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September 08, 2004

Andrew Sullivan: "I Only Watch PBS"

Okay, he didn't say that, but he demonstrates the typical kneejerk liberal denigration of watching television:

QUOTE OF THE DAY: "You have to watch TV. It's great! Every New Year’s I make a vow to watch more TV." - Ann Coulter. [Sullivan's comment:] Says it all, doesn't it?

Liberals say an awful lot of things, and many of them are, let us say, incongruous with the actual facts. One of the things liberals like to say is that they never watch TV, and yet they're forever nattering on about Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, Sex & the City, etc.

In this painful confession, Michael Kinsley admits his secret shame -- that his almost-certainly-archliberal "power woman" wife endlessly watches Law & Order repeats on A&E.

I don't get it. If liberals don't watch TV, how on earth can they talk about it all the time? If they don't watch TV, how can it be, exactly, that The West Wing is (was) a top-rated show? Since all these enlightened, educated, urban liberals don't watch TV, shouldn't the schedule be dominated by The Dukes of Hazzard: The Next Generation and Butchering Deer and Other Game With Power Tools?

Are they reading TV-- the transcripts, I mean? Is Andrew Sullivan telling us he prefers reading sitcom teleplays because he is "free to imagine the scenes, rather than having a visual interpretation forced upon him"?

Or perhaps he and his Provincetown buddies take a more interactive approach, and actually act out select episodes of Queer as Folk in delightful home theatrical productions. In between dramatic readings of Proust's Remembrance of Things Past, I mean.

I know why Coulter said this, because I say something similar. I'm fond of saying Every moment spent away from the television is a moment wasted. I don't really believe that, of course, but I enjoy pricking at cherished liberal self-delusions.

The aristocracy has always sought to differentiate itself from the hoi polloi by signalling other aristocrats via the conspicuous display of manners and opinions marking them as elite. In the 1920's, for example, the highborn would talk about opera and symphony, but never popular music-- popular music was for the lower classes, and if you enjoyed a pop song, it was best to keep that to yourself. They would discuss live theater but never filmed features-- again, the first was accpetable, the latter declasse. And of course there is all that stuff about eating and drinking.

Gosford Park catalogued much of this, especially in the screenwriter's commentary, which, for my money, was more interesting than the actual movie.

We still have a moneyed aristocracy, of course. And I imagine that many of those old rules still apply (although, quite frankly, I wouldn't know for certain).

What I find interesting from a sociological standpoint is liberals' aping of the opinions and manners of the aristocracy, usually with a healthy infusion of kneejerk progressive politics, as a new form of differentiation from the masses whom they so clearly despise. Just as the old middle classes would also attempt to mimic the behaviors of the wealthy, so too do today's liberals -- even those who aren't very wealthy at all -- seek to emulate the codes and mores of the leisure-class to show that they, too, belong in the company of the elite.

Quick proof: Go find any liberal. Ask him what he thinks about USAToday. If he does not immediately say "McPaper," I will buy you a Filet-O-Fish or McRib (your choice; supplies are limited).

Now, USAToday is neither an especially good paper nor an especially bad one; it's not really remarkable in any way. But the word has come down from the liberal aristocrats that the proper attitude towards USAToday is that it is a McPaper, and so that's what they all say, even if (as is usually the case) they've never so much as read the paper before in their lives.

They call it McPaper because of a series of faux-aristocratic biases -- the "mom and pop" local operation is always more virtuous than the national franchise, anything that smacks of mass-appeal is to be automatically despised, etc. -- and they say it's a McPaper, over and over again, for the same reason 1920's aristocrats all talked about the operas they usually slept through-- to signal to other "Progressive Elites" that they Belong, that They Are Part of the Higher Class.

That's why Ann Coulter made her joke, and that's the same reason I make my joke.

And that's why Andrew Sullivan cannot wait to turn this minor bit of joshing into some sort of crime of character -- because, by doing so, he broadcasts far and wide that he is a member of the New Nobility.

And those DVD's of The West Wing: The Complete First Season he has on his book-shelf? Oh, ignore those. They were a gag-gift. He just leaves them up there for the kitch value. Isn't that terribly funny and campy?

Honestly, he never watches TV. Ever.

Except for PBS, of course.

And he's got the umbrella and tote-bag to prove it.


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posted by Ace at 04:47 PM

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