Universal Translator

Monday, November 14, 2011

American Aristocracy Update

About six weeks ago I wrote a quick post reflecting on American society's apparent desire to create an aristocracy.  I pointed out that those in power tend to sniff at social climbers who "rise above their station" but, once one has elevated oneself to a position of prestige, power or great wealth, one's children are automatically treated as royalty:
Who can forget David Broder’s famous exclamation over Clinton’s infamous personal failing with Monica Lewinsky:  “He came in here and he trashed the place, and it’s not his place.” (emphasis added)  Or DC doyenne Sally Quinn’s eight-year personal feud with the Clintons after First Lady Hillary committed the unpardonable snub of failing to attend one of Quinn’s luncheons when the Clintons first came to town in 1993?  Sure, one can imagine the establishment hacks thinking, they may be the President and First Lady, but let’s remember – they’re from Arkansas, and have no real money.  They’re not really one of us.
Of course, the Clintons have since moved into the rarefied strata of the landed gentry.  They’ve been around long enough – and have gotten rich enough – that were Chelsea or her inevitable brood to decide to get politically involved she (or they) would be welcomed with open arms.  Just as were George W. Bush, Lisa Murkowski, and Luke Russert.  I have a picture in my head of the Villagers gathered around Sally Quinn's table like the cast in Tod Browning’s Freaks, and all of them chanting “One of us.  One of us.  One of us.”
Well, what can I say?  Sometimes I am prescient.  Today we learn that NBC News has hired Chelsea Clinton to be a full-time special correspondent.

Don't get me wrong . . . I have nothing against Chelsea Clinton personally.  From everything I hear, she is an intelligent, poised, charming young woman.  Certainly, her education at Stanford, Oxford, Columbia and New York University indicate that she isn't brain-dead.  But that education has been in history and public policy.  And while it is great that she can bring some actual - albeit theoretical - knowledge to her new position as Special  Correspondent for one of the Big Three Network News Channels, let's not lose sight of the fact that she apparently has no journalistic experience whatsoever.

Now, it may very well be that Clinton ends up doing a bang-up job in this new gig.  But can anyone actually suggest with a straight face that she wouldn't even have been considered for this position if it weren't for her parentage?

What I find so insidious about little anecdotes like this is that so few people report on what is actually happening.  The politically powerful become rich, the people reporting on the politically powerful become rich, and the children of the politically powerful become both rich and the people reporting on the politically powerful.  (See, e.g., not only Chelsea Clinton, but also Jenna Bush, who is a correspondent for NBC's "Today" show, and Meghan McCain, who is a contributor at MSNBC).

Not only is American society flat-out engineering a ruling class (something that should be anathema to the idea of the United States), not only is the creation of this ruling class likely to result in even greater epistemic closure than already exists, but nobody is even remarking on this fact, nobody thinks this is surprising at all, it just seems to be accepted that "this is the way it is" now.

Surely I'm not the only person who finds this troubling?

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