Thursday, October 06, 2005

LET'S PLAY POPULIST! In today's New York Post (no link) Victor Davis Hanson suggests a few right-wing victories in the culture wars -- pretty thin gruel, including the opposition of some flight attendants to the hit movie Flightplan, though it is very hard to tell why he considers this a victory -- and explains how they came to be:
On the one side of all these controversies seem to be architects, curators, academics, CEOs, journalists, script writers, actors, lawyers, and judges. Their utopian view of what their fellow Americans should see, think, and feel are at odds with those of grieving families, police, firefighters, flight attendants and soldiers.

Those on museum boards, in Hollywood studios, and in the coutroom seek to fashion the intellectual landscape, in which those who put out fires, arrest criminals, serve food and shoot terrorists are to operate. The latter fight back...
Before he became America's delineator of the noble struggle of waitresses against architects, Hanson had many jobs. He was a cowpuncher in Abilene, a stevedore in Red Hook, and a roustabout in Cincinnati. He worked the oil rigs till the Doc said he'd lose his leg if he kept it up, so her startin' writin' these here columns.

Of course I'm teasing. Here's the guy's bio. Before a long academic career, Hanson was a "full time farmer," we're told, so maybe he gets his feel for The People from workin' the land. I wonder how much picking and plowing he did. Himself, I mean.*

I suppose one can have a sense of life without ever having worked a regular job. I just wonder where these eggheads get the moxie to describe the heroic fight of people who, if any of them ever got onto his "tree and vine farm," would have the dogs with bees in their mouths loosed upon them, versus the detestable elites of which they are obviously members.

UPDATE. Upon further review, I do realize this could be said about nearly every public intellectual. (Not me! I have done many common things, some remunerative, some just common.) It is interesting, though, how the populist dodge has been adopted, apparently with success, by conservative pencil-pushers versus the other kind. It's not like the salt of the earth are running from town to town in knee-breeches clutching the latest handbill by VDH, the People's Friend. Maybe this sort of thing is just an in-joke among the commentariat.

*UPDATE 2. Hanson describes a hardscrabble early life. I won't dispute it. Better, as always, to criticize the text than the man.

Of the four examples of plebian uprising Hanson describes, the best known is the fate of the WTC Freedom Center -- a struggle in which the principle combatants were politicians and newspapers (including the Post, which slammed the IFC for its "potential anti-Americanism"), with some 9/11 widows brought in as a secret weapon. Flightplan is primarily perceived by the public at large, if we go by the box office receipts, as a good way to spend an evening. The two Abu Ghraib citations -- one concerning the press, the other the release of photographs -- may well have outraged some soldiers, but I don't see any evidence that the American public is mobbing up to defend its fighting men and women from the exposure of an isolated torture case.

Whether Hanson bales his own wire or not, this is the sort of thing that gives populism a bad name. The only bright side is that maybe, as this sort of rhetoric moves perceptibly further from reality, people will stop buying it.

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