Thursday, November 16, 2006

Get Behind Me Boys

I’ll protect you from the Chardonnazis!

Po’ Bobo.

Somewhere a Kallikak’s feeling has been wounded. A Juke has been slighted.

A dust bunny has wafted out from behind the chemical toilet and scared a Son of the Soil right out of his sister.

Thank Merciful God that David Brooks is there to take up their cross.

A snip, copied from the Bobo’s Jethromiad, “The Heyday of Snobbery”.
And so we enter the era of mass condescension. Thanks to the creativity of our cultural entrepreneurs, we enter a time when we can gather in large groups and look down at our mental, social and spiritual inferiors.

In retrospect, it's easy to see how this cultural moment crept up on us. There is “American Idol,” which allows the millions to watch Simon Cowell ridicule people who don't realize how talentless they are. There is the middle segment of “The Daily Show,” during which correspondents sometimes go out and use postmodern interviewing techniques to humiliate rural goobers who think they were abducted by aliens or some such.

Then there is the rise of culture-war comedians whose jokes heap scorn on the sorts of people who are guaranteed not to be in the audience. (“Megachurches,” Bill Maher joked recently on HBO, “are presided over by the same skeevy door-to-door Bible salesmen that we've always had, just in an age of better technology. But they're selling the same thing: fear. Fear to keep you in line.”

Then, the condescending H.L Menckenites were a small, educated sect, much less popular than the romantics who celebrated the Middle American common man in novels, movies and fanfares. Now, however, the Mencken sensibility is a mass phenomenon, found on networks and in multiplexes all across the country. We've democratized snobbery and turned it into a consumption item for the vast educated class. Popular culture has traveled from “The Grapes of Wrath” to Borat the magnificent.
Well, OK, let’s take a look at this tide of snobbery that is supposedly sweeping the land and coarsening the breed.

Based on the Nielsen Ratings of popular television programs (Spring 2006) – what actually people are actually watching – let’s strap this muttha into the cultural particle accelerator, dial it up to “Smashy” and see what’s what.

I mean, if Bobo’s right, there should be wall-to-wall evidence of the mass disparagement of the Usual Rightard Suspects, shouldn’t there?

AMERICAN IDOL took both first and second places.

Is it condescending?


Does it condescend to Christopaths and Red State simpletons?


Hell, those are the people who watch the fucking show, but Bobo needs to keep feeding the paranoid fantasies of the Great Wad that they are somehow downtrodden and put-upon.

Of course they are, but the knife they feel at their backs is wielded by Bobo's paymasters and controllers within the Power Elite of the Republican Party and not by Jon Stewart. And if someone really is stupid enough to keep supporting the very people who are kicking their teeth down their throat, then cutting of their health insurance, then mortgaging their children's future, well the absolute minimum they deserve is to be mocked.

Preferably into extinction.

But I digress.

AMERICAN IDOL doesn't pick on anyone except those who are so frantic for fame and fortune that they will humiliate themselves for money. Who, for sordid wages, will basically shit their pants on teevee. And given the difference between that and what David Brooks does from the NYT is not one of kind but of degree, perhaps that explains why he is to terribly sensitive about the topic.

#3 -- DESPERATE HOUSEWIVES, which certainly mocks the rot at the heart of white, suburban privilege but little else. Again, maybe the shells are falling a little close to Casa Bobo.

4 CSI: MIAMI CBS The umpteenth in this generation of “Serve and Protect and T and A” police procedurals featuring flatly affected cops with thumbnail-sketched blasted private lives who solve crimes apparently by using “Minority Report” computers and nth generation weather modeling software to figure out where a strand of DNA would have blown on the day in question. Then they drive to Tallahassee, shinny up a palm tree, and tweeze out the conclusive proof that the Colonel Mustard did it in the Library with a Nine Iron.

This appeals to people who want to believe that a Sekrit Race of criminal supergeniuses are being held at bay by a thing blue line of Law Enforcement superdupergeniuses…but doesn't mock anyone in particular, unless you count Stanley Kubrick and every other director who believed in long takes.

#5 -- 60 MINUTES. While it grew to prominence putting con men in jail, it doesn't really make fun of them.

#6 -- TWO AND A HALF MEN – From the man who brought you “Dharma and Greg” – (which stereotyped the Left and Right with excruciating balance), this mocks stupid men, wastrels, man-eating mothers, and as in real life most of the hilarity is based on sexually-humiliating situations.

#7 DEAL OR NO DEAL-- people jumping up and down peeing themselves for cash. Has been a staple of public entertainment since the Aztecs. Contestants are not forced to come on and freak out on camera and should consider themselves lucky they aren't ritually disemboweled if they lose.

#8 THE UNIT - Military procedural. Saw four minutes of it once. Didn’t notice anyone being singled out for derision.

#9 GREY'S ANATOMY - If it mocks anyone, it's the unattractive.

#10 -- LOST - the most diverse cast on television, it takes both science and faith very seriously. Its heroes include a nearly-amoral con man, a murderous drug lord turned priest, a father and son, a spinal surgeon, a Iraqi Republican Guard torturer, a Korean mob enforcer and his wife, an interracial couple, a fat guy, a junkie and a felon on the run. It never condescends to any of them. In fact the “villains” are, as far as we know, what appear to be what remains of a 1970s “Walden II”-style experiment that went drastically wrong.

#11 OLD CHRISTINE - It just plain sucks, but it reserves most of its scorn for the pastel-based Stepford Moms who appear to run the school, and for the show's protagonist.

The rest of the Top 20 are the same; medicals, cop shows, sports and game shows.

And twas ever thus, so understand what's really going on here.

Brooks is a huckster whose only skill in this world is hawking his Neocon ideological snake oil to rubes and Christopaths. And since that is the ONLY marketable line on his resume, he doesn't get rewarded because he's right, or entertaining, or particularly talented. He prospers because stupid and hateful people will always pay a fat premium to have a suit writing for the NYT they can point to and say “See! We'z right!”

He comforts them and tells them what they want to hear, except he and his ilk just got their asses publicly handed to them. But while they may have lost their political manhood in the most spectacular way imaginable, they still need to pay the mortgage, and Bobo ain't gonna feed the goose that shits the Magic Golden Cheetohs by writing anything resembling the ugly, painful truth.

So he needs to pick some stupid fight that'll shore up his street cred as the Friend Of The Everyman and foe of the Chardonnay-sipping Liberal elite.

He needs to find a nice, safe, market-tested raison d'etre, and calling out the Vast Liberal Media Conspiracy for colluding to make hillbillies and preachers look stupid is a Conservative Bullshit well that never runs dry.

So having lost on every front, Bobo pulls out this old chestnut from his favorite autographed Pat Buchanan Nixon-era trick bag and desperately crawls back under the Culture War Porch to lick his wounds until it's safe to come out and start lying about Liberals hating Christmas based on some anecdotal stupidity that happened in the cat food aisle of the Des Moines Maquota, Iowa Piggly Wiggly.


Kid Charlemagne said...

That face on (I presume) Lynda Carter's body--THE HORROR! AAAIIEEEEE!

Also, I checked Piggly Wiggly's website ( and there is no PW in Des Moines; indeed only one in Iowa. I still enjoyed the essay. :)

roxtar said...

Dammit, some people must be mocked. Sinclair Lewis knew this. The irony of Bobo stepping up in defense of his fellow rubes is simply delicious. The over and under on Bobo getting his effete, NYC ass kicked into pudding at the Owl's Club in Cameron, WV is about 90 seconds. And distribution of the NYT being less than optimal in rural WV, nary a toothless hillbilly would recognize him as the Defender of Booboisie Culture, nor lift a terbaccy-stained finger in his defense.

Will Divide said...

Condescending like: "White rednecks didn't come out to vote for us" condescending?

Anonymous said...

"AMERICAN IDOL doesn't pick on anyone except those who are so frantic for fame and fortune that they will humiliate themselves for money. Who, for sordid wages, will basically shit their pants on teevee. And given the difference between that and what David Brooks does from the NYT is not one of kind but of degree, perhaps that explains why he is to terribly sensitive about the topic."

Nailed it!

alyssa said...

Right on Drifty. I think this is evidence of projection. Probably deep down Bobo really detests the christopaths and the hillbillies and wishes he had the freedom to mock them. The best he can do is to "see" that mocking everywhere else.

Anonymous said...

While I find David Brooks atrocious, and much of your essay is right on, you cannot deny there is an element of truth to Brooks' description of a certain cultural snobbery that views much of America - what has been disdainfully reffered to as "fly-over country" because bi-caostal elites fly over it - as hopelessly ignorant, a land of philistines and yokels. That Brooks's is ignorant of the non-idological nature of such snobbery (it is not a liberal phenomenon, but a result of bad education) and is part and parcel of the problem himself does not negate a certain truth. One can disagree with much of Brooks and still agree that there is something to what he is saying.

DeeLuzon said...

this is what i sent to the Times/brooks last night:

I don't mind you trying to compare this year's popular culture with that of 65-80 years ago, but I wish you would find more valid examples than Mencken or Steinbeck. If you were to compare Borat to the Marx Brothers or W.C. Fields, you'd be much closer to the mark — but then you would have to acknowledge that madcap, rude, anti-authoritarian hilarity is not, after all, a disturbing sign of early 21st century decadence specifically, but, rather just an ongoing tradition. Uproariously subversive comedy is as American as Captain Jeffrey T. Spaulding or The Great McGonigle.

eddie blake said...

...what you MEAN the 31% who STILL think the chimperor ROCKS the CASBAH...

..the people who PROCLAIM their ALLEGIANCE to a WORLD without FACTS with GLEE...

they AREN'T COGNITIVELY impaired?!?

...there ISN'T something WRONG with them?

...Pointing OUT that SOMEONE has DRIVEN into a FUCKING DITCH..

...when their SHINY six TON SUV of a COUNTRY is mudcovered and dented, SPINNING its WHEELS upside DOWN in a FUCKING DITCH..

...that's NOT condescension...

...that's not DERISION...'s the REALITY based UNIVERSE come a'callin....

...she's got some WONDERFUL little LAWS of PHYSICS she'd llike to TALK to you about..

...something about 'ACTIONS' and 'REACTIONS'...

..have FUN...we'll PROMISE not to laugh....

BitterHarvest said...

Brilliant post, D. In fact, one of your most incisive. There are too many brilliant lines in it for me to pull one out and say "This is my favorite." Brooks writes nothing more than a slightly more intellectual version of the horses**t commonly pimped by right wing pundits. In this case his piece is a rehashing of things like Laura Ingraham's Shut Up and Sing. It is not astute cultural commentary to single out one small kind of bigotry, ignoring all the others, and promote it as part of a demented mythos and political movement that maintains that the poor white people and Christians of the country, somehow, despite enjoying the majority and controlling all the levers of power, are downtrodden and oppressed.

Anonymous said...

Two words: Inhofe

Ten of millions think EXACTLY like that jackass.

There is nothing elitist in pointing at these morons, and saying "unfortunately, evolution can't work fast enough."

Scout said...

The irony of Bobo calling out the elitists is too delicious for words. As if he is one of the fly-over-state-little-people he so self righteously champions. Pissant.

cieran said...

Quick follow up on Blader's comment about Inhofe, and Geoffrey's "fly-over country".

Here in the heart of fly-over country, Inhofe is already an embarrassment, and his increasingly disturbed rantings (be sure to catch his god-and-global-warming rant on Fox today!) are likely signs that he's in the early stages of a Captain-Queeg-style meltdown.

And that will be so much fun to watch.

The big contest in Inhofe country last week was the Governor's race, where Democratic incumbent Brad Henry simply pulverized his GOP challenger Ernest Istook, winning with 67% (!!!) of the vote in a (formerly?) very red state.

In the weeks before the election, even Karl Rove showed up in the capital city of OKC to fire up the GOP base, but Istook got stomped anyway, and you can bet Inhofe is now looking over his shoulder at strong Dems gaining on him for the 2008 Senate race.

Lots of good fun going on in flyover country!

Anonymous said...

Cieran, I am also a resident of fly-over, Illinois-style. I think those who find a certain lack of irony in Brooks championing anti-elitism are much closer to the point than trying to point out that such elitism is warranted.
It is good to know Istook went down in flames. Could you please remove Inhofe (on whom I wrote today).

Loveandlight said...

You are consistently at your best when you are deconstructing one of Brooksie's ridiculous screeds.

litbrit said...

if someone really is stupid enough to keep supporting the very people who are kicking their teeth down their throat, then cutting of their health insurance, then mortgaging their children's future, well the absolute minimum they deserve is to be mocked.

Preferably into extinction.

Yes, yes, yes. Beautifully said. And as for mocking those deserving gits, I shall continue to do it with glee.

Brooks is pathetic.

1988dylan said...

Love the way you clobber the Brookster. Brooks is a pinche pendejo of the tallest order.

chautauqua said...

Here in Minnesota, we refuse to be "fly-over country". We sent Wellstone to the Senate. And please don't think that you've heard the last of us...

Gentlewoman said...

...poor white people and Christians of the country, somehow, despite enjoying the majority and controlling all the levers of power, are downtrodden and oppressed.

Well, of course, they are downtrodden and oppressed. It's only their leaders who are enjoying and controlling things. And their leaders got there by lying to them about who's doing the oppressing. Just like Bobo does. Just like Bobo, as driftglass points out, is paid to do.

As a resident of 'flyover country,' here in the Ozarks, I can tell you that those people are starting to be a lot less easy to fool. There's a reason 'the base' is shrinking. The GOP is basically down to hardcore racists and christopaths for support. They can have them. Because the South (at least their South), is NOT going to rise again. Just ask George Felix Allen.

deeluzon: You are the second person I have seen comparing Borat to the Marx Brothers, and I really think it is a valid comparison.

clarke said...

Y'know, the only other time I've seen someone use "Menckenesque" as a put-down was in a profoundly dumb anti-Daily Show op-ed by some asshole college kid in the Boston Globe. (google "kalin stewart globe" if you've got some time to kill, it's hilarious)

Now, H.L. certainly had his flaws, but when these people morph his name into an adjective with a negative connotation, they're not calling attention to his unexamined anti-Semitism or the fact that he was a mama's boy.

What offends them is the idea that a pissant nobody would question his betters.

But apparently I'm the elitist. Could someone pass me my bowl of Wheat Chex through the looking-glass? I'm starving over here.

Loveandlight said...

A bit off-topic, but since somebody mentioned the hardcore racists and Christopaths, I would like to take issue with the notion that they make up all of the 30% who comprise W.'s favorable approval-rating. I think it's more like 25%, and that extra 5% are those otherwise decent people who are simply congenitally predisposed to deceive themselves about what's going on in the world around them and about who's responsible for it. That's a pretty standard human phenomenon, unfortunately.

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