THE EYES OF SPIRO

It is hard to comprehend 2001 being 17 years ago, a fact that hit me as I realized just how long ago Chris Lehmann's indispensable "The Eyes of Spiro are Upon You" was written. Nothing did, in hindsight, a better job of foreshadowing 21st Century faux-populist conservatism. Now that the movement has matured (a term used only in the strictest sense) and given rise to Trump this seems even more prescient.

Some of you are old enough to remember living through the Nixon years, and some of you are old enough to have been politically aware adults during that time. Everything about "class" in American politics in this century – the Thomas Frank "What's the Matter with Kansas?" argument about the decoupling of status, wealth, and class followed by the tidal wave of white resentment politics – has its roots in the Nixon years. Yesterday in the faux-histrionics following the White House Correspondents Dinner it all came flooding back in a hurry when I saw this widely-circulated tweet:

You probably don't recognize the name. Matthew Schlapp and his wife are the husband-wife team behind one of the largest and most powerful lobbying shops in Washington. So when he complains about "elites" mocking all of "us" it comes off as a bit disingenuous, at least for anyone who understands what the word "elites" means. It turns out, as this generation of right-wing plutocrats is learning, that money can buy power but it can't buy respect and admiration. People who are worth eight figures and who have direct access to the political leaders of the world still manage to see themselves as one of the Little People not because they don't understand that they're rich; even conservatives are self-aware enough to know that. But what they are not is liked.

The media, tastemakers, intellectuals, artist-types…these people are the ones they deem "elite" because those are the people whose approval the rich and powerful desperately crave. And until rich Trump-affiliated lobbyists hear others heaping them with the praise they need and think they deserve, they will never be happy. They will forever see themselves as oppressed because all their money cannot buy them a room they won't get laughed out of.

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27 thoughts on “THE EYES OF SPIRO”

  • IIRC, Bill Gates was once denied membership at some country club or another. Historically, wealth was almost never able to buy status, just one more way we’re headed back to feudalism.

  • It used to be that the powerful knew that Fox News was for the rubes.

    Now they actually believe the constant whining about their victimhood.

  • Got no tears for the parvenus most of whom built their fortunes on the backs of others. Social snubs are minor consequences of foul karma.

  • A few years back, conservatives successfully made "liberal" a smear word for anyone they don't like. It seems they're doing the same thing with "elites." It doesn't really have any meaning beyond that.

  • And until rich Trump-affiliated lobbyists hear others heaping them with the praise they need and think they deserve, they will never be happy.

    Nevermind praise, walking past one of these folks and only spitting on them should be considered a kindness.

  • Emerson Dameron says:

    This sort of thing makes it harder to take their rhetoric about snowflakes, safe spaces, and “facts don’t care about your feelings” at face value.

    They need to specify which Comedians are protected by The Free Speech Amendment.

  • You should never take conservative rhetoric at face value, because it isn't meant to be taken that way. It's only meant to guilt-trip you into shutting up about being right, so they don't have to face the guilt stemming from their own wrongness. And nothing else.

  • @Emerson:

    Conservatives everywhere: "F*** your feelings!"

    Someone says something that hurts their feelings.

    Conservatives everywhere: "WAAAAH! OFF WITH THEIR HEADS!!"

  • Bitter Scribe says:

    Spiro Agnew. What a corrupt, useless piece of shit. It was God's blessing to the Republic that he was caught and booted out of office before Nixon.

    Let's call the claims of "media bias," from before Agnew to Trump, what it is: Whining.

  • Well, when somebody calls an urban, underemployed university graduate waiting tables to make ends meet 'elite' and a rural, wealthy company owner and multi-millionaire 'working class', then one way of analysing that is as a historical process of "decoupling of status, wealth, and class". Another is as some people simply not understanding what words mean.

  • @Alex: the word "elite" has lost all meaning to them. Just like "liberal", it now means "something conservatives despise".

  • It gets better:

    “It’s why America hates the out of touch leftist media elite,” Ms. Schlapp tweeted from a limousine en route to an exclusive after-party organized by NBC/MSNBC.

    Irony is not only dead, it was beaten to a bloody pulp like Billy Batts in Goodfellas, wrapped in a tarp and buried in a shallow grave down by the reservoir.

  • "POINTY HEADED LIBERALS!!"

    Yeah, Jesus, if you're AT the WHCD you are pretty much BY DEFINITION an elite, unless you're serving the baked chicken.

  • Dave Dell says:

    Jaime Brockett:

    "Turned on the radio the other day to hear what Spiro Agnew had to say. It had a good beat, Easy to dance to. I gave it a 72. Same as his IQ."

  • Mike Furlan says:

    The Schlapps see how Kim Jung-Un is treated and wonder why they don't get that treatment.

    The "Make America Great Again" idea is to go back the the time of the great slave plantations of old. The master could laugh at the slaves, but a slave who was not sufficiently deferential would be beaten.

  • Rosies Dad says:

    Matt Schlappe always seems to me to be way too stupid to be the brains behind anything. So either he hides his genius during media appearances or (as is more likely), the bar on the Republican side just isn't that high.

    He is also a whiny little bitch as was evidenced by his appearance on CNN yesterday morning. The absolute definition of a snowflake.

  • PrairieBear says:

    Modern-day liberals often theorize that conservatives use "social issues" as a way to mask economic objectives, but this is almost backward: the true goal of conservatism is to establish an aristocracy, which is a social and psychological condition of inequality. Economic inequality and regressive taxation, while certainly welcomed by the aristocracy, are best understood as a means to their actual goal, which is simply to be aristocrats. More generally, it is crucial to conservatism that the people must literally love the order that dominates them.

    That is from the Philip E. Agre essay "What is Conservatism and What Is Wrong With It?" They can't buy the love, at least not from everybody, and it makes them even crazier. They will only keep doubling down on the psyop techniques and developing ever more of them. That whole essay is a gem, longish but quite accessible and I still think it explains conservatism better than just about anything else I've read.

  • "The Schlapps see how Kim Jung-Un is treated and wonder why they don't get that treatment."

    Odd, that. They seem never to reflect on the way that a lot of the KJ's of the world are treated at the end.

    Whether rich or poor, regardless their politics–all heads make the same thump when they miss the basket and bounce off the blood soaked platform of the executioner's office.

  • So … how do you buy the love of people from whom you are nakedly and constantly thieving? How brain-dead-arrogant.

    You can have all the money in the world, but you still have to earn status. Just being rich is shit unless you contribute to the commons in leiu of destroying it to get richer.

  • @ Dice:

    They pine for the time when they could hire half of the population to kill the other half. Of course that never happened here; if it had, they would have found out how hard it is to stop that machine once it's running.

  • Comrade Commissar, person we are shooting is owning bad attitude of glorious party?

    Comrade Shooting Detail Guy, person we are shooting is owning nice car.

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