Who Will Defend the Children of Priviledge?

by Scott McLemee on July 12, 2007

The cover story of the Washington City Paper this week is about Late Night Shots, “a very exclusive, invite-only social-networking Web site” enabling rich young white people from good prep schools to get drunk and have casual sex with others of the kind in the Washington, DC area who share their right-wing politics and their sense of entitlement (if that isn’t, in this case, verging on the redundant).

LNS claims to have something like 14,000 members. Many are, the article says, Episcopalian or Presbyterian. The whole things sounds like something produced by splicing together the work of John Updike and Bret Easton Ellis with a business plan cooked by a savvy venture capitalist.

Features in the City Paper are often dubiously reported and normally at least twice as long as the content merits, though this one seems competently edited. It might be worth a look for those of you concerned with networks, online and off—just as an example of something off the MySpace/Facebook binary, so to speak.

But it’s the cultural politics of the comments section that I found especially interesting. The LNS people are not happy with the article. Once past calling the reporter a drunk, a plagiarist, and (this is clearly the real crime) someone who had been a nerd in high school, the discussion focuses on the hostility directed at LNSers by their social and economic inferiors:

At the end of the day, they hate because they are jealous. Jealous of our priviledge, jealous of our economic success, jealous of our fun. I hate to say it but they hate us for the same reasons the terrorists do. Perhaps that’s why they all want us to withdraw from Iraq and hand victory to al Qaeda on a silver platter? Ok, I better stop before I go off on a major tangent/rant here.

Oh, but do go on….It seems that the inferiors are hipsters who listen to “indie” music and vote for the Democrats. They are destined to serve the LNSers. And yet these losers, too, claim a kind of superiority. That claim cannot be endured. To quote another comment by an LNS member:

Enjoy your crummy Indie music and making minimum wage. When I need your opinion or critique on privilege, I will be sure to give you a ring (and opinion) while I am renting a car and you are filling up my tank. Both of which you did a terrible job of doing. Hipsters its no wonder you cannot not find a job. Keep writing about us and we will be sure not give damn whether you live or die. That is the thing about your purported privilege. While you are busy writing about us, we are busy running the world and making money so you have something to write.

How true! And yet it does not take much dialectical finesse to suspect that the claim to indifference here is overstated, even blatantly contradictory.

There is an obvious urgency of feeling that mangles the promise “we will be sure not [to] give damn whether you live or die.” Likewise with the other LNSer’s rather shakily performed claim of a “priviledge” that can only be envied.

Perhaps what we have here is the opposite of the “theft of enjoyment”. It is the fear, rather, that one’s claim to have access to superior power and pleasure won’t be acknowledged at all.

The point of a club like Late Night Shots is, in large part, to keep other people out of it. That’s obvious. But those other people have to (be imagined to) want in.

The greatest terror is not that they will try to overthrow you—or even that they might somehow break through the barriers of exclusivity. It’s that the outsider might laugh at the exclusivity.

Speaking of which, there is a comment about a t-shirt that does sound like it’s on the same wavelength in regard to the fantasy of exclusion, except apropos the hipster variant. It reads: “I listen to bands that don’t even exist yet.” What’s good for the goose….

{ 4 trackbacks }

Big Head DC » Even the Scholars Are Analyzing LNS
07.12.07 at 10:42 pm
Stick With A Nose » Class Warfare
07.13.07 at 4:19 pm
Graham Davis » Blog Archive » My del.icio.us bookmarks for July 16th through July 17th
07.18.07 at 12:34 am
Late Night Shots « The Roaring Mouse
07.19.07 at 11:53 pm

{ 152 comments }

1

Dialectical Thinker 07.12.07 at 10:21 pm

It seems the right is catching up in the “with great privilege comes great guilt and resentment” sweepstakes. Some might even call it “hysterical guilt,” a sort of Hegelian synthesis of Nelson Rockefeller and Richard Nixon.

2

bgn 07.12.07 at 10:29 pm

LNS claims to have something like 14,000 members.

That’s an awful lot of rich right-wing preppies in one place even for Washington, DC.

3

jacob 07.12.07 at 10:31 pm

Those who wish to be amazed and disgusted at Late Night Shots should head over to Wonkette, where for a while there was a running feature called “Last Week’s Shots,” which had the best (which is to say worst) excerpts of LNS’s online discussions. See http://wonkette.com/politics/late-night-shots/

4

MrTimbo 07.12.07 at 10:31 pm

Except the hipster t-shirt demonstrates a greater degree of self-consciousness. Obviously, that’s the old trope about hipsters, that they’re ironic and self-conscious. But it’s self consciousness, I think, that opens the door to curbing whatever trait it is in human beings that makes them find various forms of exclusivity attractive.

Therefor, obviously, anyone can see it, hipsters are better than young conservatives.

5

JR 07.12.07 at 10:36 pm

1) City Paper is amusing but often unreliable.
2) Angela Valdez got into a few controversial situations at Willamette Week (in Portland, OR) – try googling her.
3) It’s spelled “privilege.”

6

Morat20 07.12.07 at 10:40 pm

Hmm, my favorite t-shirt of that variety is an Onion T-Shirt that simply states: “Your favorite band sucks”

7

lemuel pitkin 07.12.07 at 10:42 pm

McLemee thinks this is funny. Not me, it’s appalling. Our elite is steadily feeling their way toward a repudiation of democracy. They’ll continue until there’s a reaction — and the longer it is coming, the more violent it will be.

Even 10 or 20 years ago you would never have seen something like this. People were still embarassed to be seen as elitists. It’s amazing how the culture follows the distribution of income with almost mechanical precision — no coincidence that the breakthroughs for civil rights, gay rights, women’s equality came at the point of greatest income compression this century.

8

Stuart 07.12.07 at 10:46 pm

I wonder if they have an option for same sex liaisons on the site like many other similar networking sites do, it could be indicative of whether the next generation of conservatives will be funding efforts to keep same sex marriage and other anti-gay agendas running for the next couple of decades or not.

9

Kieran Healy 07.12.07 at 10:47 pm

3) It’s spelled “privilege.”

jr, I think you need to read the post more carefully. Scott knows how to spell.

10

Munchkin 07.12.07 at 10:52 pm

If McLemee thinks LNS is really all a bunch of right-wingers, then he’s completely out of it. There are, I’m sure, your fair share of non-profiteering Ivy trust-funders with crushes on Obama who equally elitist and disgusting.

11

Scott McLemee 07.12.07 at 11:06 pm

McLemee thinks this is funny. Not me, it’s appalling. Our elite is steadily feeling their way toward a repudiation of democracy.

I take that as a given. I find it appalling, but also contemptible and worthy of scorn, which is not the same thing as funny.

The pathetic chest-thumping of the LNSers is not the sort of behavior that a ruling class that is really sure of itself — that really does feel its power is legitimate — needs to indulge.

Munchkin: I’m sure you are right. My encounters with the movers and shakers in this town mainly involve trying to avoid being run over by their limousines.

12

Pimp C 07.12.07 at 11:10 pm

What I fail to understand is this obsession with LNS. People on LNS are not spending months writing articles about how hipsters interact, what ironic t-shirts they’re wearing, or what branch of queer literary theory they’re expounding on this week.

LNS is hilarious, but I understand why some people wouldn’t like it. The hit pieces I’ve seen on it are generally pretty funny, if bitter. The only problem I have with this one is the fact that by most accounts, the author made up quotes, and in one case called up the mother of one of the subjects of the article to read her a salacious quote by her son. I mean, come on.

13

text 07.12.07 at 11:13 pm

This crowd isn’t actually the elite. They just play them on the internet. I don’t know if that’s the chief irony–the chief irony may be that someone would take the time to point this out–but it’s up there, on the outer folds.

14

Scott McLemee 07.12.07 at 11:15 pm

Well, Pimp C (if that is your real name) I can testify that, far from being “obsessed” with LNS, I for one never heard of it until reading the article, and expect never to think of it — short of that happy day when humanity becomes free by hanging the last capitalist with the guts of the last Stalinist.

God, how I love that slogan. It never gets old.

15

Jonathan 07.12.07 at 11:16 pm

I read Lemuel’s comment, and I was going to object that “elites,” as traditionally understood, have cognitive ability incompatible with what we see here; and that these charming young people–familiar types to anyone who’s spent time around a large university–and those like them have little actual power.

I then thought Senator Leahy’s recent interrogation and–well, I didn’t tremble exactly. It was more like, “oh.”

16

Dan Simon 07.12.07 at 11:21 pm

Hmm…I seem to recall reading this story somewhere before

17

Dan Kervick 07.12.07 at 11:28 pm

McLemee thinks this is funny. Not me, it’s appalling. Our elite is steadily feeling their way toward a repudiation of democracy.

There’s nothing new here. The attitudes are the same as they were in the 1890′a or the 1920′s or the 50′s or the 80′s or now.

18

Pimp C 07.12.07 at 11:33 pm

Well Scott, you just wrote a 700 word blog post on the subject.

19

Crystal 07.12.07 at 11:33 pm

If these young Republicans are as selfish in bed as they are out of it, I doubt LNS hookups are that much fun.

20

jacob 07.12.07 at 11:42 pm

Even 10 or 20 years ago you would never have seen something like this. People were still embarassed to be seen as elitists.

I think this is pretty clearly nonsense. The technology of such sites has made this sort of noxious, banal elitism more obvious to the rest of us, but it always existed. To find evidence, one need only look at examples of the elite talking among themselves but being overheard. (This is, of course, what LNS is–they don’t invite the riff-raff in to watch, the riff-raff in the form of journalists or bloggers infiltrate.

An example from 10 years ago can be seen in Lawrence Otis Graham’s book about infiltrating a country club, published in 1996, A Member of the Club, or listen to him on a (recently rebroadcast) episode of This American Life. The point of what Graham says is that it’s not just the casual racism of everyone at the club (although it’s that, too); it’s a larger elitism that is not meant to be heard outside of the club.

For an example of 20 years ago, you can read the coverage of the strike of clerical and technical workers at Yale in 1984 in the Yale Daily News. The blithe elitism of many of the Yale students is mind-boggling. Their problem was not they disagreed with the union, but that these people who were not in the club (not of the school, although of course they actually were) had the audacity to disrupt their lives, wake them up with chanting, inconvenience them with picket-lines, and demand recognition of their importance to the university. If that isn’t LNS-style elitism, I don’t know what is.

21

Scott McLemee 07.12.07 at 11:44 pm

Gosh, I did? Seven hundred words? Then clearly I am obsessed. And to think it just seemed like goofing off, a distraction from reading about Anti-Oedipus.

22

butter scotch 07.13.07 at 12:13 am

This is a typical confrontation between two stereotypical extremes. On one hand, you have the self-righteous, altruistic, liberals and in the other you have the rich, conceited conservatives. You have the liberals taking the first shot and conservatives fighting back. To me, i think it was a low blow, irresponsible and pathetic for a newspaper to publish such an article in the first place. That kinda writing belongs in a blog not a ‘newspaper’.

Full disclosure – I am a member of LNS, I am neither white, nor rich, not conservative, and definitely not privileged. Also, I know some of the people who got ‘outed’ and even though i despise most of them, they did not deserve to be tricked and made poster boys/girls for one person’s ( or a newspapers) agenda.

23

roger 07.13.07 at 12:13 am

I don’t find the elitism here appalling. What American householder, liberal or conservative, wants his kids to be filling up the gas tank of some rich guy’s car? Disgust at people who are poor is a constant in this society, which is why they hardly ever appear except – best case – to be made fun of on some daytime talk show. The amazing fear about this is what drives Americans to do the crazy things they do – the debt, the incredible suburban lifestyle, all of the rest of it. Contempt and fear for the poor and the working class are the great American themes, disguised lightly under a resentful anti-elitism. These twenty-somethings are just more open about it. However, I am amazed at the lack of education. Those letters are so poorly written that they are depressing. What’s up with that?

24

luci 07.13.07 at 12:14 am

“is not the sort of behavior that a ruling class that is really sure of itself needs to indulge”

I think they’re just kids. Also, not actually the elite, as text said.

“enabling rich young white people from good prep schools to get drunk and have casual sex with others”

Except for the prep school part, it sounds like the fraternities and sororities at schools like the University of Texas in Austin.

25

John Quiggin 07.13.07 at 12:44 am

Is there a name for the kind of troll who writes:

“this post is so unimportant that I’m going to write a bunch of comments on how unimportant it is”

I particularly like it when they then post on their own blogs about how *really* unimportant it is”

26

Andromeda 07.13.07 at 12:49 am

munchkin is right; I teach at a prep school and, while right-wingers are certainly more common than in the local population (…no great challenge here in Massachusetts), there are plenty of left-wingers as well (some of them even rich and white — of course there are non-rich, non-white people who attend prep school as well, though rather fewer).

The sense of entitlement, though, I can’t help you with. Or, alas, them.

27

Seth Finkelstein 07.13.07 at 12:52 am

Also take into account the selection bias – people who could write well-crafted defenses of a rich-is-better attitude likely won’t be bothered to waste time doing it for a comments section. In fact, those who are secure may not even bother with a reaction at all. So seeing “Some people in this group are insecure about their status” doesn’t really say much.

28

shub-negrorath 07.13.07 at 12:56 am

For a set that claims to despise hipsters, these LNSers sound like they could use a bit more irony in their dialectical diets—at least enough to realize that going off on indignant diatribes is a poor way to express how little you care about something.

29

SG 07.13.07 at 1:06 am

Lemuel, if this stuff is new, how come Bret Easton Ellis wrote about it 20 years ago? I think you are maybe placing too much hope in the egalitarianism of your own society (I`ve seen Helter Skelter too – I`m an expert on American elites you know).

30

Dan Kervick 07.13.07 at 1:32 am

Lemuel, if this stuff is new, how come Bret Easton Ellis wrote about it 20 years ago?

And F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote about it 80 years ago. Tom and Daisy anyone?

31

sara 07.13.07 at 1:42 am

This is the clientele who purchased their papers from paper mills through college. They may even continue to do it in biz-school and at work.

Elance and other freelancing clearinghouses’ nonspecialized writing categories (pathetic, these) frequently display project requests that sound as if upper-class (we say business class these days) twits are trying to get smarter people to do their work for them. The business-class twits despise smart people because they employ them: ergo, the smart people are peons.

This is why America will continue to go down the tubes, even after Bush, Cheney and their like have shuffled off.

32

will 07.13.07 at 1:59 am

Another example of this variety is the law school message board on http://www.autoadmit.com, with which Leiter infamously tangled. There’s nothing to stoke the Marxisant in you like seeing anonymous HLS students denigrate blacks and the “poors,” discuss spending hundreds on call girls, etc. (Though much of it is trolling, to be sure.)

33

unb 07.13.07 at 2:11 am

So, who is really the smarter of the bunch – those who delegate their menial labor (“smart work”) down – or those who accept that labor as the plight of their life? Those who never try to achieve beyond the status quo is what will bring America down – not by those who go above and beyond to succeed (i.e – the “elite”).

34

Xanthippas 07.13.07 at 2:19 am

OMG…are these people for real? Is this serious?

I’ll take my indie music thank you, over self-imposed superiority.

35

walt 07.13.07 at 2:34 am

Hmmm. An example from 20 years ago (the beginning of the modern Gilded Age), and an example from 80 years ago (the original Gilded Age). Is there an example from 50 years ago?

36

jiggavegas 07.13.07 at 2:42 am

That was hi-freakin-larious. The comments section is a goldmine.

Point: “We are better athletes, smarter in business, more attractive, tougher, and, in general, winners of the genetic lottery.”
Counterpoint:”I know it gets said all the time, but shouldn’t these fellows be out losing a war, just like their slaveowning ancestors?”
HAW!

37

Andrew Edwards 07.13.07 at 3:55 am

McLemee thinks this is funny. Not me, it’s appalling.

I’d just like to point out that “appalling” and “funny” are not necessarily opposed (see, e.g., Kafka, Franz)

38

JP Stormcrow 07.13.07 at 4:56 am

Gosh, I did? Seven hundred words?

I must say Scott, the LYM on Wednesday, these Beltway Camarillitos on Thursday. For Friday the 13th, let me guess … on to Gatlin, Nebraska?

39

a 07.13.07 at 5:08 am

“Even 10 or 20 years ago you would never have seen something like this.”

I’d second that this is pretty much nonsense. I can remember When the Harvard football team lost to an “inferior” school (UMass?), the Harvard students chanted, “You’re winning now, but you’ll be working for us.”

“…an example from 80 years ago (the original Gilded Age)…”

80 years ago was not the original Gilded Age, which was back in the 19th Century.

40

Randolph Fritz 07.13.07 at 5:13 am

The establishment screws each other, as well as the rest of us.

41

burritoboy 07.13.07 at 5:19 am

“I can remember When the Harvard football team lost to an “inferior” school (UMass?), the Harvard students chanted, “You’re winning now, but you’ll be working for us.””

I heard Stanford students chant this to their arch-rivals Cal Berkeley about 12 years ago. Even more appalling, perhaps, considering how narrow the status and educational differences really are between the two schools. Nevertheless, the Stanford students were actually correct (the topmost folks in Silicon Valley tend in fact to be Stanford grads, with Berkeley grads occupying somewhat lesser positions).

42

david 07.13.07 at 7:38 am

“Both of which you did a terrible job of doing.”

It gets funnier every time I read it.

Well I guess he was writing in a hurry, seeing as how his time is already divided between making money and RUNNING THE WORLD.

43

Thomas 07.13.07 at 7:42 am

I heard about something of this sort a number of years ago.

It belies something pretty profound in the Liberal/Conservative split. Most people on the left would never even have the idea of opening an establishment that discriminates in this way.

For example, Manuel’s Tavern, the recreational center of the Democratic party for the city of Atlanta, has a picture of John Kennedy over one bar and a picture of LBJ over the other. The walls are covered in autographed photos of Democratic bigwigs and the founder of the bar held two different elected offices as a Democrat. Jimmy Carter has been seen there on a number of occasions.

The Georgia Tech Young Republicans hold their meetings there. Not only are they not excluded, but they are invited.

I don’t foresee any such reciprocation.

44

abb1 07.13.07 at 8:24 am

And F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote about it 80 years ago.

Though not American, see also Vile Bodies by Evelyn Waugh. Very funny. I think it is funny; the elites are always like that, by definition.

45

George Carlin 07.13.07 at 8:42 am

What are you kidding me??? 14,000 DC Elite? The streets must be paved in gold!! If you take anything you read on LNS forums as a statement that’s representative of 14,000 people, you’re just as ignorant as the fools that ran their mouths in the first place. It’s a cross of satire and frat house humor, and definitely not something to stake your journalistic career on (Bloggers can do whatever they want though, we all know you’re not real journalists, anyways.) Don’t validate this bullshit. Your criticism only helps to elevate this elitist mentality you complain about so much. Regoddamndiculous

46

novakant 07.13.07 at 10:28 am

what ever happened to the nice people in the wonderful Whit Stillman film “Metropolitan”?

on the other hand, there’s a particular form of social ressentiment that can be incredibly annoying and as andromeda points out regularly misses the target due to overgeneralization

47

tom s. 07.13.07 at 12:18 pm

LNS claims to have something like 14,000 members.

An “elite” group that boasts about how many members it has is doomed to fail.

48

John Emerson 07.13.07 at 1:27 pm

I don’t know what’s behind JR’s insinuations about Angela Valdez in #5. I was in Portland when Angela wrote for WW (and have met her), and I can’t remember anything justifying his dark aspersion.

49

14000 Strong 07.13.07 at 1:56 pm

LNS claims to have something like 14,000 members.

That is members spread out over the multiple cities that LNS has forums for. Though it is Washington centric, Dallas, Atlanta, and NYC are all represented.

I agree that is the writer of this blog does not care about what we have and do over on LNS, then why did he write it?

50

John Emerson 07.13.07 at 2:14 pm

Googling finds two possibilities:

1.) the source for one story claimed that he had been offered co-authorship. WW’s response — basically that they thought the guy was too much part of the story to be an author — looks pretty reasonable to me.

2.) Valdez wrote a piece accusing the Oregonian of overhyping the “amphetamine epidemic”. Jack Schafer at Slate praised her story and linked to it, while the Oregonian on Poynter Online claimed that she was all wrong. I can’t judge who is right and wrong for sure, but the controversy was raised by Valdez herself about the Oregonian, which responded — it’s not that she wrote a story which became controversial because of some flaw. If her story was even partly valid, it was a real coup.

51

jacob 07.13.07 at 2:18 pm

“I can remember When the Harvard football team lost to an “inferior” school (UMass?), the Harvard students chanted, “You’re winning now, but you’ll be working for us.””

I heard Stanford students chant this to their arch-rivals Cal Berkeley about 12 years ago.

I’m fairly certain I heard Harvard students say that to Yale students seven or eight years ago. I think one must admit the possibility of a certain amount of irony in these claims.

52

John Emerson 07.13.07 at 2:28 pm

14000, we write about you guys for the same reason that you do the dumbfuck things you do. We’re killing time and being nasty.

I’d imagine that LNS has a definite internal structure, with a certain number of true elite, a certain number of conmen climbers, and a lot of deluded wannabes.

53

Sk 07.13.07 at 2:31 pm

“McLemee thinks this is funny. Not me, it’s appalling. Our elite is steadily feeling their way toward a repudiation of democracy.”

I know. God, have you read the Huffington Post lately?

Sk

54

lemuel pitkin 07.13.07 at 2:49 pm

“Even 10 or 20 years ago you would never have seen something like this.”

I’d second that this is pretty much nonsense.

Huh. Do people really not think that the glorification of wealth and privilege isn’t a much bigger part of American society than between, say, 1940 and 1980?

I grew up in affluent Montgomery County, Maryland not so very long ago in the 1970s. At that time nobody had a nanny or cleaning person or any kind of domestic servant. It’s not just that they couldn’t afford them — altho it was a lot less practical then — but it simply wasn’t part of the culture. Hiring someone to clean your house or watch your kids wasn’t something that would have crossed anyone’s mind. You either did it yourself or paid a kid from a family just like your own to do it.

When I went to high school, you couldn’t tell the kids who were going to Harvard after graduating from the kids who were going into the army. Not true today. The huge increase in income inequality is reflected in segregation along every dimension of society. (And really, wouldn’t it be more surprising if this weren’t the case?)

Sure, sure, both-ways-uphill-in-the-snow, but you can’t tell me that changes I’ve observed in my own lifetime aren’t real.

55

lemuel pitkin 07.13.07 at 2:54 pm

And F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote about it 80 years ago. Tom and Daisy anyone?

Right. We’re seeing a similar cultural evolution to what we saw in the 1920s. I think that supports my point.

(And altho it’s largely forgotten now there was a very strong anti-democratic element to politics in the Progressive era through the 1920s. The “reforms” to urban government in that period were more or less explicitly intended to shift political power from working-class immigrants to the new stratum of middle-class professionals. Many in the Wilson administration saw World War I as a chance to reshape American society along more hierarchical lines, and were disappointed when it ended so soon after US entry. Anybody ever read David Noble’s America by Design?)

56

Mrs. Coulter 07.13.07 at 3:00 pm

Re: “You’re going to work for us someday” being chanted by Harvard students…yes, it’s heavily ironic. Other Ivies are generally the target for this. I can’t imagine under what circumstances Harvard would play UMass in football–they’re not in the same league (Harvard football, fyi, sucks). However, I would be shocked if the vast majority of these social climbing creeps had the test scores to be admitted to any Ivy, despite Daddy paying good money for the best prep schools and test prep tutors.

The article is disturbing, but the comments are hilarious. I love all the folks who claim that they are misrepresented and personally libeled and that the reporter is bad because she is a poor, ugly, slut (not that LNSers dislike the poor, the ugly, or the sluttish, you know). Now *there’s* irony for you.

It’s also quite hilarious that “Pimp C” thinks that 700 words is a lengthy oeuvre. Perhaps it is difficult for him to string more than two or three sentences together without paying someone else (one of those nasty plebs) to do it for him?

57

John Emerson 07.13.07 at 3:09 pm

I agree with Lemuel. Since about 1980 I’ve noticed this kind of stuff becoming more blatant and unashamed. It’s always been there, but people didn’t use to brag about it.

58

BG 07.13.07 at 3:21 pm

#20 is hilarious.

59

CR 07.13.07 at 4:04 pm

“I can remember When the Harvard football team lost to an “inferior” school (UMass?), the Harvard students chanted, “You’re winning now, but you’ll be working for us.””

The chant, rendered correctly, goes:

“That’s all right, that’s OK, you’ll all work for us someday…”

At least that how it went where I was. Obviously deployed when your team is losing…

60

jg 07.13.07 at 4:10 pm

The site was made “exclusive” because Reed is a savvy businessperson – rule #1 of gaining attention is to make something unattainable – it’s human nature. However, in practice there is very little exclusivity.

The characterization of LNS as some sort of “club,” using the term “LNSers,” and generalizing the whole group as some sort of cultural phenomenon works great for the story, but isn’t reality. I am on the site, all my friends are on the site, and it is little more than a great way to kill time. Reed has come up with several social networking innovations which make people more likely to log back in. Examples of these are the “hunting range,” putting anonymous captions on photos, the forum, the party invite function, sending messages with a “brush-up”, and a host of others.

The author of the City Paper article does her best Tom Wolfe impression, and it’s been humorous watching people on both sides of this “divide” get all bent out of shape about this “culture war.” It really has exposed the hypocrisy and defensiveness on both sides. I am a Democrat, and the most appalling hypocrisy that liberals or progressives have in this country is that they are so judgmental. It is easy to put the “LNS crowd” in a box and call them rich, conservative, spoiled, or whatever else, but a true liberal might try to look behind these stereotypes and might realize that Republicans can be great individuals. You might not agree with their political beliefs, and you might dress differently, but guess what – you can have fun if you just opened your mind.

61

Mrs. Coulter 07.13.07 at 4:17 pm

I just reread the whole CT comment thread, and I want to concur with Scott in 12: this sort of “club” and the nastiness associated with it is clear evidence of social insecurity on the part of its members. Crass flaunting of wealth and status is very nouveau–it displays a fear that unless the onlookers are constantly reminded of the flaunters’ economic status, they might accidentally mistake them for someone without wealth (and thereby power, at least in American society). People with old money, while not necessarily paragons of social inclusivity, tend be quieter about their status. They’re not worried that someone might mistake them for one of the hoi polloi. LNSers and their ilk, while crowing about their god-given privilege, worry that others will not recognize their due. Otherwise, why would they need to point it out so much?

62

Joshua R. 07.13.07 at 4:42 pm

“While you are busy writing about us, we are busy running the world and making money so you have something to write.”

Where have I heard that before? Oh yeah…

“The aide said that guys like me were “in what we call the reality-based community,” which he defined as people who “believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality.” … “That’s not the way the world really works anymore,” he continued. “We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you’re studying that reality—judiciously, as you will—we’ll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that’s how things will sort out. We’re history’s actors . . . and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.”

The most insular vanguard of modern American “conservatism” is apparently held together by string and an overwhelming sense of one’s own superiority.

63

abb1 07.13.07 at 4:43 pm

Y’all should read Denis Salnikov in eXile.ru.

64

abb1 07.13.07 at 4:52 pm

Also, what Mrs. Coulter said in 61: these excesses are especially typical for the nouveau riche, so naturally it had to start happening in the 80s when the top tax bracket went from 80% down to 30.

65

chris y 07.13.07 at 4:59 pm

Crass flaunting of wealth and status is very nouveau

Usually, not always. Bush’s money is four generations old.

66

seth edenbaum 07.13.07 at 5:41 pm

The Upper West Side looks over at the Upper East Side and finds…

67

Dagny Taggart 07.13.07 at 5:58 pm

LNS has been around for a while, it been getting critiqued by libs for a while now also, this is nothing new and will pass again in about a week. For the record, LNS does not describe itself as elite, you have to be invited to join, not unlike aSmallWorld or needing a college email address to gain access to facebook. And another thing, whats with this obsessive emphasis on them being conservative? It has nothing to do with politics, and everything to do with money. Just because the Bush twins hang out at Smith Point does not make it a Conservative enclave, it means they want to have a few beers. Let us not forget that there are just as many limosine liberals at these DC prep schools, outwardly extolling the virtues of helping those in need while Pepe is outback mowing their grass for 4.25 an hour. So for now, LNSers continue their hysterical “private” banter while you folks continue with what seems to be a never-ending obsession with the “elite.”

68

John Emerson 07.13.07 at 6:22 pm

Dagny Taggart = Jane Galt’s sock puppet?

69

seth edenbaum 07.13.07 at 6:38 pm

Educated liberals’ claims of moral superiority exists very much in the context of their tense relation with others of their own rank.

The logic of neoliberalism says that any ironic detachment that this awareness might bring is unnecessary and irrelevant.
That’s the only thing new here.

70

Martin James 07.13.07 at 6:43 pm

Yes, who will defend the children of privilege?

Status, power, identity, community are such emotional topics.

The shameless despise the guiltmongers, the guiltmongers hate the shameless.

There seem to be only so many ways to react to the ill-deserved status problem.

1. Disdain- Oh the wickedness of the powerful!
2. Distress – How/when/why has the world become so corrupt?
3. Dominance – They aren’t really as smart/powerful/sexy/funny/lovable/connected/old-money as we are.
4. Deflation – Who cares what “they” do anyway?

I can relate to all of these strategies. A case study are the grammar/spelling/rhetoric/literary knowledge snobs.

I find the whole “oops I misspelled a word” and “gotcha, fool” posts distressing. I mean spelling is clearly conventional so where do these people get off perpetuating it as a status fetish. Sure, I’m like everyone else and watch the spelling bee on ESPN in awe, but to criticize the less linguistically facile, it just seems so harsh, so needlessly cruel, so judgmental (not judgemental, right?)

So, I run through the D’s. Disdain – Those bastard spelling nazi’s are at it again! Distress – when did they start breeding like flies- Ezra where are you now that we need you? Dominance – I’ll bet that guy doesn’t know Anglo-Saxon from Middle English anyway! and finally the peaceful plane of deflation – cuz it just don’t mean nuthing NE-WAY!

71

novakant 07.13.07 at 6:59 pm

hiring a cleaning lady is indicative of a glorification of wealth? gimme a break

72

lemuel pitkin 07.13.07 at 7:03 pm

Dagny Taggart = Jane Galt’s sock puppet?

Nah, if it were from La Galt it would surely have (a) an anecdote about the author’s totally working class friend who was in LNS and says it wasn’t like that at all and (b) some counterfactual speculation about how exclusive communities like LNS are actually good for poor people and democracy, plus optionally (c) a threat to bean anyone who doesn’t agree with a 2×4.

73

lemuel pitkin 07.13.07 at 7:05 pm

hiring a cleaning lady is indicative of a glorification of wealth?

Absolutely, because it indicates an acceptance that society is divided into cleaners and clean-ees. if you can’t imagine a world without servants, that’s a failure of imagination on your part.

74

ecomst 07.13.07 at 7:05 pm

These crypto-fascist idiots have been in D.C. forever. The only difference is now, with gentrification, a massive population of upper-middle class “hipsters” have taken over the middle parts of the city. Whereas in the early 80′s, preppies used to patrol the streets of Georgetown looking for fights with young punkers like Ian Mackaye, now a new “critical mass” of hipsters has chaged the tide, and the date-raping preppies are up against the ropes.

But before we set up a good/evil binary here, make sure to look at the big hipster websites like “brightest young things,” where a different brand of knee-jerk elitism prevails under the banner of a not very reflective MTV2 “cool” that is really only another kind of conspicuous consumption and another kind of violence.

Why is it a surprise that these LNS kids feel rightious; the date rapists have their bands and clothes, and the hipsters have theirs.

75

seth edenbaum 07.13.07 at 7:06 pm

“The shameless despise the guiltmongers, the guiltmongers hate the shameless.”

No. The shameless don’t care. But they don’t follow politics, and they don’t live in DC.

76

Randolph Fritz 07.13.07 at 7:56 pm

We are in UR litterbox, burying your reputation.

77

Martin James 07.13.07 at 8:36 pm

Seth,

Did you see Scalia’s response to the people who thought he disqualify himself on the Cheney case because of the hunting trip.

I would submit that from the point of view of a sizable number of guiltmongers Scalia (and Cheney) are shameless and he certainly wrote like he hated them and he at least works in DC and does seem to follow politics ( at least presidential elections with close outcomes.)

Alternatively we could turn the tables, pick a different group of guiltmongers and use Bill Clinton is exhibit B of shameless/political and living in DC/hating the guiltmongers.

78

Martin James 07.13.07 at 8:53 pm

Lemuel,

You sound like my wife. She see’s doing yardwork as a man’s highest moral duty no matter how economically ridiculous it is not to have it hired out.

I see your point about the cleaning lady, but God’s own gift to virtue, George Bailey, had a domestic servant so it can’t be that bad.

79

jim 07.13.07 at 9:44 pm

you don’t impress me

80

novakant 07.13.07 at 9:51 pm

if you can’t imagine a world without servants, that’s a failure of imagination on your part

a servant? bloody hell, have you ever spoken to a cleaning lady? should you ever do so, I suggest you don’t call her a servant, it’s just a job like working the checkout at Tesco’s or something

81

Tyro 07.13.07 at 9:56 pm

Perhaps what we have here is the opposite of the “theft of enjoyment”. It is the fear, rather, that one’s claim to have access to superior power and pleasure won’t be acknowledged at all.

The reason for this level of anxiety is obvious– LNS is made up overwhelmingly of people who went to average colleges, and their only “elite” claims come from having been a member of a fraternity, holding a low-paid job on Capitol Hill, and, perhaps, access to a trust fund set aside by their upper-middle-class parents and membership in one of those monthly-dues social clubs. What’s stunning to me is the disconnect between the LNS’ers claims to be “important people” who “run the country” and the sheer mediocrity of their academic and professional backgrounds.

What’s sort of amusing is that high-profile examples of “hipsters” in DC could be said to come from, say, members of Matthew Yglesias’s blogroll and his TAPPED co-bloggers… many of whom all seem to have gone to genuinely elite high schools and universities and come from genuinely elite families.

82

John Emerson 07.13.07 at 10:13 pm

Of course, the low-class LNSers get jobs like managing hurricane relief In New Orleans, reconstructing Iraq, censoring the CDC’s AIDS and contraception publications, etc., while the posh Yglesias types work for low-paying, low-circulation magazines.

83

Martin James 07.13.07 at 11:08 pm

Well said John Emerson.

84

leftcoaster 07.13.07 at 11:42 pm

I have to agree with tyro. Living in Silicon Valley, I see the people who are actually changing the world, and they are overwhelmingly hippies and hipsters.

85

Knemon 07.14.07 at 12:26 am

“The point of a club like Late Night Shots is, in large part, to keep other people out of it. That’s obvious. But those other people have to (be imagined to) want in.”

Sorta like the post-theory humanities. Mirror image. Dialectic indeed.

86

Knemon 07.14.07 at 12:28 am

“We’re seeing a similar cultural evolution to what we saw in the 1920s. I think that supports my point.”

Don’t worry, soon enough a major economic/military crisis will come along, and then you/we pointy-head types will get to take their money away and spread it around.

Any minute now.

87

lemuel pitkin 07.14.07 at 12:31 am

Of course “elite” is a complex term. A lot of the confusion (and some of the resentment) here stems from the fact that the US has (at least) two quite distinct elites — a credentialed noblesse de robe that hands down its status through elite universities and a noblesse d’épée who hand down their status more directly in the form of capital. Take a look at the Forbes 400 sometime, it’s very instructive. A lot of inherited wealth there — typically a third to a half the list — but very few Ivy League degrees.

88

Knemon 07.14.07 at 12:35 am

“They’re not worried that someone might mistake them for one of the hoi polloi.”

And you’re apparently not worried that “the hoi polloi” is the semantic equivalent of “the les miserables.”

*

The version of the chant *I* heard was “That’s all right, that’s okay, you’re gonna *pump our gas* someday.”

89

seth edenbaum 07.14.07 at 12:54 am

Scalia is a somewhat bright reactionary Catholic, true to Il Duce and Pauline rationalization. “To the pure all things are pure” etc. Cheney is a not too bright cynic who assumes others are as corrupt as he is. That’s the logic of the white-bread republican kids in DC. It’s based in intellectual insecurity and teenage revenge fantasies. It’s the logic of the Bush Administration from the Teenage Caligula himself on down: Bush, Cheney, Rove. They have a small crew of body servant “bottoms” like Scooter, and the rest are as tyro and ecomst made clear date raping frat-boys who had little interest in their mediocre education. It’s not shameless, it’s all about shame. The truly shameless just don’t care at all. They sell arms to both sides and walk away.

What’s sort of amusing is that high-profile examples of “hipsters” in DC could be said to come from, say, members of Matthew Yglesias’s blogroll and his TAPPED co-bloggers… many of whom all seem to have gone to genuinely elite high schools and universities and come from genuinely elite families

That’s the funniest motherfucking paragraph I’ve ever read on this goddamn site.

90

lemuel pitkin 07.14.07 at 1:03 am

Cheney is a not too bright cynic

You think? I had the pretty clear impression he was very, very bright … and pure evil. (Which is a kind of idealism, the dead opposite of cynicism, no?)

91

Knemon 07.14.07 at 1:18 am

“Scalia is a somewhat bright reactionary Catholic, true to Il Duce and Pauline rationalization.”

MMMMMM that’s good bigotry!

92

yawn 07.14.07 at 1:23 am

Knemon, fuck off back to Late Night Shots…that’s a good boy.

93

seth edenbaum 07.14.07 at 2:09 am

Yeah. I’m not a big fan of religious fundamentalists.
The Passion of the Christ was a good movie though.
You figure it out.

94

Bloix 07.14.07 at 3:01 am

knemon, you think it’s a coincidence that of the 5 reactionary justices that now form a majority, every last one is a Roman Catholic? And that of the 4-member moderate minority, two are Jews and two are Protestants? Are we not allowed to note the strong totalitarian tendency among some Catholic intellectuals?

95

a 07.14.07 at 6:27 am

“I think one must admit the possibility of a certain amount of irony in these claims.” Sure against Yale, but not against UMass. Perhaps the ironic use was derived from the condescending use, since the latter seems to have preceded the former in time?

“I can’t imagine under what circumstances Harvard would play UMass in football—they’re not in the same league (Harvard football, fyi, sucks).” If you can’t imagine, then at least Google.
http://www.footballvideos.com/UMASS.htm

96

Trotz 07.14.07 at 9:47 am

These rich brats never made an honest dollar in their lives. They don’t deserve the money and privilege earned by their fathers’ exploitation. What they deserve is to be stripped of their ill-gotten inherited wealth and made to work for the benefit of society.

97

chris y 07.14.07 at 11:44 am

a servant? bloody hell, have you ever spoken to a cleaning lady? should you ever do so, I suggest you don’t call her a servant, it’s just a job like working the checkout at Tesco’s or something

And thank god she can see it that way. But the fact is, she is functionally a servant, just like the housemaids who cleaned the homes of the rich before WWII. If you have a problem with this, you’re in denial.

And if you’re hiring servants, you’ve joined the ruling class, whether you want to admit it or not. Full disclosure: we employ a cleaning lady.

98

abb1 07.14.07 at 1:01 pm

We have a concierge, Monsieur Sánchez. He vacuums the carpeted staircase in our apartment building. He lives in our building too.

Incidentally, I remember hearing a colleague saying the other day that he pays his cleaning lady 30chf/hr. That’s about $25/hr or so.

99

seth edenbaum 07.14.07 at 1:24 pm

Here’s where it gets interesting.
What’s the difference between having someone help you around the house who is roughly speaking from the same social order, or whom you would otherwise treat as a neighbor or a passerby, and someone whom you would never interact with in any other way?

I’ve been a workman in 50 odd building on the upper east and upper west side of manhattan. I’ve been treated as a servant, that is to say ignored in plain sight, Let me tell you: in that context, you probably don’t want to know what your housekeeper thinks of you.

100

novakant 07.14.07 at 2:12 pm

just like the housemaids who cleaned the homes of the rich before WWII

And if you’re hiring servants, you’ve joined the ruling class, whether you want to admit it or not.

See, maybe all of this is fundamentally different in the US, but over here in London the above statements are complete and utter bollix.

A lot of people employ cleaning ladies here, including a lot of young flat-sharers. If all these people belong to the ‘ruling class’, then there’s something seriously wrong with your classification system, some of them are just barely scraping by. The people who do the cleaning are mostly young eastern european girls, who get around £30 for 2.5 hours of work mostly tax free. That enables them to get by in London and leaves them enough time to take english classes, university courses or whatever else they’re up to. It has nothing to do with wealth or servants in an apron.

101

abb1 07.14.07 at 2:13 pm

Well, I think your social status for the most part is determined by your economic status. Does ‘cleaning lady’ and ‘construction worker’ imply ‘underclass’ in the US? But it doesn’t have to.

102

Constantine 07.14.07 at 2:35 pm

Hiring a “servant” means you’ve retained the full-time services of someone as part of your “household staff.” Hiring a “cleaning lady” means you pay someone $25-$50/week to vacuum and mop– functionally equivalent to hiring someone to clean our your gutters, getting a full-service car wash, or going to jiffy-lube for an oil change. It’s only because some people have retained a social association of contemporary housecleaners with early-to-mid-20th century servants that anyone even raises the issue… which is to say, way too many of you saw Gosford Park.

103

Mrs. Coulter 07.14.07 at 2:54 pm

Re: 97, I stand corrected. You can tell how important football is to me.

104

seth edenbaum 07.14.07 at 3:15 pm

“If all these people belong to the ‘ruling class’, then there’s something seriously wrong with your classification system, some of them are just barely scraping by.”
…and they pay someone to clean up after them.

Sometime in the Thatcher era I began hearing London described, by New Yorkers who’d moved there as the one city more cynical than NY.

Abb1, union workers get paid very well, cleaning ladies not so much. But it’s not just money, it’s the psychological wear and tear. When class lines are flexible and money is the only measure, People with money often need to distance themselves from people who are except for their lack of wealth, almost identical to them. That can get nasty. There’s also the contradictions of liberalism. Upper West siders can be the best to work for or the worst: needy and guilty; insecure friendliness mixed with unaware condescension. It can be exhausting. I mock the kids at Tapped by asking if any of them or their bosses have ever hired a union crew to paint their apartments.

Remembering the discussion of the book “Doormen” at CT, I looked it up on amazon. In the publishers weekly blurb, I found this:

” He tends to spend too much time examining the obvious questions (e.g., why do doormen find their jobs at once “boring and stressful”?), while barely touching upon others that seem deeper and more fertile, such as the ways in which tenants tend to see their doormen as “socially dead.”

The post didn’t cover that either. If you’re going to have servants its best to keep things simple. Serious professionals (servants) will refuse to call you by your first name, for the same reason my father would not let his students call him “Bob.” You don’t fire your friends, and you don’t give them an “F”
Noblesse oblige may be old fashioned or even anti-democratic but in some circumstances it’s necessary, because it works. It’s coming back, though. you could say that means I approve, or that I don’t. It’s kind of like my response to Mel Gibson.

105

seth edenbaum 07.14.07 at 3:23 pm

“Hiring a “cleaning lady” means you pay someone $25-$50/week to vacuum and mop—functionally equivalent to hiring someone to clean our your gutters,”

Scrubbing the shit off your toilet-bowl and your underwear and taking care of your children while her mother babysits for her is not the functional equivalent of cleaning out the gutters.

106

Constantine 07.14.07 at 3:42 pm

Scrubbing the shit off your toilet-bowl and your underwear and taking care of your children while her mother babysits for her is not

True. Which is why I did not use that example.

If you’re retaining someone full time, as I said, to work as part of your “household staff” to do toilet-bowl cleaning, laundry, and babysitting, you would likely being paying her a full time salary out of your own full time salary– at which point, yes, you could be said to be “hiring servants” and be a member of the “ruling class.”

And that, I think, is where the distinction is made– when one’s own income is used to pay the entire income of others, not when one is retaining others on a fee-for-service basis.

Other distinction: full-time nanny vs. baby-sitter one hires to watch the kids for the evening while the parents are out. However, the issue of hiring a baby-sitter for these situations never seems to attract the same amount of hand-wringing that paying a cleaning service does.

107

seth edenbaum 07.14.07 at 3:53 pm

Constantine, as I made clear before, there’s an important distinction to be made concerning the general social relationship to the person you’re hiring. That said I know people who have cleaning ladies in once a week, and those people are part time servants, not helpers.

And as an aside, or at least in response to another comment above, by Knemon: Hooray for Catholics!!

108

Constantine 07.14.07 at 4:01 pm

Constantine, as I made clear before, there’s an important distinction to be made concerning the general social relationship to the person you’re hiring

We just disagree on the issue, and I maintain that it’s because we have a certain social anxiety about cleaning that we don’t have about other home- and car-maintenance issues (my secret shame: it’s been years since I’ve changed the oil in my car myself or personally washed my car in my non-existent driveway).

109

Uncle Ben 07.14.07 at 4:26 pm

With great priviledge comes great responsabilidy!

110

seth edenbaum 07.14.07 at 4:27 pm

It has to do with the nearness of the body. Body servants are in an intimate yet distant relation. You can play poker with your mechanic. you’re less likely to do so with your maid. My parents hired a woman to help around the house when she was pregnant with me. My mother wouldn’t let her work alone so they spent all day cleaning. In the end they had to let her go: my mother was exhausted.
You can’t have superiority and equality at the same time. That’s why the army has rules against fraternization of officers and enlisted.

111

seth edenbaum 07.14.07 at 4:27 pm

moderation now?

112

seth edenbaum 07.14.07 at 4:30 pm

I used the magic word: “P-k-r”!!

“It has to do with the nearness of the body. Body servants are in an intimate yet distant relation. You can play “Canasta” with your mechanic. you’re less likely to do so with your maid. My parents hired a woman to help around the house when she was pregnant with me. My mother wouldn’t let her work alone so they spent all day cleaning. In the end they had to let her go: my mother was exhausted.
You can’t have superiority and equality at the same time. That’s why the army has rules against fraternization of officers and enlisted.”

113

engels 07.14.07 at 5:46 pm

Novakant – If you have enough money to hire someone else to do your domestic chores for you then you are not “just scraping by”. There are a lot of people in this city far worse off than you, whether or not you care to admit it. Frankly it’s your implication that “young flat sharers” are ipso facto not members of a priveged class which is “complete and utter bollix”. This kind of fake self-pity is extremely common among middle class people here and it is not a flattering characteristic.

114

engels 07.14.07 at 5:48 pm

Wow, my spelling is even worse than Scott’s!

115

Knemon 07.14.07 at 10:05 pm

“fuck off back to Late Night Shots”

Never been there. Found this through Wonkette. I’ll just fuck off back to writing my dissertation, and let you get back to your Papist-counting.

116

novakant 07.14.07 at 10:14 pm

I say:

some of them are just barely scraping by

engels says:

it’s your implication that “young flat sharers” are ipso facto not members of a priveged class

that’s faulty logic on your part

I used to live in a flat-share with 4 others, the cleaner came every other week and each member paid £6. Two of them were ‘just scraping by’, one as a freelance translator, the other doing data input and occasional TV jobs. They frequently had trouble paying their rent. The cleaner was Polish, taking english classes and not living in poverty.

But don’t let reality intrude on your preconceived notions.

117

seth edenbaum 07.14.07 at 10:32 pm

And if their parents had found out how their kids were spending their allowance they would have cut them off. But since they didn’t know this is… rational action?

“But don’t let reality intrude on your preconceived notions”

of what exactly?

118

novakant 07.14.07 at 10:50 pm

That people employing cleaners are members of the ‘ruling class’, ignorant and self-pitying and that cleaners are servants living in inhumane circumstances.

but this is getting increasingly silly

119

clew 07.14.07 at 11:20 pm

The response to

We won’t worry, we won’t fuss
In ten years you’ll work for us.

is

Us as wage-slaves? Not a chance;
Your taxes are our research grants.

120

engels 07.15.07 at 12:07 am

Nova-cant – 40% of UK households with an income of over £70 000 employ domestic workers. 3% of households with an income of less than £25 000 do so. Roughly half of households in the UK have an income of less than £25 000. Hardly any of these people have a cleaner.

If you’re earning over £25 000 then you’re better off than half the people in this country. Seriously describing that as “just scraping by” is inaccurate and self-pitying imo.

As for the for the condition of domestic workers:

Kalayaan, a west London-based campaigning group for migrant domestic workers, has conducted a survey which claims 86% of domestic workers work more than 16 hours a day, 71% have been deprived of food, 32% have had their passports withheld by their employers and 23% have been physically abused. These workers skivvy for upper-middle-class employers whose wealth helps to cover up their appalling treatment of their workers. The Guardian

Also, “the average weekly wage packet [among private household workers] is £30 for 4.5 hours work” – equivalent to £6.70 per hour“. The London Living Wage currently stands at £7.20 per hour.

121

seth edenbaum 07.15.07 at 12:18 am

I didn’t use the phrase “ruling class.” But some of them seem to behave as if they deserve to be, which is indeed silly and self-pitying.

There was a story a few years ago in the NY Times about Mexican day laborers on long Island. The reporter interrviewed some landscape workers who talked about watching late adolescent boys lounging around backyards and swimming pools in the middle of the day. The workers were amazed at the disrespect the kids were showing their fathers by not working.

I was working on something structured around “yawn” and “yuan.”
but I couldn’t get it to work

122

Kyle 07.15.07 at 1:44 am

No elite group has 14,000 members. I don’t care how many cities it’s spread over. The fucking Illuminati runs the world and it’s got, what, 300. Something like that.

123

seth edenbaum 07.15.07 at 1:48 am

Well, wouldn’t you know it.
Fat Matty joined up (for research purposes of course.)

124

abb1 07.15.07 at 10:23 am

Roughly half of households in the UK have an income of less than £25 000. Hardly any of these people have a cleaner.

But maybe (probably) most of these households have one of the spouses doing the housework and nothing else? While in most £70 000+ households probably both spouses are employed.

125

chris y 07.15.07 at 10:44 am

Novokant @ 102: I live in Sheffield, which is a bit closer to London than the USA, although I accept that most Londoners regard both as being outside the solar system. We pay about the same rate you’re quoting, which is well above minimum wage but not so good if, as is often the case, a few such gigs are your total income.

Oop north, not many students hire cleaners because there aren’t so many immigrants and most of those there are can afford to live without doing that kind of work. But if I met a student who did, I’d say she was an aspirant member of the ruling class.

What I find fascinating here is the outrage at the word servant. Guys, if you’re hiring somebody to clean up your personal mess, you’re hiring them as servants, whether they’re full time or part time, and I’m not remotely interested in your semantic quibbles. If you can’t stand the guilt, do your own damn hoovering.

126

engels 07.15.07 at 1:23 pm

abb1 – So what?

127

abb1 07.15.07 at 1:37 pm

I don’t know, I guess like Constantine above I’m unable to see a clear difference between cleaning lady and carwash attendant or cook, waiter, dishwasher at a restaurant, barman, manicurist, hotel maid, etc. The only difference seems to be that cleaning lady makes a house call. But so do caterers, for example.

128

engels 07.15.07 at 2:18 pm

abb1, this is all fascinating, as usual, but it doesn’t seem to tell against anything I said, so I am uncertain as to why it is addressed to me.

129

abb1 07.15.07 at 3:43 pm

Ah, yes, sorry. OK, on the income thing: my friend’s wife is not working, so, obviously they don’t hire anybody, don’t eat out much, etc. The guy sitting next him – his wife has a full time job, and it’s a completely different story. Their household’s income is twice higher than my friend’s, they hire a full-time babysitter (if only for summer as their children go to school now) and probably (I’m not sure) have a once-a-week cleaning lady too. But, to me at least, it doesn’t amount to them being more privileged, spoiled, elitist. If anyone, I feel it’s my friend’s wife who’s most privileged here. What do you think?

130

engels 07.15.07 at 4:10 pm

Do think that the fact that someone is hiring a domestic worker means that he or she is almost certainly a member of a privileged class? Yes. Do I think that everybody who hires a domestic worker is in a more privileged position than anybody who doesn’t? No. Do I think that a sharp line can be drawn between domestic workers and people who do similar work outside of the home? No, but domestic workers are much worse off in many important ways, as stated above.

Finally, I just don’t get why you think your friend’s wife (who presumably does domestic work and perhaps brings up your friend’s kids) has it so easy. Would you rather do that than work in an office?

131

seth edenbaum 07.15.07 at 4:22 pm

” If anyone, I feel it’s my friend’s wife who’s most privileged here.”
Because normally she’d be doing the housework I assume.

“Do I think that a sharp line can be drawn between domestic workers and people who do similar work outside of the home?”

You’ve never been a servant have you?

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engels 07.15.07 at 4:56 pm

Seth – (i) Have you?
(ii) Do you have any substantive objection to what I said, or just prolier-that-thou posturing?

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abb1 07.15.07 at 5:01 pm

I just don’t get why you think your friend’s wife (who presumably does domestic work and perhaps brings up your friend’s kids) has it so easy.

It’s impossible to generalize on this, it’s all in the details and circumstances. In this specific situation I feel she has it too easy, but of course it’s not a general rule.

As a matter of fact, perhaps one of the problems is exactly this attitude towards domestic help, as if it was some extremely undignified line of work. For example, in the scenario I described the unemployed wife could’ve, perhaps, easily done all the babysitting and cleaning work for the both families, thus equalizing the incomes, but of course she won’t, because of perceived social stigma.

So, I could – and in fact I do – argue that this attitude is harmful to the cause of equality.

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seth edenbaum 07.15.07 at 5:02 pm

My last was too simple. The ethics and esthetics of our “service” economy mean that there are a lot of servants. I made that point myself earlier.

Up until it was publicized 20 years ago by an artist, Mierle Laderman Ukeles, the furniture and lockers used by the NY Sanitation department employees were hand-me-downs from the Police and Fire departments. The trashmen got the trash.

It’s usually assumed that the difference between a 3 and 4 star restaurant isn’t the food, it’s the service. I rarely go to four star restaurants.

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seth edenbaum 07.15.07 at 5:03 pm

Seth – (i) Have you?

Yes

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seth edenbaum 07.15.07 at 5:13 pm

“Do I think that a sharp line can be drawn between domestic workers and people who do similar work outside of the home?”

There’s less of a line than there use to be. Waiting tables at a diner is not the same as waiting tables for Daniel Boulud, and that’s more the template for our gilded age.

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Shane Taylor 07.15.07 at 5:13 pm

Scott McLemee wrote:

“[I]t does not take much dialectical finesse to suspect that the claim to indifference here is overstated, even blatantly contradictory.”

Their children is learning. The elder superiors reason likewise. They aren’t doing it for the money. Challenging work is a reward in itself. But if they can’t have as much money, they won’t work as hard. If they don’t do the work, it won’t get down, because they are the “really critical people,” the decisive minority.

It is a question of fairness. It simply isn’t fair for losers like us to bring the lucre luminaries down to our stagnant, cowardly level.

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engels 07.15.07 at 5:36 pm

To be clear, saying that you can’t draw a sharp line between two things doesn’t mean that you can’t distinguish them. As I implied above, I do think that especially live-in domestic workers suffer specific injustices which are worse than those suffered by people who do similar work in a different setting. However, I also think that in terms of class relations there is no important difference in principle between someone who comes into your house for a few hours to iron your shirts and someone who performs the same service for you in a laundry down the road.

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engels 07.15.07 at 6:08 pm

abb1, I really can’t see why proclaiming that women who perform taxing and essential unpaid labour in the home “have it easy” advances the “cause of equality”, but we’ll just have to agree to disagree on this.

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seth edenbaum 07.15.07 at 6:27 pm

“However, I also think that in terms of class relations there is no important difference in principle between someone who comes into your house for a few hours to iron your shirts and someone who performs the same service for you in a laundry down the road.

There is a distinction but I think it’s not as large as you would like. “The body” and relations to it are personal or intimate. That changes things. I wrote about all this above. We’ll just have to agree to disagree on this (and I’ll join you in doing the same with Abb1)

I do my own laundry down the street, and it’s a bit of a principle I think. It could just be embarrassment, my everyday clothes are pretty ragged.

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abb1 07.15.07 at 7:08 pm

I’m not proclaiming that full-time homemaking is easy. It can be very difficult. Depending on the circumstances.

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abb1 07.15.07 at 7:12 pm

…that’s why families with both parents employed have to hire cleaning ladies and babysitters.

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engels 07.15.07 at 7:14 pm

Seth – ‘“The body” and relations to it are personal or intimate.’ But this is different from the question of whether work takes place in a domestic setting, isn’t it? Nursing and hairdressing both take place outside of the home but involve intimate contact with the customer’s body. To take an extreme example, prostitution involves intimate contact with the customers body but can take place outside of the home. It seems obvious to me that prostitutes suffer a greater degree of exploitation then domestic workers do but your comments above seem to imply that this is an outrageous suggestion which could only be made by someone has never experienced domestic work.

What seems important to me is that such work can take place either inside or outside of the home. It seems to be a feature of modern society that much of the work (preparation of meals, laundry, care of children) which would in the past have been performed by domestic workers (servants) inside of the home is now performed by workers outside of it. That’s one reason why I said there isn’t a sharp line to be drawn between work which is done in the home and work which is done elsewhere. (But I do think, as I said, that domestic workers are in practice more likely to be exploited than others and that live-in domestic workers are a special case who suffer especially grave injustices.)

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engels 07.15.07 at 7:29 pm

that’s why families with both parents employed have to hire cleaning ladies and babysitters

Not true. As has been pointed out, poorer families don’t and can’t hire cleaners, even if both spouses work. (What you are saying could only be true if all families in the

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engels 07.15.07 at 7:30 pm

that’s why families with both parents employed have to hire cleaning ladies and babysitters

Not true. As has been pointed out, poorer families don’t and can’t hire cleaners, even if both spouses work. (What you are saying could only be true if all families in the less than £25 000 bracket had only one partner working. That just isn’t true: a family with two partners working at close to minimum wage, for example, could have an income of less than £20 000.) Also, have you thought about the case of poor families where one partner works and the other is incapacitated in some way? You seem to me to be generalising far too much from a very small sample of relatively well off people.

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engels 07.15.07 at 7:32 pm

that’s why families with both parents employed have to hire cleaning ladies and babysitters

Not true. As has been pointed out, poorer families don’t and can’t hire cleaners, even if both spouses work. (What you are saying could only be true if all families in the less than £25 000 bracket had only one partner working. That just isn’t true: a family with two partners working at close to minimum wage, for example, could have an income of less than £20 000.) Also, have you thought about the case of poor families where one partner works and the other is incapacitated in some way? None of these people can afford to employ a cleaner and I think they would look on anyone who can as being very fortunate indeed.

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engels 07.15.07 at 7:33 pm

Whoops. Please ignore #146 and #147.

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seth edenbaum 07.15.07 at 10:03 pm

There’s a difference between those workers whom you trust with authority over your body, such as nurses, and those over whom you impose control. Hookers are servants in the most direct way. An enjoyment of service, of serving, is one of the prerequisites of the career. Ask Belle. I find such a desire problematic.

Perhaps you could say I do my own laundry for reasons associated with my lack of interest in paying for sex. Now child care, there’s a complex case. The Unnatural History of the Nanny. I wish I’d kept my parents’ copy. An interesting topic.

I’m not saying domestic service is “worse” I’m saying that the de facto intimiate relations that are required to be defined as impersonal are stress producing and indeed exhausting, To be invisible and in plain sight, to be “socially dead”; to be used by someone directly and merely as a machine or an object is draining. I’l put it this way: delivering my socks and underwear to the woman who cleans and sorts them by had, strikes me personally, as a bit off. I won’t do it. Tossing my uniform in the laundry bin at the shop or taking my tux to the dry cleaners does not.

An another note returning to the discussion of Doormen I mentioned above: I looked through the book today and it was as I suspected. Aside from the mannerisms of social scientist as naif [is this supposed to imply objectivity?] he has no knowledge of the history of th city and history in this case specifically is context. He makes some vague reference to the racial mix among doormen, but that’s it. The upper west side was built, literally to mirror the UES where wealthy Jews were not welcome (and were not even recently judging from my experience) Also my experience is that the racial mix amoing the population of doormen on the UES is majority ethnic white. I’ve asked around and others I’ve worked with are of the same opinion. I’m willing to be the author’s data would show the same thing, if he bothered to run the numbers.

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seth edenbaum 07.15.07 at 10:10 pm

“and were not even recently judging from my experience”

There are a lot of jews on the upper east side. But while I was walking down 84th street in the early 90′s (on lunch from a job site) I passed two well dressed old women leaving a building. One commented to the other:
“They’re letting a jew in the building”

It’s still an issue.

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engels 07.15.07 at 11:39 pm

I’l put it this way: delivering my socks and underwear to the woman who cleans and sorts them by had, strikes me personally, as a bit off. I won’t do it. Tossing my uniform in the laundry bin at the shop or taking my tux to the dry cleaners does not.

I think this is a very important point. I agree that most people feel this way. Imo, though, this is a kind of false consciousness. It is a way of hiding from ourselves the extent of our dependence on and exploitation of the labour of others.

However, I do agree with you about the specific, dehumanising aspects of domestic service you cite.

To be invisible and in plain sight, to be “socially dead”; to be used by someone directly and merely as a machine or an object is draining.

It’s just that I think that there is continuum between these roles and roles outside of the home which involve some of the same harms, such as cleaners in an office or maids in a hotel.

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seth edenbaum 07.16.07 at 12:41 am

“I think this is a very important point. I agree that most people feel this way. Imo, though, this is a kind of false consciousness.”

It’s not false. Underwear is not an overcoat. They are not in the same category, either social or psychological.

I’m not defending the logic of alienated labor as long as it’s out of sight. When alienated labor is Maria doing dishes in your kitchen, it should be harder not easier to ignore. But there is more and more explicit personal servitude in our culture. As there are more and more people who willingly define themselves as servants, and as servile.
I don’t like “bottoms:” male, female or other.

Liberals worry about the poor and treat the servants like shit.
Conservatives don’t give a shit about the poor but treat the servants well.
In the south they let niggers live next door as long as they don’t get uppity. In the north they let them get uppity as long as they don’t move next door.

It’s all the same.

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Scott McLemee 07.16.07 at 1:44 am

And on that high note, comments are now closed.

Comments on this entry are closed.