Friday, July 14, 2006

I Come to Praise Elitists, Not to Bury Them

Posted By on Fri, Jul 14, 2006 at 5:51 PM

Three times in the last month or so I've been hit with the criticism that I'm an "elitist" or I've taken an elitist position. It happened when I voiced concerns over the new plan to turn vloggers into TV journalists. It happened when I posited that Nemesisboy could be classified as a DaDaist (and for finding him funny). I even got called snooty for expressing opinions on soccer deemed to condescend to auto racing.

It's all a bit perplexing to me, and leaves me with a bad taste in my mouth, kinda like when other black kids used to say I thought I was white because I had decent grammar and got good grades (99% o' y'all will have to think about that one for a moment). But it isn't only me, you know. Liz Garrigan got whacked with it in the discussion about the Vlogger thing, however she gives as good as she gets. People ask me why Jim Ridley doesn't like good movies, what is he, a snob? Elitism is a spectre in the conflagrations over the Beowolf party, or whatever it was that Tracy wrote about that caused so much consternation. I'm not at all sure how being skeptical about pay for freelancers in a new business model or being near obsessed with the World Cup translates into "elitism," at least not in the accepted definition of the word. This is what makes calling someone elitist the same as leveling charges of political correctness against them. The meanings are so varied and flexible as to stretch the word out of any shape that may have lead to understanding. We just know that you mean to insult. You think you're so smart, you know so much, that you're better than us.

Therein lies the power of the insult and the reason it is levied in the first place. You spend most of your adult life striving to stand out, however when someone actually points out that you do, you flinch. No, no, I'm just like everyone else. I don't think I'm better than you. I'm not trying to be white. Worse yet, someone discovers your secret, that you actually want to stand out, the distress is greater.

The whole thing over the Buttercup Disco Party in France that Tracy and Claire wrote about is so illustrative of this. An article appears in a paper we're predisposed to think is run by people looking down their nose at us. A few too many snarky remarks are tossed about re: fashion and stuff, people fall out of their chairs. "Oh my God the Scene is at it again with their elitist snobbery! YOU ARE NOT BETTER THAN US YOU BASTARDS! AND NEITHER ARE THOSE NERDS AT THE BUTTERCUP PARTY!" And so it went on. The Buttercup people reacted to that bad taste in their mouths and started immediately trying to show how regular they were. More invitations were handed out than splatter packs in a Kitamura film. Oh MY how the tone changed. Everyone held hands and thought about what they would wear.

(Of course you know at this party the painfully normal and the painfully awkward will stand on opposite sides of the room and make fun of each other. It will end up like the end of Breakfast Club, where Estevez' character goes back with the jocks and Hall's with the nerds and Nelson to trivia question obscurity and Ringwald goes home with the linebacker . . . oh, that's er . . . nevermind)

That's the irony of leveling the elitist bomb at someone. You succeed in your goal of sticking out your tongue at them in an effective way, however, you also end up acknowledging the very thing you seek to insult -- this person actually does have a morsel of knowledge, a bit of experience, a hipster club card, a white belt, and you don't. What you mean the world to understand is, "You're an elitist and you're wrong," however, you're actually saying "You're an elitist and I really have no idea how to dispute what you have to say. So keep it to yourself." Or even, "That elitist club sure looks like fun, uhm, is there anyway you could let me in? I mean, I'd like to be elite someday, too." People from high school would be happy I ended this with the term "HATERS."

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