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April 21, 2016

Holy Crap: Tough Essay About the "Smug Style of American Liberalism" Published by One of the Propagators of the Smug Style in American Liberalism, Vox

Explainer.

Suffice it to say, by the 1990s the better part of the working class wanted nothing to do with the word liberal. What remained of the American progressive elite was left to puzzle: What happened to our coalition?

Why did they abandon us?

What's the matter with Kansas?

The smug style arose to answer these questions. It provided an answer so simple and so emotionally satisfying that its success was perhaps inevitable: the theory that conservatism, and particularly the kind embraced by those out there in the country, was not a political ideology at all.

The trouble is that stupid hicks don't know what's good for them. They're getting conned by right-wingers and tent revivalists until they believe all the lies that've made them so wrong. They don't know any better. That's why they're voting against their own self-interest.

As anybody who has gone through a particularly nasty breakup knows, disdain cultivated in the aftermath of a divide quickly exceeds the original grievance. You lose somebody. You blame them. Soon, the blame is reason enough to keep them at a distance, the excuse to drive them even further away.

Finding comfort in the notion that their former allies were disdainful, hapless rubes, smug liberals created a culture animated by that contempt. The rubes noticed and replied in kind. The result is a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Financial incentive compounded this tendency -- there is money, after all, in reassuring the bitter. Over 20 years, an industry arose to cater to the smug style. It began in humor, and culminated for a time in The Daily Show, a program that more than any other thing advanced the idea that liberal orthodoxy was a kind of educated savvy and that its opponents were, before anything else, stupid. The smug liberal found relief in ridiculing them.

The internet only made it worse. Today, a liberal who finds himself troubled by the currents of contemporary political life need look no further than his Facebook newsfeed to find the explanation:

[Links demonstrating that these are all genuine liberal media claims omitted]

Study finds Daily Show viewers more informed than viewers of Fox News.

They're beating CNN watchers too.

NPR listeners are best informed of all. He likes that.

You're better off watching nothing than watching Fox. He likes that even more.

The good news doesn't stop.

Liberals aren't just better informed. They're smarter.

They've got better grammar. They know more words....

Liberals are better able to process new information; they're less biased like that. They've got different brains. Better ones. Why? Evolution. They've got better brains, top-notch amygdalae, science finds.

The smug style created a feedback loop. If the trouble with conservatives was ignorance, then the liberal impulse was to correct it. When such corrections failed, disdain followed after it....

The studies, about Daily Show viewers and better-sized amygdalae, are knowing. It is the smug style's first premise: a politics defined by a command of the Correct Facts and signaled by an allegiance to the Correct Culture. A politics that is just the politics of smart people in command of Good Facts. A politics that insists it has no ideology at all, only facts. No moral convictions, only charts, the kind that keep them from "imposing their morals" like the bad guys do.

Knowing is the shibboleth into the smug style's culture, a cultural that celebrates hip commitments and valorizes hip taste, that loves nothing more than hate-reading anyone who doesn't get them. A culture that has come to replace politics itself.

The knowing know that police reform, that abortion rights, that labor unions are important, but go no further: What is important, after all, is to signal that you know these things. What is important is to launch links and mockery at those who don't. The Good Facts are enough: Anybody who fails to capitulate to them is part of the Problem, is terminally uncool. No persuasion, only retweets. Eye roll, crying emoji, forward to John Oliver for sick burns.

Well.

Really can't add anything to that.

It's worth the full read. The article turns to liberals' smug, hateful overreaction to Kim Davis as its not-of-our-culture Demon of the Week.



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posted by Ace at 11:33 AM

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