It has often been said that today's
rank-and-file conservative is
"anti-elite." I've always been uncomfortable
with that characterization because — in
my experience — conservatives are quite
respectful of certain kinds of elites,
like elite soldiers, elite athletes,
and talented musicians and other
artists (provided those artists don't
believe that their abilities also provide them
with unique insight into, say,
health-care policy or war strategy).
The elite that conservatives tend
to disdain is the contemporary
intellectual (or academic) elite,
not because intellectual excellence
isn't obtainable or worth respecting
but because we look at what
passes for academic thinking
these days and, frankly, it's
Nowhere is this high-minded mediocrity
on better display than in the
near-universal disdain for Sarah Palin.
And today's Inside Higher Ed provides
a tremendous gift, a near-perfect
example of condescending nothingness
masquerading as insight.
Called "Palintology," the column,
by Scott McLemee, begins:
Important as it was, the campaign of
Barack Obama was not the only
history-making element of the
2008 presidential election.
With Sarah Palin, we crossed another
epochal divide. The boundary
between reality television and
American politics (already somewhat
weakened by the continuous
"American Idol" plebiscite) finally collapsed.
Her campaign's basic formula was
familiar: members of an ordinary
middle-class family turn into
instantly recognizable national
celebrities while competing
for valuable prizes.
This is good stuff. Let's begin with
a shot at reality TV and then deliver
the ultimate insult: that Sarah Palin
is like one of "those people," you know,
a member of the "middle class"
desperate for fame. How her emphasis
on her humble roots is any different
from John Edwards's "son of a millworker"
schtick, or Joe Biden's emphasis
(sometimes false) on his blue-collar ancestry,
or even our own prep school- and
Ivy League-educated president's emphasis
on the challenges of his upbringing
is left unexplained. I guess
intelligent people should just know
that Sarah Palin's emphasis on her
"every(woman)" identity was
somehow worthy of contempt.
But that's not all, of course.
I love this part:
I'm not sure what Sarah Palin's
favorite work of postmodern theory
might be (all of them, probably)
but she seems to take her lead
from Jean Baudrillard's Seduction.
Other political figures use the media
as part of what JB calls "production."
That is, they generate signs and
images meant to create an effect
within politics. For the Baudrillardian
"seducer," by contrast, the power
to create fascination is
its own reward.
What is Joe Biden's favorite work
of postmodern theory?
Nancy Pelosi's? (I'm pretty sure that
Barack Obama has a favorite postmodern
theorist because he seems to be
that kind of guy.)
And as for the power to create
fascination being "its own reward": What
evidence is there that Sarah Palin enjoys
this more than, say, virtually any
other public figure?
Politicians are notoriously addicted
to crowds and the limelight.
But I suppose other politicians are
mostly motivated by a desire
to serve the public, generating
"signs and images" for
"political" ends — but not Sarah Palin.
She has to be more cynical,
more self-regarding, right?
Watching Palin respond to questions
about her book Going Rogue
(or not respond to them, often enough)
is, from this perspective,
no laughing matter.
She grows ever more comfortable
talking about herself.
Forgive me, but I thought the book
was an autobiography.
Is this too cynical?
I fear it may not be cynical enough.
For it assumes that Palin will
eventually be integrated into
her party's apparatus and turned
into a mouthpiece of old-school
Republican electoral politics — a
basic platform of tax cuts for
the rich and unregulated handgun
ownership for everybody else.
Yep, that is the "basic" Republican platform.
Tax cuts and guns. I thought we were
all about "guns and religion." Tax cuts
I'll have to update my talking points.
Of course Republicans have nothing
at all to say about foreign policy,
health care, abortion, marriage,
banking regulation, energy policy,
or any other relevant topic — it all
goes back to the "basic platform.
" Lower taxes and Glocks.
At this point, the column takes a bit
of a turn, lionizing the publishers
of Going Rouge, a collection of critical
essays about Sarah Palin.
Why lionize them?
Because — hold on to your hats — they
don't have much a budget, so they're
creatively using the Internet
to publicize their book.
That's a novel idea.
Please, tell me more.
But one can only lionize marginal
left-wing publishers for so long
before returning to the bogey(woman)
of the moment. I loved this bit:
But she is busy demonstrating
a strong intuitive grasp of how
mass media can be used — among
other things, to change the subject.
An example is the item Palin
posted on Facebook in early
August: "The America I know and love
is not one in which my parents
or my baby with Down Syndrome
will have to stand in front of
Obama's 'death panel' so his
bureaucrats can decide,
based on a subjective judgment
of their 'level of productivity
in society,' whether they are
worthy of health care.
Such a system is downright evil."
This was fantasy. But it was
effective fantasy. To borrow again
from Baudrillard, it seduced — abolishing
reality and replacing it
with a delirious facsimile.
I hate to "borrow again from Baudrillard,"
but this is a rich irony — coming
from a writer who just reduced
the entirety of Republican thought to
"a basic platform of tax cuts for the rich
and unregulated handgun ownership
for everyone else." Who, exactly, is
"abolishing reality and replacing it
with a delirious facsimile"?
The column ends thus:
Well, consistency is, after all,
the hobgoblin of tiny minds.
Sarah Palin is playing the political game
on a much grander scale — with
rules she may be rewriting as she goes.
With a first printing of 1.5 million
copies of her book, I don't know that
the intervention of an upstart press
can pose much of a challenge.
But OR Books deserves credit for
trying. Someone has to speak up
for reality from time to time.
Otherwise it will just disappear.
Let's see . . . a politician rises from a
small town, governs a small
(by population) state, and then runs
for high office in part by emphasizing
their humble roots. Nope, that's
never been done before.
I guess she really is "rewriting
as she goes." Thanks, Mr. McLemee,
for speaking up for reality.Link here
Sent from Kigali, Rwanda