Untimely Observations

Winning the Bubbas

Two articles of interest to the Alternative Right. While Richard is trying to craft an intellectual movement of the disparate pieces of the disposessed Right, we should give some thoughts as to how the political sausage is made. While intellectualizing is important, the real strength of the movement is how  people live it internally. This Policy Review article on the Tea Party phenomenon points this out nicely. The Tea Party movement is the closest thing to a break in the neoconservative hegemony we have. It has virtually no intellectuals of note, no real new ideas; it is an attitude and a warning to the ruling elite. Intellectuals (I prefer to refer to them as "technocratic elites") think they're leading movements. The point I take away from this article: they may be running things, but they're not leading any movements. Furthermore, the article points out a dimension of how the present elite's social control works: social aspiration. If you're a middle class schlub in an office job who wants to think of himself as better than your fellows, how do you do it? Well, the same way the middle class has always done it -- by apeing the folkways of the social class immediately above them, in this case, the class consisting of technocratic professionals who run the place.

A governing elite that has a monopoly over the allocation of prestige has immense power over a culture. It can decide what ideas, thinkers, and movements merit attention, while it can also determine what ideas, thinkers, and movements should be dismissed with scorn and contempt — assuming that the elite even condescends to notice their existence. Needless to say, such a setup will lead to a high degree of intellectual cronyism, in which members of the “in” group mutually endorse and reinforce each others’ prestige; but like crony capitalism, this is standard operating procedure of all elites and should come as no surprise. Relying on the natural human desire to gravitate towards prestige, the intellectual elite has no need to resort to the ham-fisted methods of Orwell’s Big Brother.

What sparked the Tea Party revolt is mounting dissatisfaction at living in a society in which a small group has increasingly solidified its monopoly over the manufacture and distribution of opinion, deciding which ideas and policies should be looked upon favorably and which political candidates will be sympathetically reported. Even more, the Tea Party rebels bitterly resent the rigid censorship exercised by this elite over the limits of acceptable public discourse. Those who have the power to rule an opinion “out of order” do not need to take the trouble to refute it, or even examine it. They can simply make it go away.

It is the Tea Partiers’ indifference to the whole idea of intellectual respectability that renders them immune to the prestige pressure that molds and shapes the ideas and opinions of those who do care about being intellectually respectable. To put it another way, the Tea Partiers can escape the otherwise all-pervasive influence of our cultural elite because they are the people who Gramsci called marginalized outsiders.

The whole article is worth a read.

Coming at the problem from another direction is Fred Reed. Fred is acutely aware of social class, since he comes from what Christian Landers would call, "the wrong kind of white people." You know, like the Tea Partiers.

When I read columnists or listen to talking heads on the lobotomy box, they strike me as delusional. What are these decapitated crania prattling about? From what morgue did they escape? What country are they from? Certainly not the America I grew up in. I conclude that they suffer from Commentator’s Disease, which consists in the confluence of several disabilities, the first being high intelligence.  ...

The commentators don’t realize that not everybody is like them. Those with IQs of 140 and up (130 gets you into Mensa, I think) unconsciously believe that anything is possible. Denizens of this class know that if they decided to learn, say, classical Greek, they could. You get the book and go at it. It would take work, yes, and time, but the outcome would be certain. They don’t understand that the waitress has an IQ of 85 and can’t learn much of anything.

Fred is essentially pointing out the same thing: the loons in charge of the booby hatch we call America have very little real connection with the actual human beings who live here. While an Alternative Right should generate new ideas, and dust off some useful old ones, if we want to have some impact on the world, we need to connect with the people who live in it.