-class people. In fact, Clive Crook just did it right here. So, no, your upper-class school district is not exempt from the overwhelming anti-intellectual cultural problem that we have just because the parents are rich and nominally liberal.

    Crook is trying to claim that the problem is that liberals in the upper and middle classes are looking down on conservatives in the lower classes, but that’s not the problem. The problem is that some people are insisting that we judge public policy based on facts and logic and others are insisting that we base them on emotion and faith.

    Putting words in someone’s mouth is a cheap rhetorical trick. It gets in the way of having a real discussion, and the abuser deserves contempt. (Note, I’m giving you the honor of malice, rather than the option of ignorance and stupidity.)

    So your point was not that the anti-vaccination movement couldn’t possibly be anti-intellectual because it originated with rich, supposedly liberal people? Then what was your point in stating that the problem started among liberals in California?

  71. 71
    Mnemosyne says:

    @MCA1:

    Crook is just doing his part to perpetuate the myth that the snotty group out there looking down its nose at DFH no. 6’s neighbors is yuppie liberals and urban sophisticates, instead of the superrich.

    QFT.

  72. 72
    Mnemosyne says:

    To get back to what Freddie originally said:

    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.”

    The argument is not that lower-class people are dominating the culture, or that upper and middle class yuppies are mean to lower-class people. The argument is that AS A CULTURE we celebrate anti-intellectualism and ignorance, and that celebration comes from the top, not the bottom. The Koch brothers may have billions of dollars in the bank, but they’re just as proud of being ignorant as that guy in the beer commercial.

  73. 73
    Marc says:

    @Shinobi: “I’m sorry but knowing actual people who feel like liberals are sneering down at them, I get why they feel that way.”

    Oh, well, if you know some actual proles then I’ll gladly defer to your pith-helmet reporting. Sorry, Shinobi, but knowing people who think liberals look down on them isn’t exactly a rare honor, it doesn’t make you an ethnographer, and it’s not a defense of Crook’s equivocation, or yours.

    But it does explain why you seem to understand the subway about as well as David Brooks understands the Applebee’s salad bar.

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