Ed Driscoll

Life In The Parenthesis States

In his Wall Street Journal profile, Tom Wolfe discusses how out of touch most media elites are:

And so many of them are so caught up in this kind of metropolitan intellectual atmosphere that they simply don’t go across the Hudson River. They literally do not set foot in the United States. We live in New York in one of the two parenthesis states. They’re usually called blue states–they’re not blue states, the states on the coast. They’re parenthesis states–the entire country lies in between.”


As a result, they simply can’t understand President Bush’s appeal to the majority of voters within those states:

George Bush’s appeal, for Mr. Wolfe, was owing to his “great decisiveness and willingness to fight.” But as to “this business of my having done the unthinkable and voted for George Bush, I would say, now look, I voted for George Bush but so did 62,040,609 other Americans. Now what does that make them? Of course, they want to say–‘Fools like you!’ . . . But then they catch themselves, ‘Wait a minute, I can’t go around saying that the majority of the American people are fools, idiots, bumblers, hicks.’ So they just kind of dodge that question.

Ah contraire–I rarely disagree with Wolfe’s assessment of most topics, but think back to the period between November of 2004 and Bush’s inauguration the following January. The media were collectively depressed enough about the election’s outcome to really let the mask slip, and let language that normally stays inside Manhattan cocktail parties out onto the air.

(Via Sissy Willis, who was disenchanted with the Journal writer’s “profoundly shallow” profile of Wolfe.)


Update: Of course, the other big media institution has no problem admitting that it isn’t too crazy about the folks in the Parenthesis States, either. As Peggy Noonan writes:

You don’t have to be a genius to figure out that viewership of the Oscars is down because movie attendance itself is down, and that movie attendance is down because Hollywood isn’t making the kind of movies that compel people to leave their homes and go to the multiplex.

There are those who think Hollywood hates America, and they have reason to think it. Hollywood does, as host Jon Stewart suggested, seem detached from the country it seeks to entertain. It is politically and culturally to the left of America, and it often seems disdainful of or oblivious to its assumptions and traditions.

I don’t think it is true that studio executives and producers hate America. They are too confused, ambivalent and personally anxious to sit around hating their audience. I think they wish they understood America. I think they feel nostalgic for what they remember of it. I think they find it hard to find America, in a way.

I also think that it’s not true that they’re motivated only by money. Would that they were! They’d be more market-oriented if they cared only about money. What they care about a great deal is status, and in their community status is bestowed by the cultural left. This is an old story. But it seems only to get worse, not better.

If a lot of the American audience, certainly the red-state audience, assumes Hollywood hates them, they won’t go as often to the movies as they used to. If you thought Wal-Mart hated you, would you shop there?


Actually, that’s not all that fair of a comparison–Wal-Mart’s product line is infinitely more diverse than Hollywood’s is these days, and its prices are cheaper.

Join the conversation as a VIP Member