11.14.10 Whose Elite? (or, Who’s Elite?)

In his Washington Post column today, David Ignatius cites a Rasmussen poll saying that “86% of the elite believes the country is ‘heading in the right direction,’ compared with 19% of the mainstream.”

This begs an obvious question: what do you mean by “elite”?  The question is ever-more salient, as the term is being purposely employed by the GOP and Tea Party to rip off the American public.  These bad guys – who are overwhelmingly funded by an ultra-wealthy fringe of American society – define elite as anyone who went to a top-notch university or is otherwise highly intelligent and who doesn’t want to cut taxes for the (guess who?) ultra-wealthy.

Under this deceptive scheme, you’ve long had the scions of wealthy families parading around in flannel shirts and pick-up trucks, going bowling and eating pork rinds to reassure middle America that they’re just one of the guys.  With Harvard-educated pointy-heads as the enemy of the people, the Sarah Palins of the world get brownie points for being just plain dumb.  It is seen as an attack from those who “just don’t get it” when candidates not bright enough to change a light bulb get asked by reporters what books they read.  Note that Yalies are exempted from being tagged as elite, as long as they don’t believe in evolution or global warming (can you say “W”?).

The American people — kept purposely stupid by an insipid mass media (owned by the ultra wealthy) and a horrific public education system – eat this stuff up.  They turn out in droves to vote for folks who are “just like me” and miss entirely that they are being manipulated by the true elite: the one-half-of-one-percent of wealthiest Americans who are underwriting cuts to education, consolidation of the media, and (one supposes) new dictionaries that change the definition of words like “elite.”  (I may be exaggerating when it comes to the dictionary, but whom do you think is bankrolling the movement to turn Texas textbooks into propaganda organs of the right?)

Mainstream support for know-nothingism is especially ironic when you consider that most intellectuals actually believe in a greater good beyond their own wealth and would do something to improve the lot of those who have little or nothing.  It is the anti-intellectuals (created and funded by the economic elite) who reject entirely the concept of a greater good, of compassion, or progress for anyone but themselves.  Reactionary* support for assaults on intellectuals is hardly a new phenomenon, but the manipulation of the word “elite” is specific to our time and our Republican Party.

Given this political environment, it is irresponsible for pundits like Ignatius to toss around the term without defining what they mean.

*PS. I’m sick of the word “conservative” being used to describe Sarah Palin, Mitch McConnell, and John Boehner.  I’d like to call them fascist, but admit that the term may be slightly overdrawn.  “Reactionary” is what they are and that is what I’m going to call them from now on.

©2010 Keith Berner

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