Three out of three Times readers agree!

MONDAY, JUNE 5, 2017

Professor Williams was wrong:
Are we humans really able to handle our own affairs?

Increasingly, it seems to us that the answer is no. As a case in point, reading this morning's New York Times seemed like a descent into madness.

We were stunned by the type of work we found all over the paper. For now, consider the letters the paper published in reply to Professor Williams' recent column, "The Dumb Politics of Elite Condescension."

Professor Williams said we liberals should stop displaying class-based condescension toward working-class whites. Question:

Could someone possibly live on this planet and be unaware of such behavior? According to this morning's Times, at least three people have managed to do so, or they've at least come pretty darn close.

The Times published three letters in response to Williams' column.
None of the letters agreed with her basic premise or point of view. In varying ways, all three writers said Williams was wrong in her picture of the world, or in her political advice.

The first letter came from East Brunswick, New Jersey. The writer's denial was total:
LETTER TO THE NEW YORK TIMES (6/5/17): Joan C. Williams says Democrats need to address the “working-class revolt against global elites.” No; Democrats need to figure out why the party of the poor, the working class and the disenfranchised has allowed the right-wing spin doctors to paint them as condescending, out-of-touch elites.

Ms. Williams cites Hillary Clinton’s use of “deplorables” as an example of this condescension. It seems to me that Mrs. Clinton was referring to the white nationalists and those spouting racism, sexism and anti-Muslim propaganda.

The issue is not one of class: The Democratic Party has long fought for the poor. It is more an issue of who defines the narrative.
According to this true believer, there is no merit to Williams' complaint. Instead, right-wing spin doctors have somehow managed to portray liberals and Democrats as condescending.

(This writer doesn't see a problem with Hillary Clinton's "deplorables" comment. Clinton said half the people who didn't support her fit into this group. The letter writer seems to believe that Clinton was merely stating a fact.)

This first writer said we liberals have been slandered by spin doctors. The second writer, in Santa Barbara, took a somewhat different approach.

She too implied that Democrats get "labeled" as elitists when they're actually doing what's right. But she closed with this:
LETTER TO THE NEW YORK TIMES: The true elitists are the 1 percenters who use their money to elect corrupt politicians and stir up class warfare to divide and conquer.
It's human history's oldest response. The very bad people of whom you speak are actually all Over There!

The third letter, from Anaheim, was perhaps saddest of all. The writer "readily" admitted that "elites can be condescending." But the other tribe is very bad too, and he doesn't want Us to heal ourselves until They do the same:
LETTER TO THE NEW YORK TIMES: I readily accept that the pain of the underprivileged is real and that elites can be condescending. That said, the essay falls short of addressing the entire problem. It assumes that the condescension is one-sided (it is not) and that it exists in a vacuum (it does not).

What else can one call it when the heartland refers to itself as the “real” America while the diverse middle-class California neighborhood I live in is seen as a threatening abnormality?

Being more open to other points of view is almost always a good idea. But asking progressives to be more open to and gentle with the Trump base without asking anything in return won’t fix anything.
Asking progressives to be less condescending "won't fix anything?"

In principle, couldn't it fix the problem of progressives being condescending? (According to Williams, this type of behavior is causing liberals and Democrats to lose elections.)

That letter comes very close to saying They did it first. Beyond that, the writer is very eager to generalize about Them. (Does everyone in "the heartland"—his term—refer to themselves in the way he describes? He seems to think They do.)

Most strikingly, this writer doesn't want Us to improve our approach until They agree to improve Theirs. This reasoning comes to us live and direct from the first grade playground. Meanwhile, it ignores Williams' claim that we liberals are losing elections through this condescending behavior. He's willing to let that situation continue until The Others admit that They are very bad too!

These letters strike us as depressing. Then too, there's the conduct of the Times itself. Did all the letters about Williams' column express this party line view? To judge from the selection they published, the Times received zero letters affirming Williams' views.

Increasingly, our team is tribal, hateful, ditto-headed, dumb. We're being trained in this dumbness by corporate cable, much as conservatives were trained by corporate talk radio during the earlier years of corporate tribal "news."

We long to loathe the Others. More than anything else on earth, we long to call them racists. More and more, it seems to be the only play we know.

We insist that We are good, and They are bad. This is what all other tribals in human history have (self-destructively) said.

Professor Williams speaks: At this link, Professor Williams is interviewed by Slate's Isaac Chotiner.

In our view, Chotiner just thoroughly doesn't get it. We've been disappointed by his tribal certainty before.

Chotiner is technically bright. He's also very, very sure that his own tribe is moral and good, and that The Others are racists. As has been true through the annals of time:

The Others, who are very bad, are under every bed.

As we type, Slate offers this as the "Top Comment" to Chotiner's piece. We think the comment is right on point. In this age of corporate cable, how many will notice or care?


  1. In the comments of the preceding post I quoted Tobin Smith's marching orders from Roger Ailes. This steady diet of disinformation and defamation is how liberals have come to be perceived as condescending elitists. Somerby owes us all an apology.

  2. The problem is that no matter how much behavior improves, there will always be one condescending liberal for conservatives to point at, and they will point at that person and claim that all liberal policy and politicians are condescending elites and therefore should be ignored. This means that simply saying this behavior should stop is not helpful because with the best will in the world, it cannot be stopped 100%.

    1. Williams doesn't say whether she is liberal, neoliberal, progressive, libertarian, green, or some variety of Republican or even white spremacist. People will assume she is liberal because she is a law professor at a university and she is telling others what to do using big words. We will all get blamed, just as Somerby blames all of us for three letters chosen by the NYTimes (are they liberal?).

      This is an incredibly stupid discussion. When did it become wrong to run our brightest and most qualified candidates for offices where they will have to find answers to tough questions?

    2. The problem with relying on our brightest and most qualified these days is that they have a loyalty to one another that keeps them looking for answers to the wrong questions. For the vast majority of the country, it just is not vital to keep figuring out how to make life better for the elite, how to keep foaming their own runways- regardless of how deserving, as the brightest and most qualified, they are.

      The next concern the Democratic leadership class devotes their oh so impressive skills to is in finding ways to turn a lucky few members of various victim classes into winners. Hey, if lots more of the 2% were female/black/hispanic/LGBTTQQIAAP that would pretty much make life fair, that would cover things- right?

      At that point the brightest and most qualified of us all, the neo-liberal Clinton/Obama insiders, are all out of answers to any of the tough questions about the economy that are left.

      Of course, they do have some advice and a promise to give to the 98% which the Clinton/Obama band has taped on an endless reel, "Win some scholarships or borrow lots of money and then get impressive enough grades in one of the right subjects for the unknowable future at a prestigious enough school to launch yourself on a successful career path... education is the key (it was for us). And if you're middle aged and unemployed or underemployed any year now we're going to have training programs for all the jobs in the high-wage industries wicked smart venture capitalists are about to unveil and locate in the United States."

      (In foreign policy these neocon first cousins, the Clinton/Obama brainiacs, go by the handed down title of "the best and the brightest." When did it become wrong to rely on them? A while back.)

    3. Thank you for explaining what the Bernie bros and the Trump supporters had in common in the last election.

      IIRC Clinton proposed free community college. Since that is where most job training takes place, it seems like a more workable solution to the unemployment needs in more places nationwide.

      If you are middle aged and waiting for an industry to come back, you are wasting your time. People can and do learn new skills midlife. Mocking this as a path to better earnings seems cruel, as does mocking the needs of those who are discriminated against for one reason or another.

    4. Keep in mind while luxuriating or wallowing - whatever the case may be - in CMike's various pontifications and during Donald Trump's continuing degradations, CMike's preferred candidate is the current president. We know this because when it came time to support Trump or to vote for Hillary Clinton, as many of us Sanders supporters did, CMike supported Trump's candidacy by writing in Bernie Sanders, the man who urged his supporters to vote for Clinton.

    5. CMike likes to say "neo-liberal". He thinks it makes him sound so savvy.

      Me, my 7th grade social studies teacher taught me a long time ago, "stay away from labels, they're not very enlightening."

    6. @10:41 AM says:

      >>>IIRC Clinton proposed free community college. Since that is where most job training takes place, it seems like a more workable solution to the unemployment needs in more places nationwide.

      If you are middle aged and waiting for an industry to come back, you are wasting your time. People can and do learn new skills midlife.

      The argument here is that Americans are underemployed because they are unqualified and that the more educated individuals become the more high-wage jobs there will be. This is a fantasy.

      Right on schedule @10:41 AM then swells up self-righteously to champion the "shattering glass ceilings" approach to the central problem of widespread inequality in the society:

      >>>Mocking this as a path to better earnings seems cruel, as does mocking the needs of those who are discriminated against for one reason or another.<<<

      This is the social justice argument of the elite that issues of discrimination and poverty should be dealt with by a trickle down approach. "We'll get to most of you eventually, just not in this lifetime." Keep voting for those market based solutions 10:41 AM.

  3. Williams says that Clinton screwed up by attacking her opponent and by being too competent/qualified.

    I am reminded of Rodney Dangerfield. The white working class thinks it should be applauded for not going to college. Entitlement on steroids -- we should all pretend they are wonderful because snowflakes. And Trump is their champion.

    Why doesn't Somerby tell us where Williams went to school? She clearly thinks she is a translator between cultures. It will take more than reflective listening to bridge the gap between anyone who could consider voting for Trump and normal human beings.

    Somerby seems to be choosing the wrong side increasingly often. Is this how the elderly become reactionary? Too much empathy and too little sense?

    1. "Why doesn't Somerby tell us where Williams went to school?"

      Which one?: B.A. from Yale University, M.A. from M.I.T., J.D. from Harvard Law School

  4. There's an article elsewhere on the web that says the majority of Trump voters are not white working class.

  5. There are no condescending liberals; well, maybe there will always be one; Somerby should apologize to liberals.

    1. Whiny, broken-record Nona Nym should get its turntable fixed.

  6. Cut it out Bob. When a bloated bigot like Sean Hannity publishes books with titles like "Deliver Us from Evil: Defeating Terrorism, Despotism, and Liberalism" I think it's pretty clear who's being condescending.

  7. Condescension can be shown by actions as well as by words. E.g., many liberal elites rail against the danger of climate change while living a lifestyle with a big carbon footprint.

    1. Remember, if you're a rich liberal, you're a hypocrite. And if you're a non-rich liberal, you're jealous.
      If those "truisms" both run interference for the economic elites, that is purely coincidental.

    2. It's so liberating to be a selfish pig anti-science gooper.

    3. David in Cal is living proof that reading and believing birdcage liners like Daily Caller, UK Daily Mail, Daily Stormer, and National Review leads to brain disease masked by the Dunning-Kruger effect.

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