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The Snob Factor among Conservatives

The self-love that dare not speak its name.

by
David Solway

Bio

July 19, 2013 - 12:15 am

One of the distinct advantages the political left enjoys over the conservative movement is the affective property that Muslims call asabiyeh: unity, togetherness, group feeling. Of course, there are differences of opinion, degrees of dissension as to theory and practice, ideological ruptures here and there regarding tactics and strategy, but on the whole the left is comparatively of a piece.

Conservatives, on the contrary, are far more divided among themselves. As I pointed out a while back, in an article for PJ Media titled Fractures on the Right, the conservative predisposition is fissured with disagreements respecting the definition of the “enemy” and how most effectively to deal with him. These breaches and discontinuities run deep, especially when it comes to the putative relation between Islam and “Islamism,” radical and moderate Muslims, history and the present. Slack-thewed conservatives insist that Islam has been hijacked by the Islamists and that so-called “moderate Muslims” must be “friended” in order not to drive them into the camp of the jihadists. Insightful conservative thinkers understand that Islam, rooted in a vast theological, political, jurisprudential and philosophical literature, and boasting a 1400 year history of rapine and conquest, is consistently represented by these same extremists who are said to have hijacked the faith.

It seems me that the fault in the conservative orientation resides not so much in the intellect per se as in the will, a volitional exhaustion, a weakening of purpose expressed as a gradual turn toward the liberal perspective. Intellect is then mobilized to justify the backsliding tendencies of the will, as if in a rerun of the historical debate between two great Medieval theologians, St. Thomas Aquinas and Duns Scotus. Aquinas argued that intellect determines truth and the will carries out the appropriate actions. Scotus held otherwise; the will bloweth where it listeth, and the intellect assembles the arguments to support its appetitive pursuits.

As I wrote in an article of December 14, 2010, also for this site, titled Where Do Leftists Come From?, “Leftists and liberals are, on this interpretation, earnest Scotists, wanting something very badly and then abusing their mental powers to defend their error.” Ironically, contemporary conservatives are now split along these lines. The stronger thinkers are Aquinians who reason clearly and stand on principle while the weaker, semi-progressivist cadres have succumbed to the liberal panaceas of the age and may also be characterized as devout Scotists.

But there is another, equally perilous rift that alienates a part of the conservative community from itself, namely class consciousness. Many of those who have benefitted from an elite university education and hail from prosperous families tend to react with suspicion, or even with a certain disdain, toward their lower-and-working class counterparts who speak with regional accents, prefer tankards to carafes and are, on the whole, less erudite and articulate than those whom I call “palatine conservatives.”  Thus, for example, many of these patrician and accomplished figures look down their noses at Sarah Palin with her rustic habits, non-prestigious educational background and brash rhetorical delivery. That Palin is a rare, honest politician, a woman of the people, and a bearer of genuine conservative sentiments and ideas does not count in her favor. She is too “common” to inspire enthusiasm among the “quality.”

This same kind of derogation is leveled at the Tea Party, not just by the slander-mongering left, but by conservative intellectuals who shudder at a possible connection or perceived affinity with the plebeian inhabitants of fly-over country. That the Tea Party consists, for the most part, of hard-working citizens and patriots who refuse to allow their nation to be shanghai’d by the “progressivist” and socialist agenda of probably the most corrupt and decadent administration in recent history — if not in the entire pageant of American history — earns them no brownie points with their carriage trade betters.

And now it’s the turn of Tommy Robinson of the EDL, or English Defence League, to reap the pretentious ire of conservative poohbahs, on the grounds that the organization harbors, or may be susceptible to, thuggish or fascist elements. And so we remark on the depressing spectacle of highly credentialed Melanie Phillips “and others” (to use her own phrase in her put-down of the EDL) who labor to distance themselves from their natural allies because they seem brazen, unpolished and volatile. Apart from the fact that there are bad apples in every barrel without exception, including the patrician political vat — and that the leftist cohort, for that matter, is a barrel that contains almost only bad apples — the truth is that, like Sarah Palin and like the Tea Party, Tommy Robinson and the EDL are willing to defy a despotic and pusillanimous constituted authority that has sold out the culture for a mess of leftist and Islamic pottage. The group is willing to take risks and to suffer defamation, false accusations and even imprisonment, in short, to put itself “out there” for their beliefs. Very few among their “superiors” would ever expose their comforts, privileges, and intellectual and social status to the mercy of their antagonists. And this is an unmitigated shame.

These conservative snobs, for all their aquiline intelligence and notable achievements, have regrettably tended to misjudge their proletarian confederates. Tommy Robinson may speak with a local brogue but he is lucid, convincing and eloquent — and indeed, I must say I prefer his brand of impassioned fluency to Melanie Phillips’ clipped, pedigreed, and rather self-regarding oratorical fricatives. (Cf. her recent interview on Michael Coren’s The Arena.) In the same way, I consider Sarah Palin’s expressive abilities far more persuasive than, say, Daniel Pipes’ trademark condescension. And I much prefer the straight talk of the Tea Party to the refined subtleties, calculated not to offend the liberal elect, of sundry conservative newspaper editors.

The conservative “institution” is enfeebled by these two inherently disruptive factors: a depletion of the political will, and the specter of class distinctions — and it is the left that profits from this infusorial derangement. But it is most disheartening to observe the extent to which sociolectical disparities and class assumptions, generally from the top down, can introduce a spirit of discord and superciliousness among those who should be, as it were, above such congenital hauteur.

(Thumbnail image on PJM homepage by Shutterstock.com.)

David Solway is a Canadian poet and essayist. He is the author of The Big Lie: On Terror, Antisemitism, and Identity, and is currently working on a sequel, Living in the Valley of Shmoon. His new book on Jewish and Israeli themes, Hear, O Israel!, was released by Mantua Books. His latest book is The Boxthorn Tree, published in December 2012.

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Top Rated Comments   
There is a great difference between using educated language, and despising those who do not.

39 weeks ago
39 weeks ago Link To Comment
Nowhere is the snob factor more evident that with respect to the right to keep and bear arms.

The palatinate conservatives, from W.F. Buckley on, have long considered gun rights declasse'. I know these people well, having been a working class conservative in an Ivy League law school. They draw the social fault line in America at where they are. They consider working people to be no better than the welfare trash we look down on. They sneer at our wanting to separate our children from critter schools.

They need us to win elections, so their contempt is abated. Still, they are not to be trusted. Just see how they are sucking up to illegal immigrants, their source of crheap labor, to the detriment of working Americans.
39 weeks ago
39 weeks ago Link To Comment
It is shameful that the conservative establishment shuts their eyes and ears to Sarah Palin. The fact that she is easily the smartest, most articulate, most charismatic, most powerful politician of her generation by a country mile counts for nothing to them. They reject her out of hand for the most trivial of reasons: Her hair, her clothes, her fecundity, her country accent and the fact that she comes from ALASKA of all places, the most remote and inaccessible state in the union. Why would sensible conservatives look to leadership from somebody like that? Considering the record of the conservative establishment, maybe she is EXACTLY the one who should lead.
39 weeks ago
39 weeks ago Link To Comment
All Comments   (89)
All Comments   (89)
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Do those of "quality" not know that true quality does not display as such. Nor does it disdain those who make their "quality" possible?

It isn't IS IT in late 20th early 21st century America that difference between the "lords/squires of the manor" and their peasant tenants, the "nobility and aristocracy of older and failed societies and their serfs?

Is it necessary to remind, teach?, those conservative and their fellow liberal Americans who look down their noses at Sarah Palin and those like her, the essence of the word snob?

Or ought we assume, given their "elite" social and intellectual stamps of authorities of their exclusive clubs, they know and need not be reminded?

That the essence of the word, and by extension, the attitudes of SNOB is SINE Nobilitas !

Sine - Nobilitas: Without nobility.
38 weeks ago
38 weeks ago Link To Comment
my buddy's sister makes $72/hour on the laptop. She has been unemployed for eight months but last month her payment was $12389 just working on the laptop for a few hours. Read more on this site http://max47.com/
38 weeks ago
38 weeks ago Link To Comment
David is the intellectual and spiritual inheritor of William F. Buckley. His depth and breadth of his subjects of exposition are consistent, brave, and vice like in Truth and Veracity.

He and Daniel Greenfield are two of my favorite writers. Conservative Jews are a bright and steady light against the Darkness.
38 weeks ago
38 weeks ago Link To Comment
I enjoyed Terence57's analogy of bartenders. Very good.

His comment on counting the number of angels on the head of a pin seems to mean none. The original question: "How many angels can dance on the head of a pin?" was simply an amusing way to phrase a medieval exam question.

To answer it correctly meant that you had to know that angels are pure intellectual beings, without form or physical substance. Therefore, the correct answer is "An infinite number." Any specific numerical answer is incorrect.

Try that one as a trivia question for your friends!
38 weeks ago
38 weeks ago Link To Comment
Re the commentors ridiculing the author's prose in this article: Do you not see the gleeful irony in his phraseology? Can you not see the "twinkle in the eye" behind the writing? Solway is so cleverly undermining the arrogance of those he rightly critiques by employing language redolent of 19th century British ruling class elite.

Could a good (small R) republican employ a more damning modifier than "palatine"? Is he not channelling the visage of hereditary aristocracy -- and its "spirit of superciliousness" -- with such phrases as "their superiors", "the 'quality'" & "their carriage trade betters" (that last a twofer!)

I thought this article was delightfully crafted to mirror the content. Solway is spot on about this snobbishness. It is pretentious, vain and counterproductive. Most of all it is deeply disappointing (and yet recognizably human.) I for one smiled my way through this gently mocking take-down of such "conservative poobahs"!

(oh, and I had to look up the definition of "palatine". . . .)
38 weeks ago
38 weeks ago Link To Comment
Theudelinda make a good point that should not be forgotten. But IMHO, Solway gets to the heart of a different matter.

Here is the thing: The left HAS to stick together, to the point of hysteria, when faced with a challenge to “established” popular cultural views. Why? Because The Emperor Has No Clothes. These people are insecure and cowardly. They have heard that only the clever people can see that the emperor has clothes. So they pretend they can see them too. And once they do so, they experience delightful unity in a group of people, who all agree, that they are better than and more-clever than those other “morons” who cannot see.

Another excellent insight into this mindset is the blue eyes/brown eyes experiment http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VeK759FF84s that was conducted with the children in 1968.

In both instances, the truth is plain for all to see. But, hey! If you go along with the gig you end up on top, right? If you mess with it, you will not be on top anymore.

No doubt the emperor had roving bands of OWS thugs at the ready to beat up the kid who dared to state what was plain for all to see. And if thugs were not at hand, plenty of old grandmas (having just ooed and awed at the how gorgeous the invisible fabric was) would be happy to throw a stone to silence the brat.

This is the very reason why so much energy must been devoted by the left to control the narrative. In order for the gig to work, it requires an authority who can proclaim that the science is in and everyone agrees!

I believe this goes to the heart of the point that David Solway is making. The conservative snobs, of whom he speaks, are the ones who are worthy, in in their own right, to sit at the Emperor’s table. They are entitled to the access! But they don’t want to be excommunicated and have to schlep with the masses. Yes, they are confident enough to admit that the emperor is naked, but they also know that to remain on the Emperor’s invite list they must keep quiet ; or at least be willing to concede that it is *possible* some can see what they cannot.

Likewise, they are confident enough to make clear that having blue eyes does not make anyone THEIR better. But in exchange for access, they will concede that masses of OTHER brown-eyed folk sure are stupid! Hardy, Har, Har!

Solway said, “The group [that] is willing to take risks and to suffer defamation, false accusations and even imprisonment, in short, to put itself “out there” for their beliefs. Very few among their “superiors” would ever expose their comforts, privileges, and intellectual and social status to the mercy of their antagonists. And this is an unmitigated shame.” So true!!

The “conservative snobs” are far more damaging to the cause of truth and freedom than deluded libs could ever be. It is sad, because they are blessed with the position to help move mankind forward and lay calm to the madness. But rather than risk losing their own seat at the table, they will remain silent (or far worse, join in) as the crowd picks up stones and begins to scream “crucify!”
39 weeks ago
39 weeks ago Link To Comment
The heart of what I would say is here,

"Meanwhile, many --I'm talking to you, Noonan, Brooks, et al-- simply abandoned whatever sense they had and supported Mr. Crease In His Pants. They are snobs and wanna-bes, true, but their fixation on achieving power makes them part of a homogenous --and dangerous-- political class."

You may as well count the angels on the head of a pin as to approximate the number of players in politics who are embrace power for the furtherance of a worldview rather than for power itself. Politicians are also a LOT like bartenders.
The good ones steal a smaller percentage of the take even as they make more actual dollars by providing better service to the customers and management. All politicians work for somebody. The most powerful ones work for the most powerful backers and send enough pork home to be reelected.
39 weeks ago
39 weeks ago Link To Comment
Remember, it was precisely the Rinos who misread the tea leaves and drafted Palin in a desperate bid to prop up Grandpappy McCain. Then, when that didn't work out, they dumped her, helping to ruin her otherwise promising political career. Meanwhile, many --I'm talking to you, Noonan, Brooks, et al-- simply abandoned whatever sense they had and supported Mr. Crease In His Pants. They are snobs and wanna-bes, true, but their fixation on achieving power makes them part of a homogenous --and dangerous-- political class. Their duplicity and hypocrisy are practically beside the point. The divide on the Right is less between social conservatives and libertarians than between power junkies and people who actually have principles.
39 weeks ago
39 weeks ago Link To Comment
Wrong! The divide on the Right is between social cons (usually Catholics & evangelicals) and other Christians & Jews who are ONLY econ-cons! It's that simple!
38 weeks ago
38 weeks ago Link To Comment
Many social cons are also econo cons. Social con Catholics tend to be more econo cons than liberal Catholics are, but not always.
38 weeks ago
38 weeks ago Link To Comment
While all this is true, there is another, more powerful, and more positive reason for the divisions among conservativism, which is something to celebrate: we are permitted freedom of speech. We are not locked into a ruthlessly enforced uniformity of thought. Deviations from correct thinking are not punished by social ostracism, mocker, and ruination of careers. Look at what happened to the president of Harvard University for making one true statement. Conservatives have the right to say whatever we want, and we do. We have the right to try to convince each other, argue, and change our minds.

Even attempting to talk to a liberal about any conservative ideas generally means first having to get them into a frame of mind in which open dialog is even possible.
39 weeks ago
39 weeks ago Link To Comment
You and your readers might find this blog post interesting Mr. Solway.

Middle England must listen to Tommy Robinson

http://enlightenmentlover.wordpress.com/2013/07/09/middle-england-must-listen-to-tommy-robinson/
39 weeks ago
39 weeks ago Link To Comment
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