Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

Email Newsletter icon, E-mail Newsletter icon, Email List icon, E-mail List icon Sign up for Free News & Updates

October 25, 2010

CHARLES MURRAY'S 'NEW ELITE'.... The Washington Post ran a rather long rant from Charles Murray yesterday, lamenting the "New Elite" and its members' disconnect from the rest of us. Putting aside the question of whether it's wise for the Post to publish Murray at all, the controversial writer wants us to know the good folks who identify with the Tea Party believe "elites are isolated from mainstream America and ignorant about the lives of ordinary Americans."

And if you saw the headline, read the lede, and thought, "Wait, is this just going to be another piece about how latte-sipping Volvo drivers see the world differently from Joe Six Pack?" you were definitely on the right track.

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 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.

If you read that carefully, you'll notice that Murray used the word "probably" twice and "unlikely" three times. In other words, Murray thinks he knows quite a bit about how his "New Elite" think and act, but he doesn't really know, and he's not basing his observations on anything but his own assumptions. There are a set of cultural cliches about elites, and Murray wants us know they're true. How does he know? Apparently we're supposed to take his word for it.

But whether there's truth to Murray's premise or not, I'm not sure why we're supposed to care. The notion of elites having different cultural norms, vacation spots, lifestyle choices, and leisure activities than others isn't exactly new -- this has been true for a very long time. Indeed, I think that's why they're called the "elite."

Are we witnessing something different with this "New Elite"? Murray doesn't say. Are there cultural consequences of this with broader meaning? Murray doesn't say.

His argument ostensibly has something to do with Tea Partiers, but even that's dubious. If there's some kind of class/cultural resentment playing out, why are these far-right activists working to elect candidates who'll prioritize tax cuts for the "New Elite" above all?

Steve Benen 8:20 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (66)

Bookmark and Share

It sure is swell there is so much wanking and so many wankers. Is being a wanker elite?

Posted by: MikeBoyScout on October 25, 2010 at 8:25 AM | PERMALINK

guess i must be one of the "elites" because i have absolutely no interest in any of the things this guy thinks are important. rather, i'm more in touch with the things he thinks are unimportant.

what a jackass.

Posted by: just bill on October 25, 2010 at 8:25 AM | PERMALINK

The question that this raises for me is whether the elites left the masses behind in a search for more refined entertainment or the masses dropped away from the elites in a mass movement toward abysmal idiocy.

Hey, I'm not an "elite" kind of person -- I'll spare you the list of things I do that are so ordinary you'll gasp -- but I've never watched an Oprah show for longer than it takes to hit the button on the remote control, I think pro sports are, on the entertainment scale, on a par with watching paint dry, and I've never even read a single page of the Left Behind novels -- I prefer literature that requires a functioning brain to appreciate it.

Did I, all unbeknownst to myself, become an "elite"?

Well, I do think the teabaggers are, as a rule, dim and dimmer.

Posted by: charles on October 25, 2010 at 8:29 AM | PERMALINK

And Mr. Murray now that he is entrenched within the very same bubble is probably thankful he doesn't have to rub shoulders with them. The eletes are the ones buying the next election by funding the Teapartiers to vote against their own self interest, or did you not notice that Mr. Murray? BTW Mr. Murray might we ask what type of car you drive and where you live? Might be a tad embarrasing I suspect.

Posted by: John R on October 25, 2010 at 8:29 AM | PERMALINK

As someone pointed out on another blog, do you know how wealthy a person has to be to count as one of Murray's Real Americans(TM)? A large RV costs $200 a night just to rent, not counting it's crappy MPG. Forget trying to buy one.

Posted by: Walker on October 25, 2010 at 8:31 AM | PERMALINK

Wait a minute. Is this the same Charles Murray who just a few years ago was warning the white elite about the dangers of over-reproduction amongst the masses of unintelligent people of color?

That Charles Murray?

Posted by: Nancy on October 25, 2010 at 8:31 AM | PERMALINK

It's not like the days of the Founding Fathers. Back in 1776, everyone in the colonies had studied at a college, traveled to Europe, could read and write, owned hundreds of slaves ... oh, wait.

Posted by: Basilisc on October 25, 2010 at 8:34 AM | PERMALINK

Let's not forget that the Mission Statement of any newspaper is "Sell More Newspapers."

As the Decline and Fall of Print increases day by day, the frantic scribblings of the hired help increases day by day.

Posted by: DAY on October 25, 2010 at 8:37 AM | PERMALINK

It's like every fatuous, specious David Brooksism condensed and concentrated into a single, foul-smelling journalistic turd.

Posted by: hells littlest angel on October 25, 2010 at 8:38 AM | PERMALINK

Why should they? Why is it always the 'elite' who are supposed to change their habits?

Posted by: Kevin Ray on October 25, 2010 at 8:38 AM | PERMALINK

So we learn that unabashed racist elitist Charles "Bell Curve" Murray has now read a ca. 2000 book by David Brooks.

Posted by: rabbit on October 25, 2010 at 8:38 AM | PERMALINK

Shorter Murray: My paid masters have just informed me that the increasing meritocratic stratification of society that I lovingly documented in The Bell Curve is no longer in vogue in the GOP.

If we are lucky, like David Brooks, Murray will sport a closet-full of pink shirts as he pontificates about "real Americans".

Also, since when is Oprah -- a rich, black woman from Chicago who got sued for libeling beef -- a cultural-touchstone for "Real Americans" but not "elites"? Or is that "elites" don't watch an entire episode of Oprah because they are working on their 2nd PhD thesis? It's all so confusing.

Posted by: square1 on October 25, 2010 at 8:39 AM | PERMALINK

It seems to me he also never gets around to saying what is so all fired important about knowing who replaced Bob Barker, Why watching the Oprah show is important. Why anyone should give a rat's ass about either Jimmie Johnson and on and on.

The fallacy of all this is that the stuff that the "saltines of the earth" say and do and watch is somehow important to anyone other than themselves. and that everyone else should care.

Why that would be he doesn't say.

Posted by: paulo on October 25, 2010 at 8:40 AM | PERMALINK

square1, Oprah is for Real Americans ever since Murray decided he needed to prove he's not a racist. See also "urban neighborhood in which most of their neighbors did not have college degrees."

Posted by: rabbit on October 25, 2010 at 8:41 AM | PERMALINK

It's a curious reflex of certain intellectuals to complain about the aspirational middle class (as opposed to the resentful middle class). What's going on here is simply the perennial anxiety of "old" in a world that doesn't stay fixed. As everyone knows, it's useful for a reactionary political movement to leverage this anxiety for its own, often contradictory, ends. In Europe, these movements were quite the thing 80 to 90 years ago.

Posted by: walt on October 25, 2010 at 8:45 AM | PERMALINK

Where is the counter editorial about the "Neo Dullards"? You know, something like this:

Get into a conversation about television with members of the Neo Dullards, and they can probably talk about a few trendy shows like "Cops" and "Dancing with the Stars" as must-see TV, yet who would steadfastly deny that "The Colbert Report" is satire?

Talk to them about sports, and they get animated discussions of how sitting in a tree above food on the ground and taking out Bambi with a 30.06 at ten feet represents a "real man's" sport? And that the acronym FSM means nothing to them.

They talk about the Bible endlessly, but they've never read Proust, and think Shakespeare is some kind of peppery condiment.

They take interesting vacations and can tell you all about the Creation Museum, yet beyond that have never ventured beyond their own county lines. They've never heard of Dam Square.

There are so many quintessentially American things that few members of the Neo Dulards have experienced. Such as reading the Constitution, listening without prejudice about the plight of the homeless and of those who have lost everything to the banksters. They've probably haven't ever attended a meeting of the Sierra Club or the World Wildlife Federation, or spend at least a day outside a town with one stoplight. The are unlikely to have spent any time with family or friends who have non-white adopted children, or have a close friend who was beaten because they were gay. They are unlikely to have visited a homeless shelter, let alone volunteered at one.

Ahh, that felt better.

Posted by: terraformer on October 25, 2010 at 8:48 AM | PERMALINK

Life is so much simpler when your stupid.

Posted by: Jeff In Ohio on October 25, 2010 at 8:55 AM | PERMALINK

David Brooks called. He wants his schtick back.

Posted by: spoodle on October 25, 2010 at 8:57 AM | PERMALINK

Ah, I'll never forget the night in Branson, when me and the Koch brothers partied hardy.

Posted by: berttheclock on October 25, 2010 at 9:00 AM | PERMALINK

It should be obvious to all by now that our media commentators in the ultra-liberal Washington Post can not only read minds, they can read minds in mass!

However, Mr. Murray is probably also part of "The Elite" as he believes that our tea partiers are Oprah watchers! What a dunce, everyone knows that real American of the Tea Party varieties hate upon Oprah Winfry.

Posted by: RepublicanPointOfView on October 25, 2010 at 9:00 AM | PERMALINK

Okay, I understand that not being a part of puke drinking contests is kind of elite.
I just don't get why this would be a bad thing.

Posted by: Vokoban on October 25, 2010 at 9:01 AM | PERMALINK

Yeah, Brooks does like to take a spin, at least once a year, out to the W*M land and mingle with the hoi polloi.

Reminds me of when Slade Gorton, who lived in the tony area of Magnolia overlooking Elliot Bay and downtown Seattle, put on a Pendleton shirt, chinos and boots and went into the hinterlands of Eastern Washington to campaign against Seattle and that African-American Seattle based politician. Suddenly, the very Brooksie Slade tried to morph into the "Marlboro Man" and Paul Bunyan.

Posted by: berttheclock on October 25, 2010 at 9:06 AM | PERMALINK

If reading Left Behind is necessary to put me in touch with Real America[tm], then just call me Ivory McTowerson from now on.

At least the people in the Harlequin romances seem like they're having SOME fun.

Posted by: have clue -- will travel on October 25, 2010 at 9:06 AM | PERMALINK

So Murray drives his RV to NASCAR events where he watches Opraho-after he put in his shift at the factory?

Posted by: golack on October 25, 2010 at 9:07 AM | PERMALINK

I'm not sure why we're supposed to care.


Just another elite GOP cracker hack writing drivel from his GOP sponsored think tank . Move along folks.

Posted by: AndThenThere'sThat on October 25, 2010 at 9:09 AM | PERMALINK

"Ahh, that felt better". Posted by: terraformer

-Me too; thanks!

Posted by: DAY on October 25, 2010 at 9:12 AM | PERMALINK

It is pretty f***ing elitist to have a job in which you get to sit around and bitch about things.

Note: There are - oh, I dunno, 5-8 really important things to discuss in this country; most of the rest is just noise. Place this well into the deep deep recesses of the noise bin...

Posted by: bigutah on October 25, 2010 at 9:13 AM | PERMALINK

I normally would not describe these elite men as those who have not picked-up a romance novel or watched Oprah and the Price is Right, but what do I know.

Posted by: ashton99 on October 25, 2010 at 9:14 AM | PERMALINK

Note that he will available in about two hours to answer your questions: http://live.washingtonpost.com/outlook:-the-tea-party-warns-of-a-new-elite-they%27re-right-.html

Posted by: Rathskeller on October 25, 2010 at 9:20 AM | PERMALINK

The real "new elite" are the cadre of conservative pontificators who have irrevocable lifetime membership privileges in the Washington Post op-ed page. Unabashedly support torture? No biggie. Continually advocate unnecessary wars? Not a problem at all. Write a book about black people being stupid? Water under the bridge. I'm tempted to buy a subscription just so I can cancel it.

Posted by: The_Dan on October 25, 2010 at 9:23 AM | PERMALINK

I wonder how many times the Koch brothers have gone RVing, visited a factory floor or hung out with people who live below the poverty line. And chances are the only thing they know about "The Price Is Right" is that the entire Tea Party movement, including Murray, were bought and paid for pretty cheaply, by their standards.

Posted by: gradysu on October 25, 2010 at 9:24 AM | PERMALINK

I half expect Camille Paglia to pop up on the Post's op-ed page now, complaining how liberals aren't really hip because they completely overlooked the ironic arches in Bob Barker's eyebrows.

Posted by: walt on October 25, 2010 at 9:24 AM | PERMALINK

I watched the Sopranos, but haven't watched Mad Men.
I have no clue who replaced Bob Barker.
I know who both Jimmie Johnsons are.
I've watched MMA fights. I know who Anderson Silva is.
I've never read a "Left Behind" or harlequin book.
I've never attended a Kiwanis Club meeting.
I've volunteered for a non-profit community project for over ten years.
I've many relatives who are evangelical Christians.
I've worked for three summers in factories, two of them in a crumbling, rat-infested auto factory hell-hole in Detroit.
I've climbed mountains in Colorado & hiked canyons in Utah.
I know where and what Branson is.
I would definitely go on a cruise to many locations in the world, if Charles Murray would like to pay for it.
Charles Murray can go fuck himself.

Posted by: bluestatedon on October 25, 2010 at 9:29 AM | PERMALINK

You know. Educated.

Posted by: beejeez on October 25, 2010 at 9:39 AM | PERMALINK

Funny, I probably flunk Murray's test and be labeled a member of the new elite except I have worked in a factory, I have lived in an urban neighborhood, for over 30 years I have been a member of Kiwanis, several members of my family are evangelical Christians, and not only do I know where Branson is, I have actually been there. For most life is a long time. If you live it well you do a lot of things. If you live it poorly you are zero like Charles Murray.

Posted by: Ron Byers on October 25, 2010 at 9:48 AM | PERMALINK

Ok lets see:
Don't watch Mad Men or The Soprano's
Nope on The Price is Right
Have watched Oprah
Know who both Jimmie Johnson's are
Have read both a Harlequin romance and some of the Left Behind series (both of which sucked btw)
Been on a cruise
Been TO Branson MO
Have been to a Rotary Club mtg
lived in a small town, making under the poverty line while working in a POTATO factory

S**t! I'm a teabagger!!

Oh wait, I know how to think for myself and use my brain, crisis averted!

Posted by: cmm on October 25, 2010 at 10:03 AM | PERMALINK

I'd guess that Murray is trying to distract us from where true power lies, since true power in this country does not reside with any more or less meritocratic elite, but with rich people and large corporations.

If we yuppies ran things, then a strong climate change bill would have sailed through Congress years ago, instead of a weak climate change bill failing to make it through the most Democratic Congress in 30 years. Because if there's one piece of legislation whose support is concentrated amongst the New Elite that Murray defines, that's gotta be it.

There's your measure of the New Elite's power - and we don't have it. Big money has the power. Same as it ever was.

Posted by: low-tech cyclist on October 25, 2010 at 10:04 AM | PERMALINK

oh yeah and MMA is Mixed Martial Arts...Duh

Posted by: cmm on October 25, 2010 at 10:05 AM | PERMALINK

Geez, I remember when one, either went to Branson for splendid fishing, or were travelling through on your way to Eureka Springs.

But, it would not surprise me to know many of these male "elites" know one Jimmy Johnson far better than the other, due to recent commercials by Jimmy "The Long" Johnson.

Posted by: berttheclock on October 25, 2010 at 10:09 AM | PERMALINK

> 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.

The New Elite are those who have a job and can't watch daytime television?

Posted by: Dennis on October 25, 2010 at 10:13 AM | PERMALINK

It's telling that his view of real sports is NASCAR and MMA, but not football, baseball, hoops, or hockey, which I'm guessing are no longer "Real American (TM)" sports. Has he ever been to a sports bar in this country? Or an actual ballgame?

Oprah? He thinks guys watch Oprah? Are you kidding me? Price is Right? WTF is he watching. Neither of those is a reality show. Can he tell you who the last Idol winner was? Name more than one person from Jersey Shore? Or more than one Kardashian? Or a WWE wrestler not called McMahon?

Has he ever stood in the background on the today show while vacationing in NYC? Been to Myrtle Beach? Has he ever eaten in a Waffle House? Dallas BBQ? TGI Fridays?

Murrey needs to actually go out into America, rather than reading the right wing email chains.

Posted by: royalblue_tom on October 25, 2010 at 10:18 AM | PERMALINK

Yes, I can see by his bio that Dr. Murray is totally NOT an Elite.

I'm sure that the bookshelves in his beltway home that he shares with his English professor wife are simply filled with Harlequin Romances, and during the summers when they don't have season tickets to the Kennedy Center, they hop in their RV and drive to Branson to catch a few shows with Andy Williams, or Dolly Parton, or the Noah's arc renactment - lots of pundits go to those. And I'm sure they regularly attend MMA bouts, as long as it's not taking place on a church night or when the Kiwanis are meeting.

Gimmee a break. Look at his bio, he's EXACTLY the person he's calling "elite." He went to Harvard, joined the Peace Corps and then got a doctorate at MIT. The man has worked for conservative thinktanks since 1974. He and his wife are Quakers, not evangelicals. They live in a beltway suburb, not a small town. They both have Phds.

The strawman he's flogging is himself.

Posted by: g on October 25, 2010 at 10:20 AM | PERMALINK

If that describes the "New Elite", then why is Murray sounding so elitist as he rejects them? Who is the one making pronouncements about what the "so many quintessentially American things" are? If anyone is staking a claim to privileged status, it sounds like Mr. "I'm special (and a REAL American) because I know what MMA stands for!" Murray.

And, because it's a lifestyle/attitude list, and not based on something empirical like, say, income, it's hopelessly vague and inaccurate. I'm sure I'm one of the un-American scumbags Murray is attacking, since I've watched every episode of Mad Men, yet I know it was Drew Carey, and I've watched Oprah a number of times, though not so many because I have a job during the daytime.

I'd argue that the NFL coach seen on TV every weekend IS the real famous one, not the NASCAR guy, and Mixed Martial Arts is not fun to watch.

Taking boring vacations seems like a waste of money, why wouldn't you take interesting vacations? And while I do recall some excellent spots in the Sierra 35 years ago before they got ruined, and I can tell you about a lovely B&B overlooking the Strait of Juan de Fuca, I also have a great story about driving an RV across Kansas just in front of a line of tornadoes. (Never been to the shows in Branson, but I know they're there.)

I have lived in a small town, though it meant driving a long time to my job in the city. I'm wondering, as our my mainstream Christian friends, when being "evangelical" became "quintessentially American". I also look forward to the story of Murray's job on the factory floor.

No, it sounds like if there is a "New Elite" being formed in our country, it's the self-righteous Tea Partiers, who are defining themselves as better than other Americans by virtue of their resentments and preconceptions.

Posted by: biggerbox on October 25, 2010 at 10:34 AM | PERMALINK

Boy, this post sure struck a nerve!

The quintessential thing about America, is that we are all DIFFERENT.

(To see that writ large, take a cruise- to Europe. . .)

Posted by: DAY on October 25, 2010 at 10:42 AM | PERMALINK

He is even behind the curve in regards to TV viewing. The "Jersey Shore" mentioned above is part of NBC's latest whine about more viewers watching that on MTV than the younger crowd who have ditched TV to watch "30 Rock" and "Committee" and other NBC shows on-line or Twitter.

Posted by: berttheclock on October 25, 2010 at 10:42 AM | PERMALINK

"Gentrifying neighborhoods don't count". Hilarious. Yep, elites tend not to live in places where there are no elites! Wow! Brilliant analysis, Chuck!

Also, did I miss something: is the NFL now considered an "elite" sport? It's so hard to keep track these days....

This is like an even lower-grade version of "Stuff White People Like".

Posted by: kolk on October 25, 2010 at 10:45 AM | PERMALINK

Gee, it takes a big set of balls for Charles Murray to try to side with the anti-elitist rabble. Not too long ago he was gave a talk at conferences entitled "In Praise of Elitism"

Posted by: veblen on October 25, 2010 at 10:51 AM | PERMALINK

When I was but a young lass, I came upon stack of Brooks' newly-released "Bourgeois Bohemian" books in my local bookstore. I flipped through it and giggled aloud... not at Brooks' brilliant social commentary, but because, as an impoverished student at a liberal arts college, in many ways I wanted to be a Bobo...
Now I after my yoga class, I enjoy using my slate shower and after my adventure travel or volunteering in my gentrified neighborhood, I put my geek chic clothing into my front load washer and use environmentally-friendly detergent. David Brooks and his ilk can kiss my over-educated elitist ass.

Posted by: chacha on October 25, 2010 at 10:52 AM | PERMALINK

Y'know, Charles Murray is actually Charles Murray, PhD, which makes him, yes, a member of the educated elite.

Not that you'd know it,

Posted by: Zorro on October 25, 2010 at 11:02 AM | PERMALINK

They talk about the Bible endlessly, but they've never read Proust

Hell, they talk about the Bible endlessly, but most of them have never read that either. And I've read two books in the Left Behind series, and it was all I could stomach. They're crap, but crap that appeals to the self-righteousness and bigotry of the target audience. Check out the blog Slacktivist for an in-depth critique of the entire series written by an evangelical Christian appalled at how Left Behind makes a mockery of the entire Christian faith.

Posted by: Alan on October 25, 2010 at 11:02 AM | PERMALINK

Steve, how could you have missed these priceless lines:

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.

The comedy stylings of Charles Murray, ladies and gentlemen! Don't forget to tip your waitress!

Posted by: biggerbox on October 25, 2010 at 11:04 AM | PERMALINK

Aren't his pop-culture references all about 5-10 years out of date, with the possible exception of MMA and one of the Jimmies Johnson?

Posted by: FlipYrWhig on October 25, 2010 at 11:06 AM | PERMALINK

I think Charles Murray read http://stuffwhitepeoplelike.com/, thinking it might have ideas for his next pitch to the Pioneer Fund for $$$, realized it was satire, and then tried to turn it into a column.

Posted by: Sock Puppet of the Great Satan on October 25, 2010 at 11:15 AM | PERMALINK

The more you read of Murray's column, the deeper the crock gets.

You do have to credit him with some balls, though, for actually including mention of The Bell Curve, his most famous work of crockery.

Posted by: biggerbox on October 25, 2010 at 11:25 AM | PERMALINK

Shorter Murray: Ignorance is Strength.

Posted by: Vriginia on October 25, 2010 at 12:17 PM | PERMALINK

After reading all this, I still don't know what MMA is.

Posted by: Virginia on October 25, 2010 at 12:23 PM | PERMALINK

We should recommend two new reality shows to the networks. One where they follow people around like Charles Murray and John Boehner and crew, showing us how they really live and another where people like Charles Murray and John Boehner (or John McCain, or Glenn Beck, or Rush Limbaugh)agree to live on minimum wage for a couple of months and give us sage wisdom on how well they made ends meet. If there is any justice in this world, one of them will fall ill and find out what it is like to not have insurance during that time.

Posted by: Always Hopeful on October 25, 2010 at 12:24 PM | PERMALINK

If there's some kind of class/cultural resentment playing out, why are these far-right activists working to elect candidates who'll prioritize tax cuts for the "New Elite" above all?

Because the American cannon-fodder class has been knuckling their brow to Ol' Massa for so long, it's now in their DNA.

Hearing that @#$%$##@!! Sara Palin say over the weekend that this election is about "the little guy sending a message" made me want to re-examine my "Second Amendment remedies."

It's all further proof that Mencken was right: "nobody ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American people."

Posted by: TCinLA on October 25, 2010 at 1:00 PM | PERMALINK

re: 'Second Amendment remedies,' Sharrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrron Angle + her ilk might want to consider that there's such a thing as pro-2nd Amendment liberals. I'm one of them, + I'm also a Sharpshooter, 1st Bar.

Just something for them to consider,

Posted by: Zorro on October 25, 2010 at 1:16 PM | PERMALINK

where I live Oprah is on each day at 4pm. Pardon me for having a job and not being able to sit at home and watch TV all afternoon like my red state compatriots evidently get to do.

Its so lonely being an elite.

Posted by: andy on October 25, 2010 at 1:26 PM | PERMALINK

As an occasional member of the group Murray is attacking, I know who Jimmie Johnson is and know who Dale Earnhardt was. I also have the advantage of living in the same state as Branson. Murray is talking about a set of biases that are regional. Did the voters for Paladino visit Branson regularly?

Posted by: 4jkb4ia on October 25, 2010 at 5:08 PM | PERMALINK

MMA = Mixed Martial Arts. Has gotten about the same coverage from NYT sports page as boxing IMHO.

Posted by: 4jkb4ia on October 25, 2010 at 5:10 PM | PERMALINK

The reference to "new" elites forces me to ask what happened to the "old" elites. Are the old elites now listening to Toby Keith and attending mega churches? A wise (and cynical) man wrote long ago ( in French,no less) that the more things change, the more they remain the same.

Posted by: Mark Smeraldi on October 25, 2010 at 6:39 PM | PERMALINK

Charles Murray is the one out of touch, not his imaginary ruling class. In Murrays article in the Sunday Outlook section, he quizzes readers to determine their new elite status. His questions reveal how little the American Enterprise Institute scholar knows about mainstream America. Indeed, the picture he paints of ordinary America is part nostalgia and part a vicious vision of violence and ignorance. Next time, do some scholarly research before you quiz people about your fantasies, Murrays. As for the rest of the readers of this post: if Murray is so off base with his "quiz," how much do credence do you give to the opinions that followed it?

1. Sure, I recognize Jimmie Johnson as a top NASCAR driver, and NASCAR may be the leading spectator sport in terms of ticket sales to races. But far more Americans watch NFL, MLB or NBA games (not all of these together, but each individually) on television than NASCAR. Nothing wrong with NASCAR, but it is not more popular than three other major sports that help define what America likes best: team sports.
2. Murray's question about recognizing ranks by uniform insignias is a stand-in for military service. While being a military veteran is an honorable thing, it apparently is not typical. According to the U.S. Census, in 2009 only 9.5% of people over 18 were veterans. It may be a sad thing that so few serve so many, but that is the way it is in mainstream America.
3. Watching people in cages pound each other in mixed martial arts (MMA) is what the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) is all about but is it a mainstream favorite? The broadcast of the fight called UFC 120 on October 16, 2010 attracted 1.9 million viewers.The elitist golf U.S. Open Championship in July pulled 10 million viewers.
4. Branson, Mo. is a great place to visit for country music, and 7 million people toured there last year. However, more 30 million visited the Smithosonian Institutions museums. Sorry, Murray, museums are more mainstream than country music.
5. Service and civic clubs like Kiwanis and the Rotary are great institutions, but there are only 240,000 Kiwanis members and 1.2 million Rotarians worldwide hardly mainstream. Why didnt Murray mention the 2.2 million community volunteers who were managed or mobilized by AmeriCorps members in 2008? He's former Peace Corps, after all. By the way, people with higher levels of education have higher rates of volunteerism does that make volunteering an elitist thing?
6. Murray seems to think that The Price is Right is an indicator of mainstream America, but only 698,000 people watched it the week on October 21. That liberal showcase The View may not be mainstream, either, but more people watched it then (728,000 viewers).
7. Murray should wake up and smell the numbers for a number of decades now, the number of people living in small town America has been tiny compared to the number in urban and suburban areas.
8. By Murrays measurement system, sorcery is more mainstream than Christianity. Authors of the Left Behind series, a 16-volume fictionalizing of the Bibles Book of Revelations, had total sales of 65 million copies worldwide. J.K. Rowlings 7 books in the Harry Potter series have sold more than 400 million.
9. According to Murray, living in an area where most people lack college degrees is an indicator of being mainstream. That area is called the United States of America. In our hometown Washington Metro Area, with the nations highest education level, fewer than half of people over 25 have 4 year college degrees.
10. Identify a field of soy beans? Only 16 percent of Americans live outside metropolitan statistical areas the largely rural places where you expect to find soy beans. There are more people waiting at big city bus stops to get to work than feeding chickens in the countryside.

In summary, Murray sees mainstream America as undereducated rural/small town veterans who enjoy watching fast cars, brawls, country music and game shows, who are hooked on apocalyptic religion and who join civic clubs. Well, what can you expect from an elitist with a Harvard BA and doctorate from MIT?

Posted by: Morris Baltimore on October 25, 2010 at 7:05 PM | PERMALINK

Just more of the same old quasi-populist bullshit we've been getting since the days of Spiro Agnew.

Florence King, of the old NR "Misanthrope's Corner" column, always earned a certain grudging respect for me for her willingness to lay the fundamental plantation-plutocrat elitism of her creed right out on the line. I remember an old piece she wrote during the Bush I era, warning her fellow rightists of the danger inherent in "trying to out-lout the proles". King was a nasty, racist, classist piece of work (and a self-hating dyke to boot), but at least she had the good sense, and good taste, not to embarrass herself attempting to valorize Joe Beergut.

Posted by: Chet on October 25, 2010 at 10:47 PM | PERMALINK

Yo, Charles Murray! I'll give you three guesses why most people have never worked a job on a factory floor, and two of them don't count. You can thank the real elitesthe economic elites: the wealthiest 10% who own 50% of the nation's net incomefor a state of affairs in which almost all manufacturing has been outsourced to India, China, and South and Central America.

Personally, I was one of the lucky few to land a factory job (I was also once a roofer, a data entry clerk, and a bus driver), and I have never cracked the spine of a Harlequin romance or Left Behind book either. I wouldn't have figured that Charles Murray is apparently a big fan of the bodice-ripping romance novel.

This is just another case of the true elites throwing mud in the eyes of working people by turning their attention away from the economic elites to the "cultural elites", as well as teaching them to ignore the overlap between the two groups. After all, I don't see many tweed-jacketed college professors underwriting performances of operas at about $1 or $2 million a pop. Your average college professor is lucky if he or she earns enough to be able to afford season tickets in the nosebleed section.

The only notable thing about it is how far into the bottom of the barrel he has to go dredging to come up with something that distinguishes his idea of the "common man" from the "(cultural) elite". The cultural elite used to be the kind of people who went on the Grand Tour (and were therefore pretty well off or had rich friends they could accompany), and then they became the people who could discuss Proust and Celine. Now they're the people who don't find badly written fundamentalist revenge fantasies amenable. Honestly, if there's anything that tells me who the elitist is in this discussion, it's the fact that Charles Murray is so out of touch that he assumes that working class people will not or cannot read classic and well-written works.

Posted by: Nullifidian on October 27, 2010 at 6:29 PM | PERMALINK



Read Jonathan Rowe remembrance and articles
Email Newsletter icon, E-mail Newsletter icon, Email List icon, E-mail List icon Sign up for Free News & Updates

Advertise in WM

buy from Amazon and
support the Monthly