How Elite Are You?

 

Charles Murray’s piece in the Washington Post today argues that yes, of course there’s a new elite, and yes, of course they’re totally out-of-touch. He describes the new elite in some detail. I was surprised to discover that apparently I’m half-plebe, despite having been sure that if anyone qualified as “elite,” it was me:

With geographical clustering goes cultural clustering. Get into a conversation about television with members of the New Elite, and they can probably talk about a few trendy shows — “Mad Men” now, “The Sopranos” a few years ago. But they haven’t any idea who replaced Bob Barker on “The Price Is Right.” They know who Oprah is, but they’ve never watched one of her shows from beginning to end.

Talk to them about sports, and you may get an animated discussion of yoga, pilates, skiing or mountain biking, but they are unlikely to know who Jimmie Johnson is (the really famous Jimmie Johnson, not the former Dallas Cowboys coach), and the acronym MMA means nothing to them.

They can talk about books endlessly, but they’ve never read a “Left Behind” novel (65 million copies sold) or a Harlequin romance (part of a genre with a core readership of 29 million Americans).

They take interesting vacations and can tell you all about a great backpacking spot in the Sierra Nevada or an exquisite B&B overlooking Boothbay Harbor, but they wouldn’t be caught dead in an RV or on a cruise ship (unless it was a small one going to the Galapagos). They have never heard of Branson, Mo.

There so many quintessentially American things that few members of the New Elite have experienced. They probably haven’t ever attended a meeting of a Kiwanis Club or Rotary Club, or lived for at least a year in a small town (college doesn’t count) or in an urban neighborhood in which most of their neighbors did not have college degrees (gentrifying neighborhoods don’t count). They are unlikely to have spent at least a year with a family income less than twice the poverty line (graduate school doesn’t count) or to have a close friend who is an evangelical Christian. They are unlikely to have even visited a factory floor, let alone worked on one.

So, let’s translate this into a “How Plebe are You?” quiz. I’ll go first:

1. Can you talk about “Mad Men?” No.

2. Can you talk about the “The Sopranos?” In great detail.

3. Do you know who replaced Bob Barker on “The Price Is Right?” No clue.

4. Have you watched an Oprah show from beginning to end? Yes.

5. Can you hold forth animatedly about yoga? Yes.

5. How about pilates? No way, that’s boring.

5. How about skiing? Nope.

6. Mountain biking? I’ve never been near a mountain bike in my life.

7. Do you know who Jimmie Johnson is? No idea.

8. Does the acronym MMA mean nothing to you? Are you serious? Where do you think I am when I’m not on Ricochet?

9. Can you talk about books endlessly? Sure, that’s why they pay me the big bucks.

10. Have you ever read a “Left Behind” novel? No, but frankly, I’ve never read most of the books I talk about. Let’s keep that between us, though.

11. How about a Harlequin romance? Yes! I have! Start to finish!

12. Do you take interesting vacations? I’ll say.

13. Do you know a great backpacking spot in the Sierra Nevada? Nope.

14. What about an exquisite B&B overlooking Boothbay Harbor? Where’s that?

15. Would you be caught dead in an RV? I’ve been caught alive in one.

16. Would you be caught dead on a cruise ship? I can’t afford to go on a cruise ship.

17. Have you ever heard of of Branson, Mo? Yes, but is there something I should know about it?

18. Have you ever attended a meeting of a Kiwanis Club? No.

19. How about the Rotary Club? Yes, many.

20. Have you lived for at least a year in a small town? What’s the cutoff for “small?”

21. Have you lived for a year in an urban neighborhood in which most of your neighbors did not have college degrees? I’d be surprised if any of my neighbors did.

22. Have you spent at least a year with a family income less than twice the poverty line? No.

23. Do you have a close friend who is an evangelical Christian? Yes.

24. Have you ever visited a factory floor? Yes.

25. Have you worked on one? No.

I really don’t know what to conclude from this. Murray suggests that the people who do poorly on this test are “isolated and ignorant.” Phew, I’m glad I did okay!

Who here’s more plebe than me? Pat, I bet you aced that Price is Right question. James, you’re totally suspect, you know way too much about “Mad Men.”

Dave Carter’s going to stumble on the Harlequin Romances, I predict, proving that he’s a secret elitist.

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More From Claire Berlinski:

Turkey and the Use of the Word “Elite”

Two Quick Thoughts on Juan Williams

From Godzilla to Impotent Herbivores: Keynesian Japan

Members have made 101 comments.

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  1. Profile photo of mesquito Inactive

    There’s only one test: Can you hear the words “aroma therapy” without chortling?

    • #1
    • October 25, 2010 at 4:07 am
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  2. Profile photo of Claire Berlinski, Ed. Editor
    Claire Berlinski, Ed. Post author

    You go right ahead and laugh, Mequito. Laugh until the day you have a holistic mind-body emergency.

    • #2
    • October 25, 2010 at 4:34 am
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  3. Profile photo of mesquito Inactive
    Claire Berlinski, Ed.: You go right ahead and laugh, Mequito. Laugh until the day you have a holistic mind-body emergency. · Oct 25 at 4:34am

    Oh, I have. But involved fireworks, beer, and a Johnny Horton record. Having achieved Redneck Nirvana, my life is complete.

    • #3
    • October 25, 2010 at 4:44 am
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  4. Profile photo of Jerry Carroll Inactive

    It looks as if the British are slowly dismantling their caste of privilege and power while ours is hardening.

    • #4
    • October 25, 2010 at 4:46 am
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  5. Profile photo of Humphrey Benjamin Member

    I think the basic thrust of most of these recent articles is that not only is there an elite and not only do they consider themselves above the “common man”, but, they think it is their duty to force others to conform to a set of standards and behaviors that they are the arbiters of. And even more galling is that most seem to think that doing so absolves them of having to live the same way.

    • #5
    • October 25, 2010 at 5:01 am
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  6. Profile photo of Scott R Member

    The most reliable indicator of elitism was revealed during Obama’s arugula-gate gaffe during the election. Those who knew the term “arugula” before that incident are elites; those who didn’t, aren’t.

    But we can all still be friends.

    • #6
    • October 25, 2010 at 5:06 am
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  7. Profile photo of Dave Carter Contributor

    Ah Claire, you’ve pierced the ordinary facade to reveal my aristocratic roots. You’re right, of course. I’ve never read a Harlequin Romance. But I did watch a few minutes of Days Of Our Lives last week, which made my head hurt in the same fashion as eating ice cream too fast. Also, I heard a Conway Twitty song that was quasi-pornographic. Does that count? Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to find my limo driver. He follows me around while I indulge my fantasy of being a blue collar truck driver. I feel so vulnerable now!

    • #7
    • October 25, 2010 at 5:20 am
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  8. Profile photo of Scott R Member

    Seriously, though, does anybody else worry that “elitist!” is becoming the Right’s equivalent to the Left’s “racist!”–an ad hominem attack which is used to avoid having to substantively address a decent point?

    I notice this right here at Ricochet on occassion (and I point this out, BTW, even while having impeccable white-trash credentials).

    • #8
    • October 25, 2010 at 5:22 am
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  9. Profile photo of liberal jim Inactive

    Live on the edge of a swamp in south GA, had a great meal of gator tail and swamp cabbage over the week end. Elite? Maybe a true sign of being elite is having the time and inclination to write an article about being elite.

    • #9
    • October 25, 2010 at 5:26 am
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  10. Profile photo of EJHill Contributor

    Never watched Mad Men or the Sopranos. Yoga Bear? Pilates of the Caribbean?

    Claire Berlinski doesn’t know who Drew Carey is? Or the man who’s about to kill NASCAR by winning his 5th straight championship? Good lord, is there no culture in Turkey?

    • #10
    • October 25, 2010 at 5:38 am
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  11. Profile photo of Tripedis Canis Member
    Scott Reusser: Seriously, though, does anybody else worry that “elitist!” is becoming the Right’s equivalent to the Left’s “racist!”–an ad hominem attack which is used to avoid having to substantively address a decent point?

    I notice this right here at Ricochet on occassion (and I point this out, BTW, even while having impeccable white-trash credentials). · Oct 25 at 5:22am

    I would agree with Scott that we have to be careful of our terms here. The quiz is very entertaining, but we need to avoid a class, economics or even experientially based definition of “elitist” and stick to actions: preferring the rule of men over the rule of law in words (“The Secretary [of Health and Human Services] shall determine . . .”) and deeds (dropping the Black Panther voter intimidation case, Kelo, etc.). If you would have some men decide for other men in spite of the law, you are an elitist. If you would hold the law supreme so that all men can pursue their own good, you are not.

    That way, when Don Draper steps into the Octagon, the cognitive dissonance will be kept to a minimum.

    • #11
    • October 25, 2010 at 5:45 am
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  12. Profile photo of Emily Esfahani Smith Inactive
    Scott Reusser: Seriously, though, does anybody else worry that “elitist!” is becoming the Right’s equivalent to the Left’s “racist!”–an ad hominem attack which is used to avoid having to substantively address a decent point?

    Oct 25 at 5:22a

    I’m with you on this Scott. And on the ‘arugula test’ for elitism. I didn’t know what arugula was until after the Obama gaff. However, I do have an unhealthy addiction to Mad Men.

    • #12
    • October 25, 2010 at 5:52 am
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  13. Profile photo of Claire Berlinski, Ed. Editor
    Claire Berlinski, Ed. Post author
    liberal jim: Live on the edge of a swamp in south GA, had a great meal of gator tail and swamp cabbage over the week end. Elite? Maybe a true sign of being elite is having the time and inclination to write an article about being elite. · Oct 25 at 5:26am

    Dunno, LJ. Living in a swamp and dining on gatorburgers–maybe that’s just high irony? I could see a spread on that in Architectural Digest, with a sidebar about how to brighten your atrium with a splash of kudzu. No, I suspect you’re a secret elitist, too.

    • #13
    • October 25, 2010 at 5:55 am
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  14. Profile photo of Ward Member

    As an admirer not only of Don Draper and Peggy Olson but also of Randy Coutoure and George St.Pierre I would submit that 1. only an elitist could come up with that list and I really like Chas. Murray and 2. the most important question is the one about not having read books you’re opining on which takes the courage of Cain Velasquez to admit and would not be admitted to by most of the sprout-eating, wussies we are attempting to scorn.

    • #14
    • October 25, 2010 at 6:16 am
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  15. Profile photo of Claire Berlinski, Ed. Editor
    Claire Berlinski, Ed. Post author
    Ward Good: As an admirer not only of Don Draper and Peggy Olson but also of Randy Coutoure and George St.Pierre · Oct 25 at 6:16am

    Ah, finally. Someone who might be willing to talk about the important things. Are we ever going to see GSP taking on Anderson Silva? Or is this just an eternal tease?

    • #15
    • October 25, 2010 at 6:25 am
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  16. Profile photo of katievs Inactive

    The real spot-an-elitist test question: What do love about America?

    • #16
    • October 25, 2010 at 6:42 am
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  17. Profile photo of Trace Inactive

    I believe a key distinction is not your answers to the questions, but how much self-satisfaction you derive from your answers.

    • #17
    • October 25, 2010 at 6:43 am
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  18. Profile photo of Songwriter Member
    Scott Reusser: (and I point this out, BTW, even while having impeccable white-trash credentials). · Oct 25 at 5:22am

    I’ve enjoyed a lot of Scott’s posts. Now I know why.

    Tripedis Canis

    If you would have some men decide for other men in spite of the law, you are an elitist. If you would hold the law supreme so that all men can pursue their own good, you are not.

    A great summation. Elitism is in the heart.

    • #18
    • October 25, 2010 at 6:45 am
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  19. Profile photo of Ward Member

    Claire that might be a great fight but as I understand it GSP walks around at 170 and Silva has to cut to 185 so it seems unlikely. Perhaps more important, there is probably more money in letting them fight others especially now that Silva looks little more beatable. Would love to see it though…and since this site is sort of about politics and culture, it would be fun to see French Canadians and Brazillians hurling politically incorrect insults at each other.

    • #19
    • October 25, 2010 at 6:56 am
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  20. Profile photo of Duane Oyen Member

    1. “Mad Men?” No.

    2. “The Sopranos?” No.

    3. Host “The Price Is Right?” Sure.

    4. Oprah beginning to end? No.

    5. Yoga? No.

    5. Pilates? No.

    5. Skiing? No, broken leg thrice anyway.

    6. Mountain biking? No.

    7. Jimmie Johnson is? Yes, no interest.

    8. MMA? Yes, less interest than NASCAR.

    9. Talk books endlessly? Yes, the wrong ones.

    10. “Left Behind” novel? No- not a dispensationalist; moral equivalent “yes”.

    11. Harlequin romance? No; guys are obsessed with frequent sex, not heavy breathing romance.

    12. Interesting vacations? Occasionally.

    13. Backpack Sierra Nevadas? Ugh.

    14. Boothbay Harbor? Huh?

    15. RV? Lived in one as a bad musician.

    16. Cruise ship? Love cruises.

    17. Branson, Mo? Yes, but now that Andy Williams has sold his theater…..

    18. Kiwanis Club? No.

    19. Rotary Club? No.

    20. Year in a small town? City boy, but now I live in the exurbs.

    21. Urban neighborhood, most neighbors lacked college degrees? Grew up there.

    22. A year with a family income less than twice the poverty line? Yes- see #21.

    23. Close friend evangelical Christian? Yes, lots- and me.

    24. Have you ever visited a factory floor? Yes, led tours.

    25. Worked on one? No.

    • #20
    • October 25, 2010 at 7:05 am
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  21. Profile photo of katievs Inactive
    Trace Urdan: I believe a key distinction is not your answers to the questions, but how much self-satisfaction you derive from your answers. · Oct 25 at 6:43am

    Well said, Trace.

    Also heartily endorse Scott’s point. It’s not about personal tastes and background; it’s about a superiority attitude.

    • #21
    • October 25, 2010 at 7:08 am
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  22. Profile photo of Mark Monaghan Thatcher

    I’ve know about arugula for years AND I have air tools AND I play banjo. where does that put me?

    • #22
    • October 25, 2010 at 7:20 am
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  23. Profile photo of Ragnarok Inactive
    Emily Esfahani Smith, Ed.

    I didn’t know what arugula was until after the Obama gaff.

    Me neither and I still confuse it with rugellah.

    As for the elite thing, my only criterion is: “do you think you are better than anyone else?” If the answer is yes, you are an elitist. And a twit.

    • #23
    • October 25, 2010 at 7:21 am
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  24. Profile photo of Denise Moss Contributor

    A writer friend of mine once asked me if I was pretentious before or after I worked on “Frasier.” That sentence alone should put me in the “elite” column. But I still know who took over PIR, love RV’s, but old Airstreams even better. I know the major players in NASCAR, worked at a factory, think mountain bikes are ridiculously expensive and overrated, know several Evangelical Christians and I have stood in the dust at numerous state and county fairs watching Emmy Lou Harris, The Oakridge Boys, Marty Robbins, and Crystal Gayle before there was a Branson.

    What I hate are stereo-types and cliches.

    Oh, and they forgot a key questions…have you ever lived seriously used the term Feng Shui.

    • #24
    • October 25, 2010 at 7:24 am
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  25. Profile photo of Claire Berlinski, Ed. Editor
    Claire Berlinski, Ed. Post author
    Ward Good: Claire that might be a great fight but as I understand it GSP walks around at 170 and Silva has to cut to 185 so it seems unlikely. Perhaps more important, there is probably more money in letting them fight others especially now that Silva looks little more beatable. Would love to see it though…and since this site is sort of about politics and culture, it would be fun to see French Canadians and Brazillians hurling politically incorrect insults at each other. · Oct 25 at 6:56am

    He fought in Japan at 168! Frankly, the UFC’s failure to deliver on this one is an elitist outrage.

    • #25
    • October 25, 2010 at 7:51 am
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  26. Profile photo of Emily Esfahani Smith Inactive
    Denise Moss:

    Oh, and they forgot a key questions…have you ever lived seriously used the term Feng Shui. · Oct 25 at 7:24am

    And do you regularly order “grande” decaf non-fat sugar-free vanilla lattes from Starbucks.

    • #26
    • October 25, 2010 at 7:54 am
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  27. Profile photo of Claire Berlinski, Ed. Editor
    Claire Berlinski, Ed. Post author

    Duane, the word “thrice” is elitist, and leading tours on the factory floor? Ix-nay. No salt-of-the-earth points for that one, my friend.

    I’ll accept that the Harlequin romance question is, as they put it, gender-biased. You can pass if you’ve dated a woman who has one on her bookshelf for more than a year.

    So where is this mythical elitist Boothbay Harbor?

    • #27
    • October 25, 2010 at 8:10 am
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  28. Profile photo of Duane Oyen Member

    Denise Moss:Oh, and they forgot a key questions…have you ever lived seriously used the term Feng Shui. · Oct 25 at 7:24am

    The best ever use of that term was by the guard at Tiananmen Square, explaining that the government had changed the Feng Shui to reduce the unexplainable protests every June 4.

    • #28
    • October 25, 2010 at 8:13 am
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  29. Profile photo of flownover Inactive

    Goldarnedest navel gazing I’ve witnessed among nondemocrats in quite a while.

    Elite was a good thing. I hate it when they steal the meaning of words. re: Gay Nineties .

    And then there are the words marginalized by PC, too many to list.

    We need a better litmus test, although profile quizzes are always fun. Like taking the Strong Test. ( see I told you I should have been an astronaut !)

    • #29
    • October 25, 2010 at 8:13 am
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  30. Profile photo of Ward Member
    Claire Berlinski, Ed.
    Ward Good: Claire that might be a great fight but as I understand it GSP walks around at 170 and Silva has to cut to 185 so it seems unlikely. Perhaps more important, there is probably more money in letting them fight others especially now that Silva looks little more beatable. Would love to see it though…and since this site is sort of about politics and culture, it would be fun to see French Canadians and Brazillians hurling politically incorrect insults at each other. · Oct 25 at 6:56am

    He fought in Japan at 168! Frankly, the UFC’s failure to deliver on this one is an elitist outrage. · Oct 25 at 7:51am

    Dana White as Bourgeois Bohemian, why not, he certainly thinks he’s the [non-elite colloquialism, forbidden on Ricochet even when letters replaced by asterisks, for very elite person–ed.], as some of my more colloquial collegues at the gym might say. That’s part of the humor and strangeness of this debate isn’t it. The sons and daughters of welders and pipefitters obtain degrees in myrmecology or structural anthropology and the only way they can make a living is to obtain some government subsidy. They should all do a stint in the octagon.

    • #30
    • October 25, 2010 at 8:19 am
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