Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Elitists on Populism


To understand why a huge portion of the American public is in open revolt against elites of all kinds, all one need do is read the June 26th issue of the New York Times Book Review, whose cover blares, “Why Populism Now?” The issue contains article after article pushing the narrative of populists as racists and xenophobes. The choice offered the American people: either accept unlimited immigration and “free” trade with slave states like China, with accompanying lower wages and vanishing jobs—or you’re a xenophobe.

In the entire issue there’s not one opinion NOT from a tops-down viewpoint. This includes the cover story essay by Sam Tanenhaus. Tanenhaus reviews nearly a dozen new books on the topic of populism—all written by elitist Insiders of one persuasion or other. Not one is from a populist perspective. The publishers of these books are either part of the “Big Five” book conglomerates, or are elite-oriented tax shelter nonprofits.

In his essay, Tanenhaus speaks of “the threat Trump poses to democracy.” But so far Trump’s been a threat to aristocracy—to an entrenched class of business-as-usual consultants, pundits, and go-along-to-get-along politicians. Donald Trump’s win in the primaries has been a unique expression of small-d democracy—he defeated the powerful Bush family and many other well-funded establishment candidates. Jeb Bush alone was backed by $200 million from PACs and big-money donors. Trump won with a few million dollars of his own.

The NYTBR issue, in short, is a hatchet job against populist politics and also populist art. Insider writers Pankaj Mishra and Rivka Galchen are  asked to comment on the topic of “art for art’s sake”—the essence of the elitist variety of dead literary product. The two writers must be considered safe bets by the New York Times. Paid pets. Mishra talks of how a “vast infrastructure of grants, awards and fellowships has turned artistic endeavor into democratic opportunity: art for artists’, if not art’s, sake.” Yet it’s been well documented that the well connected and privileged are best positioned to take advantage of that “opportunity.” The largesse comes from tax shelter foundations which cater to the richest members of society. There’s nothing democratic about it. Again, it’s aristocracy, not democracy.

It’s as if Pankaj Mishra doesn’t know how the game works. Or maybe he does.

In the issue the New York Times Book Review gives us a single viewpoint, which happens to be their viewpoint. A writer is allowed to take any position he wants, as long as it’s their position. As we see in essay after essay; article after article. The bias is palpable.

Which means we’re dealing with yet another rigged game. A “debate” that’s not a debate, but yet another pro wrestling show with outcome prearranged. The populist villains (“Boo! Hiss!”) are tossed around by the Times good guys, and those in the expensive seats leave happy.

Those in the cheap seats think other things. . . .


I may send a shortened version of this post to NYTBR as a letter.

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