October 2009

Whom are you calling 'elite'?

By Katharhynn Heidelberg

Alas for Cal Thomas. The syndicated commentator was the latest, as of mid- September, to take the easy route — by slapping an emotionally charged label on the people with whom he disagrees, a label which, further, is defined solely by those who agree with him!

This label is “elites.”

On the scale of Tiresome Distractions from the Facts, it ranks up there with “socialist,” as applied to anyone with the temerity to suggest our tax dollars ought to be used to benefit the majority of Americans, rather than to further line the pockets of, um, the real elites; or describing those who could not countenance a war with Iraq when our true enemy was in Afghanistan as “unpatriotic."

Those defining the word “elite” most often use it as a modifier for “media” — which they would have people believe is some sinister group of killer alien robots, rather than individuals with human wants, needs, failings, attributes, and a job that, when done correctly, is critical to the preservation of democracy.

Witness Thomas’ piece from the week of Sept. 13. The column addresses a case in which a homeschooled student’s father succeeded through the courts in having her sent to public school because of her mother's supposed extremism. There’s nothing wrong with Thomas questioning the wisdom of the judge’s decision; just about anyone can see the slippery slope when a court starts decreeing whose views are “extreme.”

It’s Thomas’s conclusion that is bizarre — that the case is ºone more example of arrogant elitism run amok.

“I’m on the side of the people,” he wrote. “The judge and the Obama administration are on the side of the elites. And that’s why so many are justifiably angry.”

I’m confused. Did Obama order the little girl to public school (the better, no doubt, to brainwash her into aiding his “agenda”)? Or was the child’s father wealthy and powerful?

I also take issue with Thomas’ trite lament: that “a small cadre of government, academic and media elite (care) nothing about (people) except when it comes to their tax dollars.”

One of the immediate problems with such labeling — other than its wild inaccuracy — is the hypocrisy. It usually comes from wildly popular pundits (members of the media, by the way!) who themselves make money hand over fist, or politicians who were born practically choking on their silver spoons.

Then of course, there is the inaccuracy. I’ll grant that there are government elitists, and that they come from both sides of the aisle.

You might be surprised to learn that I — a member of “the media” and “a Democrat” and, arguably, “a liberal” — live paycheck to paycheck, had to get a loan for my Hyundai (a Hyundai!), once was a desperately poor temp living in my sister's basement, and before that, a video store clerk, and before that, summer help for a wealthy (and decent) man. Before that, even, I hoed beans in Dove Creek at the age of 12 so I could buy my own school clothes.

So who’s the media elitist — liberal me, or the super-rich, conservative Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, Ann Coulter, et al.?

The biggest problem with the old “The media and academic elite are controlling us!” notion is that it was made up in the first place in order to anger “real” people so they would be easier to manipulate. The people who helped create this myth are, ironically, members of the actual elite. And a fair number of them sign the paychecks of the pundits who help spread the misinformation.

Still, I can’t really fault Thomas. Not when the supposedly reformed welearned- our-lesson Republican party is sending out “Obama Agenda Surveys” that are nothing more than a list of push-poll questions — and a naked appeal for contributions from those who can least afford it.

Because of poor record-keeping, I guess, the GOP sends me these surveys, and I take delight in completing them. This year, an accompanying letter from GOP national chairman Michael Steele takes first prize for sheer audacity.

The highlights:

“You know that the liberal media elites and the Obama Democrats are hoping you will put this letter down right now and do nothing…”

Yeah. And they’re gulping down baby-flavored doughnuts and swilling unicorn tears in between beating up kittens and obsessing about me. Gotcha.

“They want you to give up…and walk away from your conservative principles.”

Well, why not? The national GOP already has!

“…We intend…to actively oppose and expose the truth about the Obama Democrat agenda.”

Oh, goody! I love me some agendas! Almost as much as I love conspiracy theories!

“We believe that you and every one of the more than 60 million voters who did not vote for Barack Obama deserve to have a voice in the way this country is governed.”

Well, of course they do. It’s called a ballot box. I mean, it’s not as if anyone deliberately disenfranchised voters by playing tricks with polling places and hours, had a party operative in charge of a key state’s elections, or convinced the Supreme Court overrule the will of the people. …Right?

“There is so much about the Obama agenda that most Americans do not know, thanks to the nonstop, swooning coverage of the ultra-biased media.”

Swooning coverage? Fair enough. Ultra-biased? I know what you mean — it's time to rein in FOX!

“He intends to … create a massive new government bureaucracy.”

Wow. So there’s another Patriot Act afoot?

“I know we aren’t going to win every battle, but we must fight for our principles, values and beliefs on every issue.”

Fine. You first. Kick out the hypocrites, the liars, the pocket-liners, the fear-mongers, the war-mongers, and start fighting for the things that benefit me, instead of investing all your energy into scaring me into complying with your agenda. Then teach the Democrats to do the same. As for the money you later ask for? Go beg it from Rupert Murdoch and your other pimps.

“We have been on the defensive as the Democrats in Congress put partisan politics in front of the best interests of the nation, attacked our leaders with personal smears and saturated the media with propaganda.”

You. Have. Got. To. Be. Kidding. Karl Rove’s a Democrat? Rush Limbaugh’s going liberal? Florida Republican party chair Jim Greer didn’t call Barack Obama's speech to students a socialist plot? Every major network isn’t giving plenty of air time to disaffected citizens?

I've got a memo for Michael Steele: Your letter's rhetoric insults the intelligence of every person who received it. You, and your party's own cadre of media elites, probably ought to prepare for the day when everyone else grows as weary of your transparent attempts at manipulation and your blatant hypocrisy as I have.

Because on that day, propaganda, no matter how slick, won't save your own agenda.

Katharhynn Heidelberg writes from Montrose, Colo.