Dispatches from the Anthropologist-American Community
In his 1835 book Democracy in America, Alexis De Tocqueville referred to the United States as "the great experiment," but these days, as the left moves further and further away from the right, we really do seem to be taking the "experiment" half of the equation rather literally. In a memorable G-File back in 2003, Jonah Goldberg referred to the "Gorillas in the Mist" tone of many New York Times articles of the day, whenever they came across young conservatives, religious Americans, or both and studied them a la Dian Fossey. (As opposed to today's incarnation of the Times, which forgoes studying and heads straight for demonization.) A year later, immediately after the 2004 election, in a soundbite that Rush Limbaugh had lots of fun putting into wide circulation, David Westin, then the president of ABC News, told Tina Brown on her little-watched CNBC show that, as Rush paraphrased, "We need more foreign correspondents in Alabama" to understand how those strange alien rubes in flyover country could vote for that funny-talking former governor of Texas"
RUSH: So, anyway, she's got David Westin on the program, and she says, "David, would you have a reporter/producer live in any of these communities?" She's talking about the red states of America here, folks. "Would you have a reporter/producer live in any of these communities and saturate themselves in these cultures so that they get more stories from those communities?"
WESTIN: I think we don't do that enough, and I'm not just talking religious communities. I'm talking all sorts of communities across the country. I think that... You understand this, Tina, living in New York or in Los Angeles, we have busy jobs. We go into the office every day. We tend to socialize with the same people, or the same types of people, and I think it's terribly important for journalists to get out whether it's overseas or domestically and try to understand.
RUSH: We need more foreign correspondents in Alabama! We need more foreign correspondents north of Palm Beach County in Florida! We need embeds to go to church, find out what's going on with these holy rollers! Ah, folks, you can't know how much I love this.
Trying to explain away Barack Obama's astonishing aloofness, Spock-like alienation and fear of those Bitter Clingers in the Mist, Chuck Todd told Andrea Mitchell that Mr. Obama fancies himself an anthropologist:
CHUCK TODD: I would say the real danger for the president on issues like this, is less about this, and more about — Paul Begala one time said this to me — he said, you know, the guy really is his mother’s son sometimes when it comes to studying society. He’s anthropoligcal about it. Remember that time when he was studying people in Pennsylvania, and he said to that fundraiser in Pennsylvania, you know they cling to their guns. He wasn’t meaning it as demeaning in his mind, but it came across that way.
ANDREA MITCHELL: It’s intellectualized.
TODD: He’s the son of an anthropologist, and I think sometimes he goes about religion that way, almost in this, as I said because he’s very well studied on, not just Christianity but on a lot of religions, but in that, frankly, anthropological way, and that can come across as distant.
In June, 9/11 Truther and racialist Toure (he of this past week's "niggerization" self-immolation) admitted that he views his fellow Americans as science experiments to be studied, during an early episode of MSNBC's new series, The Cycle:
TOURE NEBLETT, CO-HOST: I want to engage Alex for a second because I generally find young Republicans to be a sort of strange breed. Most young people regardless of who’s at the top of the ticket, most young people tend to be Democrats. It’s been that way for a long time. So when I meet a young Republican, I want to put him on a couch and be like, “How did this happen to you?” And “how might you be saved?” Can you talk a little bit just philosophically about why you’re a Republican at, how old are you by the way?
S.E. CUPP, CO-HOST: Are you really treating him like he’s some kind of science experiment?
NEBLETT: Oh, absolutely. I treated you like that when I met you, and he’s even younger. How old are you, sir, and why are you a Republican?
In the title of her new post at the PJ Lifestyle blog, Dr. Helen quotes conservative talk radio host Mike Gallagher returning the favor of the above examples in his new book 50 Things Liberals Love to Hate: "I’ve Studied Liberals Like Jane Goodall Studies her Chimps."
I know John Edwards believes that there are two Americas -- and Obama certainly believes that America is a wide panoply of disparate leftwing special interest groups to curry favor with, plus those bitter clinger Democrats who rejected him, with the right to be alternately ignored or demonized as The Other. But have we reached the stage where both sides view their ideological opponents as something to be studied in a Petri dish under a microscope? Where does a nation so splintered go next?