Présidence Obama: Vous avez dit élitiste? (Tea party takes on new cognitive elite)

C’est dur de ne pas sembler distant à la Maison-Blanche. Certaines lettres que je lis le soir me brisent le coeur, d’autres me motivent, mais les caméras ne sont pas là pour le filmer. Obama
Les tea party ne se résument pas à des positions pro life et anti-masturbatoires, la révolte est bien plus large et profonde (…), elle est sans doute à rapprocher aux mouvements souterrains résilients depuis des années qui se font désormais jour en Hollande, en Allemagne, en Suède maintenant, en Italie et en France depuis quelques temps, à savoir le refus, hétérogène, de se voir imposer d’en haut une vision idéaliste, désincarnée, réduisant le vivre ensemble au "care", comparant toute volonté de conserver un certain art de vivre comme réactionnaire, analysant enfin tout refus de confondre ouverture et disparition comme raciste. (…) Les tea party sont évidemment dénoncées par les idéologues de Hollywood, de New York, de Washington DC, et aussi de st Germain des Prés puisqu’ils incarnent tous le nihilisme étatiste dénoncé par les tea party en ce qu’il parasite l’espace public, l’idéal public, la volonté commune, et très pratiquement les fonds publics pour fabriquer leur gloire par la victimisation (du "care") c’est-à-dire par la transformation du peuple en assistés scotchés aux frasques de leur ego supposé artistique (…). Il ne s’agit donc pas de populisme, mais de se libérer de chaînes installées à nos poignets pour notre bien alors que ces bienfaiteurs sont en réalité le principal obstacle pour réellement faire de l’espace commun un bien au service de toutes et de tous. Lucien SA Oulahbib (16/9/2010)
Comme si le fait d’avoir été un étudiant brillant et d’être intéressé par les idées et le débat intellectuel était en soi une tare. Jean-Sébastien Stehli
Vous allez dans certaines petites villes de Pennsylvanie où, comme dans beaucoup de petites villes du Middle West, les emplois ont disparu depuis maintenant 25 ans et n’ont été remplacés par rien d’autre (…) Et il n’est pas surprenant qu’ils deviennent pleins d’amertume, qu’ils s’accrochent aux armes à feu ou à la religion, ou à leur antipathie pour ceux qui ne sont pas comme eux, ou encore à un sentiment d’hostilité envers les immigrants.Barack Obama
Part of the reason that our politics seems so tough right now, and facts and science and argument does not seem to be winning the day all the time, is because we’re hard-wired not to always think clearly when we’re scared. Barack Obama
Nous qui vivons dans les régions côtières des villes bleues, nous lisons plus de livres et nous allons plus souvent au théâtre que ceux qui vivent au fin fond du pays. Nous sommes à la fois plus sophistiqués et plus cosmopolites – parlez-nous de nos voyages scolaires en Chine et en Provence ou, par exemple, de notre intérêt pour le bouddhisme. Mais par pitié, ne nous demandez pas à quoi ressemble la vie dans l’Amérique rouge. Nous n’en savons rien. Nous ne savons pas qui sont Tim LaHaye et Jerry B. Jenkins. […] Nous ne savons pas ce que peut bien dire James Dobson dans son émission de radio écoutée par des millions d’auditeurs. Nous ne savons rien de Reba et Travis. […] Nous sommes très peu nombreux à savoir ce qu’il se passe à Branson dans le Missouri, même si cette ville reçoit quelque sept millions de touristes par an; pas plus que nous ne pouvons nommer ne serait-ce que cinq pilotes de stock-car. […] Nous ne savons pas tirer au fusil ni même en nettoyer un, ni reconnaître le grade d’un officier rien qu’à son insigne. Quant à savoir à quoi ressemble une graine de soja poussée dans un champ… David Brooks
Tout ce que demande aujourd’hui le Kansas, c’est qu’on lui donne un petit coup de main pour se clouer à sa croix d’or.(…) Votez pour interdire l’avortement et vous aurez une bonne réduction de l’impôt sur le capital (…). Votez pour faire la nique à ces universitaires politiquement corrects et vous aurez la déréglementation de l’électricité (…). Votez pour résister au terrorisme et vous aurez la privatisation de la sécurité sociale. Thomas Frank
The elites are no longer in touch with what the country is really thinking. Sharron Angle (Nevada Senate candidate)
I didn’t go to Yale. Christine O’Donnell (Delaware Senate, campaign ad)
Take that climate change legislation! I’ll take "dead aim" at the policy, because it’s "bad for West Virginia. Joe Manchin (candidat democrate victorieux de Virginie occidentale)
When the rich former CEO of one of America’s largest companies casts herself as a victim of elitism, we have surely strayed far from any literal definition of the term.
Because they can offer full scholarships, the wealthier Ivy League schools in particular are far more diverse, racially and economically, than they were a few decades ago. Once upon a time, you got into Harvard or Yale solely because of your alumnus grandfather. Nowadays, your alumnus grandfather still helps, but only as long as you did well on the SAT, captained your ice hockey team and, in your senior year, raised a million dollars for charity (the last was not a requirement when I got into Yale, but it seems to be now). If you did all that and come from a broken home in Nevada, so much the better.
I suspect the "anti-elite-educationism" that Bell predicted is growing now not despite the rise of meritocracy but because of it. The old Establishment was resented, but only because its wealth and power were perceived as undeserved. Those outside could at least feel they were cleverer and savvier, and they could blame their failures on "the system." Nowadays, successful Americans, however ridiculously lucky they have been, often smugly see themselves as "deserving." Meanwhile, the less successful are more likely to feel it’s their own fault — or to feel that others feel it’s their fault — even if they have simply been unlucky. Anne Applebaum
Now another famous beauty with glowing skin and a powerful current, Sarah Palin, has made ignorance fashionable. You struggle to name Supreme Court cases, newspapers you read and even founding fathers you admire? No problem. You endorse a candidate for the Pennsylvania Senate seat who is the nominee in West Virginia? Oh, well. At least you’re not one of those “spineless” elites with an Ivy League education, like President Obama, who can’t feel anything. It’s news to Christine O’Donnell that the Constitution guarantees separation of church and state. It’s news to Joe Miller, whose guards handcuffed a journalist, and to Carl Paladino, who threatened The New York Post’s Fred Dicker, that the First Amendment exists, even in Tea Party Land. Michele Bachmann calls Smoot-Hawley Hoot-Smalley. Sharron Angle sank to new lows of obliviousness when she told a classroom of Hispanic kids in Las Vegas: “Some of you look a little more Asian to me.” As Palin tweeted in July about her own special language adding examples from W. and Obama: “ ‘Refudiate,’ ‘misunderestimate,’ ‘wee-wee’d up.’ English is a living language. Shakespeare liked to coin new words too. Got to celebrate it!” On Saturday, at a G.O.P. rally in Anaheim, Calif., Palin mockingly noted that you won’t find her invoking Mao or Saul Alinsky. She says she believes in American exceptionalism. But when it comes to the people running the country, exceptionalism is suspect; leaders should be — as Palin, O’Donnell and Angle keep saying — just like you. In Marilyn’s America, there were aspirations. The studios tackled literary novels rather than one-liners like “He’s Just Not That Into You” and navel-gazing drivel like “Eat Pray Love.” Walt Disney’s “Fantasia” paired cartoon characters with famous composers. Even Bugs Bunny did Wagner. But in Sarah’s America, we’ve refudiated all that. Maureen Dowd (NYT, October 19, 2010)
There have been movements like this before — the Civil Rights movement, the anti-war movement, the pro-life movement, the Second Amendment rights movement. All of them popped up, insistent, loud, and relatively unsophisticated. They wanted everything now and for politicians to be with them 100 percent of the time. And after an election or two, people wake up saying, our system produces mostly incremental progress and takes time and compromise. That’s exactly what’s going to happen here. I meet a lot of Tea Partiers as I go around the country, and they are amazing people. Most have never been involved in politics before. This is their first experience, and they have the enthusiasm of people who have never done it before. Karl Rove
About four out of five students in the top tier of colleges have parents whose income, education and occupations put them in the top quarter of American families. Only about one out of 20 such students come from the bottom half of families. Joseph Soares
Over the past several decades, elite schools have indeed sought out academically talented students from all backgrounds. But the skyrocketing test scores of the freshman classes at Harvard, Yale, Stanford and other elite schools in the 1950s and 1960s were not accompanied by socioeconomic democratization.On the surface, it looks as if things have changed. Compared with 50 years ago, the proportion of students coming from old-money families and exclusive prep schools has dropped. The representation of African Americans, Latinos and Asian Americans has increased. Yet the student bodies of the elite colleges are still drawn overwhelmingly from the upper middle class.
When educational and professional opportunities first opened up, we saw social churning galore, as youngsters benefited from opportunities that their parents had been denied. But that phase lasted only a generation or two, slowed by this inescapable paradox: The more efficiently a society identifies the most able young people of both sexes, sends them to the best colleges, unleashes them into an economy that is tailor-made for people with their abilities and lets proximity take its course, the sooner a New Elite — the "cognitive elite" that Herrnstein and I described — becomes a class unto itself. It is by no means a closed club, as Barack Obama’s example proves. But the credentials for admission are increasingly held by the children of those who are already members. An elite that passes only money to the next generation is evanescent ("Shirtsleeves to shirtsleeves in three generations," as the adage has it). An elite that also passes on ability is more tenacious, and the chasm between it and the rest of society widens.
Get into a conversation about television with members of the New Elite, and they can probably talk about a few trendy shows — "Mad Men" now, "The Sopranos" a few years ago. But they haven’t any idea who replaced Bob Barker on "The Price Is Right." They know who Oprah is, but they’ve never watched one of her shows from beginning to end. Talk to them about sports, and you may get an animated discussion of yoga, pilates, skiing or mountain biking, but they are unlikely to know who Jimmie Johnson is (the really famous Jimmie Johnson, not the former Dallas Cowboys coach), and the acronym MMA means nothing to them. They can talk about books endlessly, but they’ve never read a "Left Behind" novel (65 million copies sold) or a Harlequin romance (part of a genre with a core readership of 29 million Americans). They take interesting vacations and can tell you all about a great backpacking spot in the Sierra Nevada or an exquisite B&B overlooking Boothbay Harbor, but they wouldn’t be caught dead in an RV or on a cruise ship (unless it was a small one going to the Galapagos). They have never heard of Branson, Mo.There are so many quintessentially American things that few members of the New Elite have experienced. They probably haven’t ever attended a meeting of a Kiwanis Club or Rotary Club, or lived for at least a year in a small town (college doesn’t count) or in an urban neighborhood in which most of their neighbors did not have college degrees (gentrifying neighborhoods don’t count). They are unlikely to have spent at least a year with a family income less than twice the poverty line (graduate school doesn’t count) or to have a close friend who is an evangelical Christian. They are unlikely to have even visited a factory floor, let alone worked on one.
But the politics of the New Elite are not the main point. When it comes to the schools where they were educated, the degrees they hold, the Zip codes where they reside and the television shows they watch, I doubt if there is much to differentiate the staff of the conservative Weekly Standard from that of the liberal New Republic, or the scholars at the American Enterprise Institute from those of the Brookings Institution, or Republican senators from Democratic ones. The bubble that encases the New Elite crosses ideological lines and includes far too many of the people who have influence, great or small, on the course of the nation. They are not defective in their patriotism or lacking a generous spirit toward their fellow citizens. They are merely isolated and ignorant. The members of the New Elite may love America, but, increasingly, they are not of it. Charles Murray

Vous avez dit élitiste?

87 % des meilleurs résultats au SAT pour 55 % des candidats ayant un parent diplomé du supérieur, appartenance majoritaire à la classe moyenne supérieure, origine et résidence depuis la naissance dans les meilleures banlieues loin des petites villes ou campagnes ou vivent encore un tiers des Américains, concentration dans les établissements d’élite pour leurs études post-graduées, fuite des professions ordinaires (seulement 1,7 % des étudiants de Harvard ayant choisi de travailler tout de suite), très forte endogamie géographique, sociale et professionnelle (choix du partenaire à l’intérieur du groupe), concentration résidentielle dans un petit nombre de quartiers favorisés de certaines villes (Washington, New York, Boston, Los Angeles, Silicon Valley et San Francisco, mais aussi  de villes universitaires comme Austin et le triangle Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill), loisirs et sports d’élite, positionnement politique préferentiellement orienté à gauche (72 % des étudiants de dernière année de Harvard contre  10 % plutot à droite)  …

Au lendemain de la gifle électorale du siècle pour le parti d’un président plus que jamais désavoué

Qui, sous l’impulsion d’une vague de fond largement impulsée par le mouvement dit du Tea party, voit les Démocrates perdre largement leur controle de la Chambre des représentants et retenir de justesse (du fait en partie de l’inexpérience de certains candidats du Tea party) celui du Sénat …

Retour, avec Charles Murray, sur l’un des arguments de campagne principaux dudit Tea party …

A savoir, comme l’ont encore exemplairement démontré les sommets de condescendance et de suffisance du  Woodstock du bon sens de samedi dernier, l’isolement croissant des nouvelles élites par rapport à l’Amérique profonde et leur ignorance profonde des modes de vie de la majorité de leurs concitoyens  ..

Qui, outre les surréactions défensives des intéressés eux-mêmes, se révèle largement confirmée par les faits et les données sociales aux niveaux à la fois géographique, résidentiel, professionnel, social et culturel voire religieux

Mais, effet induit du système méritocratique lui-même (car issue plutot cette fois des meilleures écoles et non plus de la seule richesse ou position sociale, d’où le terme de "stratification cognitive" de Murray), probablement inévitable

Et ce, au-delà même – ce qui devrait empêcher les Républicains de se réjouir trop vite – des différences idéologiques

The tea party warns of a New Elite. They’re right.

Charles Murray

The Washington Post

October 24, 2010

The tea party appears to be of one mind on at least one thing: America has been taken over by a New Elite.

"On one side, we have the elites," Fox News host Glenn Beck explained last month, "and the other side, we have the regular people." The elites are "no longer in touch with what the country is really thinking," Nevada Senate candidate Sharron Angle complained this summer. And when Delaware Senate candidate Christine O’Donnell recently began a campaign ad by saying, "I didn’t go to Yale," she could be confident that her supporters would approve.

All this has made the New Elite distinctly touchy (see Maureen Dowd’s "Making Ignorance Chic"), dismissive (see Jacob Weisberg’s "Elitist Nonsense") and defensive (see Anne Applebaum’s "The Rise of the ‘Ordinary’ Elite").

"Elite?" they seem to be saying. "Who? Us?"

Why are the members of the New Elite feeling so put upon? They didn’t object back in 1991, when Robert Reich said we had a new class of symbolic analysts in his book "The Work of Nations." They didn’t raise a fuss in 2000 when David Brooks took an anthropologist’s eye to their exotic tribe and labeled them bourgeois bohemians in "Bobos in Paradise." And they were surely pleased when Richard Florida celebrated their wonderfulness in his 2002 work, "The Rise of the Creative Class."

That a New Elite has emerged over the past 30 years is not really controversial. That its members differ from former elites is not controversial. What sets the tea party apart from other observers of the New Elite is its hostility, rooted in the charge that elites are isolated from mainstream America and ignorant about the lives of ordinary Americans.

Let me propose that those allegations have merit.

One of the easiest ways to make the point is to start with the principal gateway to membership in the New Elite, the nation’s most prestigious colleges and universities. In the idealized view of the meritocrats, those schools were once the bastion of the Northeastern Establishment, favoring bluebloods and the wealthy, but now they are peopled by youth from all backgrounds who have gained admittance through talent, pluck and hard work.

That idealized view is only half-right. Over the past several decades, elite schools have indeed sought out academically talented students from all backgrounds. But the skyrocketing test scores of the freshman classes at Harvard, Yale, Stanford and other elite schools in the 1950s and 1960s were not accompanied by socioeconomic democratization.

On the surface, it looks as if things have changed. Compared with 50 years ago, the proportion of students coming from old-money families and exclusive prep schools has dropped. The representation of African Americans, Latinos and Asian Americans has increased. Yet the student bodies of the elite colleges are still drawn overwhelmingly from the upper middle class. According to sociologist Joseph Soares’s book "The Power of Privilege: Yale and America’s Elite Colleges," about four out of five students in the top tier of colleges have parents whose income, education and occupations put them in the top quarter of American families, according to Soares’s measure of socioeconomic status. Only about one out of 20 such students come from the bottom half of families.

The discomfiting explanation is that despite need-blind admissions policies, the stellar applicants still hail overwhelmingly from the upper middle class and above. Students who have a parent with a college degree accounted for only 55 percent of SAT-takers this year but got 87 percent of all the verbal and math scores above 700, according to unpublished data provided to me by the College Board. This is not a function of SAT prep courses available to the affluent — such coaching buys only a few dozen points — but of the ability of these students to do well in a challenging academic setting.

Far from spending their college years in a meritocratic melting pot, the New Elite spend school with people who are mostly just like them — which might not be so bad, except that so many of them have been ensconced in affluent suburbs from birth and have never been outside the bubble of privilege. Few of them grew up in the small cities, towns or rural areas where more than a third of all Americans still live.

When they leave college, the New Elite remain in the bubble. Harvard seniors surveyed in 2007 were headed toward a small number of elite graduate schools (Harvard and Cambridge in the lead) and a small number of elite professional fields (finance and consulting were tied for top choice). Jobs in businesses that provide bread-and-butter goods and services to individual Americans, which make up the overwhelming majority of entry-level openings for aspiring managers, attracted just 1.7 percent of the Harvard students who went to work right after graduation.

When the New Elite get around to marrying, they don’t marry just anybody. One of the funniest and most bitingly accurate parts of "Bobos in Paradise" was Brooks’s analysis of the New York Times’s wedding announcements. Go back to 1960, and the page was filled with brides and grooms who grew up wealthy but whose educations and occupations did not offer much indication that they were going to set the world on fire. Look at the page today, and it is studded with the mergers of fabulous résumés.

Three examples lifted from last Sunday’s Times: a director of marketing at a biotech company (Stanford undergrad, Harvard MBA) married a consultant to the aerospace industry (Stanford undergrad, Harvard MPP); a vice president at Goldman Sachs (Yale) married a director of retail development for a financial software firm (Hofstra); and a third-year resident in cardiology (Yale undergrad) married a third-year resident in pathology (Columbia undergrad, summa cum laude).

The New Elite marry each other, combining their large incomes and genius genes, and then produce offspring who get the benefit of both.

We are watching the maturation of the cognitive stratification that Richard J. Herrnstein and I described in "The Bell Curve" back in 1994. When educational and professional opportunities first opened up, we saw social churning galore, as youngsters benefited from opportunities that their parents had been denied. But that phase lasted only a generation or two, slowed by this inescapable paradox:

The more efficiently a society identifies the most able young people of both sexes, sends them to the best colleges, unleashes them into an economy that is tailor-made for people with their abilities and lets proximity take its course, the sooner a New Elite — the "cognitive elite" that Herrnstein and I described — becomes a class unto itself. It is by no means a closed club, as Barack Obama’s example proves. But the credentials for admission are increasingly held by the children of those who are already members. An elite that passes only money to the next generation is evanescent ("Shirtsleeves to shirtsleeves in three generations," as the adage has it). An elite that also passes on ability is more tenacious, and the chasm between it and the rest of society widens.

What Herrnstein and I did not fully appreciate 16 years ago was how relentless this segregation would be. It is hard to get numbers — no survey has samples large enough to calibrate precisely what’s going on with the top percentiles of the population that I’m talking about — but the numbers we do have, combined with qualitative data provided by observers such as Brooks, Florida and Bill Bishop, in his book "The Big Sort," are persuasive.

We know, for one thing, that the New Elite clusters in a comparatively small number of cities and in selected neighborhoods in those cities. This concentration isn’t limited to the elite neighborhoods of Washington, New York, Boston, Los Angeles, Silicon Valley and San Francisco. It extends to university cities with ancillary high-tech jobs, such as Austin and the Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill triangle.

With geographical clustering goes cultural clustering. Get into a conversation about television with members of the New Elite, and they can probably talk about a few trendy shows — "Mad Men" now, "The Sopranos" a few years ago. But they haven’t any idea who replaced Bob Barker on "The Price Is Right." They know who Oprah is, but they’ve never watched one of her shows from beginning to end.

Talk to them about sports, and you may get an animated discussion of yoga, pilates, skiing or mountain biking, but they are unlikely to know who Jimmie Johnson is (the really famous Jimmie Johnson, not the former Dallas Cowboys coach), and the acronym MMA means nothing to them.

They can talk about books endlessly, but they’ve never read a "Left Behind" novel (65 million copies sold) or a Harlequin romance (part of a genre with a core readership of 29 million Americans).

They take interesting vacations and can tell you all about a great backpacking spot in the Sierra Nevada or an exquisite B&B overlooking Boothbay Harbor, but they wouldn’t be caught dead in an RV or on a cruise ship (unless it was a small one going to the Galapagos). They have never heard of Branson, Mo.

There are so many quintessentially American things that few members of the New Elite have experienced. They probably haven’t ever attended a meeting of a Kiwanis Club or Rotary Club, or lived for at least a year in a small town (college doesn’t count) or in an urban neighborhood in which most of their neighbors did not have college degrees (gentrifying neighborhoods don’t count). They are unlikely to have spent at least a year with a family income less than twice the poverty line (graduate school doesn’t count) or to have a close friend who is an evangelical Christian. They are unlikely to have even visited a factory floor, let alone worked on one.

Taken individually, members of the New Elite are isolated from mainstream America as a result of lifestyle choices that are nobody’s business but their own. But add them all up, and they mean that the New Elite lives in a world that doesn’t intersect with mainstream America in many important ways. When the tea party says the New Elite doesn’t get America, there is some truth in the accusation.

Part of the isolation is political. In that Harvard survey I mentioned, 72 percent of Harvard seniors said their beliefs were to the left of the nation as a whole, compared with 10 percent who said theirs were to the right of it. The political preferences of academics and journalists among the New Elite also conform to the suspicions of the tea party.

But the politics of the New Elite are not the main point. When it comes to the schools where they were educated, the degrees they hold, the Zip codes where they reside and the television shows they watch, I doubt if there is much to differentiate the staff of the conservative Weekly Standard from that of the liberal New Republic, or the scholars at the American Enterprise Institute from those of the Brookings Institution, or Republican senators from Democratic ones

The bubble that encases the New Elite crosses ideological lines and includes far too many of the people who have influence, great or small, on the course of the nation. They are not defective in their patriotism or lacking a generous spirit toward their fellow citizens. They are merely isolated and ignorant. The members of the New Elite may love America, but, increasingly, they are not of it.

Charles Murray is the W.H. Brady scholar at the American Enterprise Institute and the author of "Real Education: Four Simple Truths for Bringing America’s Schools Back to Reality."

Voir aussi:

Making Ignorance Chic

Maureen Dowd

October 19, 2010

HOLLYWOOD

Casanova’s rule for seduction was to tell a beautiful woman she was intelligent and an intelligent woman she was beautiful.

The false choice between intellectualism and sexuality in women has persisted through the ages. There was no more poignant victim of it than Marilyn Monroe.

She was smart enough to become the most famous Dumb Blonde in history. Photographers loved to get her to pose in tight shorts, a silk robe or a swimsuit with a come-hither look and a weighty book — a history of Goya or James Joyce’s “Ulysses” or Heinrich Heine’s poems. A high-brow bunny picture, a variation on the sexy librarian trope. Men who were nervous about her erotic intensity could feel superior by making fun of her intellectually.

Marilyn was not completely in on the joke. Scarred by her schizophrenic mother and dislocated upbringing, she was happy to have the classics put in her hand. What’s more, she read some of them, from Proust to Dostoyevsky to Freud to Carl Sandburg’s six-volume biography of Lincoln (given to her by husband Arthur Miller), collecting a library of 400 books.

Miller once called Marilyn “a poet on a street corner trying to recite to a crowd pulling at her clothes.”

“Fragments,” a new book of her poems, letters and musings, some written in her childlike hand with misspellings in leather books and others on stationery from the Waldorf-Astoria and the Beverly Hills Hotel, is affecting. The world’s most coveted woman, a picture of luminescence, was lonely and dark. Thinking herself happily married, she was crushed to discover an open journal in which Miller had written that she disappointed him and embarrassed him in front of his intellectual peers.

“I guess I have always been deeply terrified to really be someone’s wife since I know from life one cannot love another, ever, really.”

Her friend Saul Bellow wrote in a letter that Marilyn “conducts herself like a philosopher.” He observed: “She was connected with a very powerful current but she couldn’t disconnect herself from it,” adding: “She had a kind of curious incandescence under the skin.”

The sad sex symbol is still a candle in the wind. There’s a hit novel in Britain narrated by the Maltese terrier Frank Sinatra gave her, which she named “Maf,” for Mafia, and three movies in the works about her. Naomi Watts is planning to star in a biopic based on the novel, “Blonde,” by Joyce Carol Oates; Michelle Williams is shooting “My Week With Marilyn,” and another movie is planned based on an account by Lionel Grandison, a former deputy Los Angeles coroner who claims he was forced to change the star’s death certificate to read suicide instead of murder.

At least, unlike Paris Hilton and her ilk, the Dumb Blonde of ’50s cinema had a firm grasp on one thing: It was cool to be smart. She aspired to read good books and be friends with intellectuals, even going so far as to marry one. But now another famous beauty with glowing skin and a powerful current, Sarah Palin, has made ignorance fashionable.

You struggle to name Supreme Court cases, newspapers you read and even founding fathers you admire? No problem. You endorse a candidate for the Pennsylvania Senate seat who is the nominee in West Virginia? Oh, well.

At least you’re not one of those “spineless” elites with an Ivy League education, like President Obama, who can’t feel anything. It’s news to Christine O’Donnell that the Constitution guarantees separation of church and state. It’s news to Joe Miller, whose guards handcuffed a journalist, and to Carl Paladino, who threatened The New York Post’s Fred Dicker, that the First Amendment exists, even in Tea Party Land. Michele Bachmann calls Smoot-Hawley Hoot-Smalley.

Sharron Angle sank to new lows of obliviousness when she told a classroom of Hispanic kids in Las Vegas: “Some of you look a little more Asian to me.”

As Palin tweeted in July about her own special language adding examples from W. and Obama: “ ‘Refudiate,’ ‘misunderestimate,’ ‘wee-wee’d up.’ English is a living language. Shakespeare liked to coin new words too. Got to celebrate it!”

On Saturday, at a G.O.P. rally in Anaheim, Calif., Palin mockingly noted that you won’t find her invoking Mao or Saul Alinsky. She says she believes in American exceptionalism. But when it comes to the people running the country, exceptionalism is suspect; leaders should be — as Palin, O’Donnell and Angle keep saying — just like you.

In Marilyn’s America, there were aspirations. The studios tackled literary novels rather than one-liners like “He’s Just Not That Into You” and navel-gazing drivel like “Eat Pray Love.” Walt Disney’s “Fantasia” paired cartoon characters with famous composers. Even Bugs Bunny did Wagner.

But in Sarah’s America, we’ve refudiated all that.

Voir egalement:

Elitist Nonsense

The right’s favorite scare word is "elitism." What does it mean?

Jacob Weisberg

Slate

Oct. 2, 2010

If there’s one epithet the right never tires of, it’s "elitism." Republicans are constantly accusing Democrats of it this campaign season, as when Kentucky Senate nominee Rand Paul attacked President Obama as "a liberal elitist … [who] believes that he knows what is best for people." With the Tea Party’s rise, conservatives have even begun accusing each other of it, as Sharron Angle, the Nevada GOP nominee did when she charged that Robert Bennett, the outgoing senator from Utah, "has become one of the elitists that is no longer in touch." Other days, they simply lament that the entire country is falling prey to it, as California Senate nominee Carly Fiorina recently did in asserting that "the American Dream is in danger" because of the "elitists" in charge of the government.

When the rich former CEO of one of America’s largest companies casts herself as a victim of elitism, we have surely strayed far from any literal definition of the term. So what do Republicans mean by this French word? Unlike the radical sociologist C. Wright Mills, who popularized the term to describe shared identity based on economic interests, Republicans use it with connotations of education, geography, ideology, taste, and lifestyle—such that a millionaire investment banker who works for Goldman Sachs, went to Harvard, and reads the New York Times is an elitist but a billionaire CEO who grew up in Houston, went to a state university, and contributes to Republicans, is not.

Brian Williams picked up on this blurriness when he interviewed John McCain and Sarah Palin together on NBC in 2008 and posed a brilliantly simple question. "Who," he asked the Republican running mates, "is a member of the elite?"

Palin responded first. "I guess just people who think that they’re better than everyone else," she said.

McCain then elaborated. "I know where a lot of them live—in our nation’s capital and New York City—the ones [Palin] never went to a cocktail party with in Georgetown—who think that they can dictate what they believe to America rather than let Americans decide for themselves."

Thus did the son and grandson of admirals, a millionaire who couldn’t remember how many houses he owned, accuse his mixed-race opponent, raised by a single-mother and only a few years past paying off his student loans, of being the real elite candidate in the campaign.

Though they sound nearly identical, there’s a significant distinction between the Palin and the McCain definitions. Palin’s definition says elitists are those who think they’re better than other people—a category in which by Election Day, on the evidence of her autobiography, included many of the people working for her own campaign. Palin is raw with the disrespect she feels and takes offense at being condescended to by people who, she thinks, think they are better than she is. Her anti-elitism takes the part of all Americans who feel similarly snubbed, and not necessarily in the context of politics. This version is a synonym for social snobbery, with the wrinkle that it’s not based on family, ethnicity, or wealth, but rather on the status that in contemporary American society is largely conferred by academic institutions.

McCain, by contrast, defined elitism not as believing you are better than other people but believing that you know better than other people. This is Rand Paul’s point about liberals: "They think they can tell us what to do and that most Americans aren’t smart enough to take care of themselves," he said in his recent rant against the lower-Manhattan mosque. (So much for libertarianism.) "And I think that’s a really arrogant approach to the American people." It also seems to be what Newt Gingrich has in mind when he pops off about "government of the elites by the elites for the elites." In the McCain-Paul-Gingrich usage, an elitist is someone who thinks the opinion of a minority should sometimes prevail over the opinion of a majority.

It is easy to grasp the political resonance of both definitions. Palin’s umbrage at liberals who act superior to conservatives plays upon the American ideal of social equality. In a meritocratic society, rejection can bring an even worse sting than under an aristocratic or hereditary one, because those who are less successful can’t blame outcomes on the arbitrariness of the system. Palin’s posture of victimization is a response to this sense of exclusion. The irony is that she assumes this posture in the service of policies whose effect is to deepen the inequalities of American life.

McCain’s protest against anti-majoritarianism likewise strikes a deep popular chord. It has the further advantage of providing an escape hatch from the substance of issues by reframing them in cultural terms. Arguments for raising taxes, expanding health insurance, and fighting climate change are all met with by the rejoinder that some people should quit telling the rest of us how to live our lives. The irony of this position is that this sort of automatic populism is the least conservative of political philosophies. It was Edmund Burke who most famously articulated the principle that elected legislators owe their constituents their best judgments rather than acting as conduits for majority opinion. In fact, it’s both valuable and necessary to have experts guide decision-making on complex subjects. I’d rather have a nuclear-energy policy set by Nobel Laureate Steven Chu of Berkeley than by a plebiscite—or have military procurement rules led by John McCain, for that matter.

The problem with the GOP’s elite-bashing is not their definition but their contradictions. In practice, conservatives are no less inclined than liberals to adopt superior stances or to tell people how to live their lives. Palin’s counter-snobbery holds those who live in the middle of the country, own guns, and go to church are more authentic, more the "real America," than those who live in coastal cities, profess atheism, or prefer a less demonstrative style of patriotism. But the insistence that gay people not be married, or that some go without health insurance, or that gas be lightly taxed, reflect choices about "how other people should live" no less than the opposite positions. Gingrich and others cast democratic decisions as illegitimate only when they conflict with right-wing ideology. If an unelected judge upholds gay marriage, he’s practicing liberal elitism. But if the same unelected judge were to invalidate Obama’s health care legislation, he would be defending the Constitution. Such hypocrisy is based on the construct of a pre-political state of nature, where we lived in abstract freedom until government arrived to limit and control us.

In the real world, we suffer from self-righteous conservatives as well as smug liberals, from as many Republicans as Democrats who think they know best. Arrogance and paternalism remain bipartisan attitudes. Elitism, it seems, is in the eye of the beholder.

Jacob Weisberg is chairman and editor-in-chief of the Slate Group and author of The Bush Tragedy.

Voir enfin:

The rise of the ‘ordinary’ elite

Anne Applebaum

The Washington Post

October 12, 2010

In 1958, an English sociologist and Labor Party politician named Michael Young imagined a future in which the British establishment dissolved itself, abolished all forms of hereditary power and created instead a meritocracy (a word Young invented) based on IQ. In Young’s fable, the academically talented from the working class happily join the elite. But the less-talented resent them even more than they did the old dukes and duchesses. By 2034, this resentment leads to a violent populist revolution that sweeps the meritocracy away.

To some, this story has always seemed like a warning to America. In 1972, the American sociologist Daniel Bell cited it and predicted, with amazing prescience, the rise of an anti-elite-education populism. Bell got one thing wrong, however: He thought the coming attack on universities would take the form of enforced quotas and lowered standards. In fact, American universities staved off that particular populist wave in the 1970s by expanding their admissions to include women and minorities, while keeping standards high.

The result of that expansion is now with us: Barack Obama, brought up by a single mother, graduate of Columbia and Harvard Law School, is president. Michelle Obama, daughter of a black municipal employee, graduate of Princeton and Harvard Law School, is first lady. They brought with them to Washington dozens more people, also from modest backgrounds, mostly not with inherited wealth, who have entered high government office thanks in part to their education. Not that Washington wasn’t stuffed with such people already: Think of Clarence Thomas, son of a domestic servant and a farm worker, graduate of Yale Law School, Supreme Court justice.

Despite pushing aside the old WASP establishment — not a single member of it remains on the Supreme Court — these modern meritocrats are clearly not admired, or at least not for their upward mobility, by many Americans. On the contrary — and as Bell might have predicted — they are resented as "elitist." Which is at some level strange: To study hard, to do well, to improve yourself — isn’t that the American dream? The backlash against graduates of "elite" universities seems particularly odd given that the most elite American universities have in the past two decades made the greatest effort to broaden their student bodies.

Because they can offer full scholarships, the wealthier Ivy League schools in particular are far more diverse, racially and economically, than they were a few decades ago. Once upon a time, you got into Harvard or Yale solely because of your alumnus grandfather. Nowadays, your alumnus grandfather still helps, but only as long as you did well on the SAT, captained your ice hockey team and, in your senior year, raised a million dollars for charity (the last was not a requirement when I got into Yale, but it seems to be now). If you did all that and come from a broken home in Nevada, so much the better.

At one level, the use of "elite" to describe the new meritocrats simply means that the word has lost its meaning. As Jacob Weisberg points out, when Sarah Palin, Christine O’Donnell or — bizarrely — Justice Thomas’s wife fling the word "elitist" at opponents, it often means nothing more than "a person whose politics I don’t like" or even "a person who is snobby." But after listening to O’Donnell’s latest campaign ads — in which the Senate candidate declares proudly, "I didn’t go to Yale . . . I am YOU" — I think something deeper must be going on as well.

I suspect the "anti-elite-educationism" that Bell predicted is growing now not despite the rise of meritocracy but because of it. The old Establishment was resented, but only because its wealth and power were perceived as undeserved. Those outside could at least feel they were cleverer and savvier, and they could blame their failures on "the system." Nowadays, successful Americans, however ridiculously lucky they have been, often smugly see themselves as "deserving." Meanwhile, the less successful are more likely to feel it’s their own fault — or to feel that others feel it’s their fault — even if they have simply been unlucky.

I can see how this is irritating, even painful. But I don’t quite see what comes next. When Ginni Thomas tells a cheering crowd of Virginia Tea Partyers that "we are ruled by an elite that thinks it knows better than we know" who, or what, does she want to put in its place? Young imagined a revolution (led, interestingly, by the wives of the high-IQ elites) and a classless society to follow. Unfortunately, this idea has been tried before, and let’s just agree that it wasn’t an overwhelming success.

In America, the end of the meritocracy will probably come about slowly: If working hard, climbing the education ladder and graduating from a good university only wins you opprobrium, then you might not bother. Or if you do bother, then you certainly won’t go into politics, where your kind is no longer welcome. We will then have a different sort of elite in charge of the country — and a different set of reasons to dislike them, too.

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Une réponse à Présidence Obama: Vous avez dit élitiste? (Tea party takes on new cognitive elite)

  1. I always read your blog, God bless you in your endeavors!

    J’aime ceci

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