Tuesday, October 12, 2010

A Foolish Column From Anne Applebaum

I'm generally a fan of Anne Applebaum's work--she's one of the few national media writers who's willing to honestly state just how bad Soviet Communism really was--but she really laid an egg with her WaPo column today. It's a convoluted defense of David Brooks' infamous "educated class" (although Applebaum mentions neither Brooks nor his unfortunate phrasing), i.e. graduates of Ivy League colleges:

[T]hese modern meritocrats are clearly not admired, or at least not for their upward mobility, by many Americans. On the contrary -- and as [sociologist Daniel] Bell might have predicted -- they are resented as "elitist." Which is at some level strange: To study hard, to do well, to improve yourself -- isn't that the American dream? The backlash against graduates of "elite" universities seems particularly odd given that the most elite American universities have in the past two decades made the greatest effort to broaden their student bodies.
The rest of the column is an encomium to the wonders of Ivy alumni (I bet you can't guess where Applebaum went to college) and the perfidy of the little people who resent them.

It's a deeply foolish and self-serving piece. Applebaum's pricey Yale education apparently didn't include any introductory courses in logic; her entire thesis proceeds from the false assumption that to be an intelligent person on the continent, one must by definition have gone to an Ivy school. Applebaum's lazy and (yes) elitist conceit that the 'best and brightest' are the sole property of a dozen or so expensive Northeastern colleges goes beyond elitism or snobbery and very nearly into the realm of flat bigotry.

The idea that anyone with a functioning brain might have willingly chosen not to attend an 'elite' private college with six-figure tuition just doesn't occur to her. One is moved to suppose that such a notion would be entirely too shattering to her own sense of self-worth.

At times like this it's worth recalling Megan McArdle's observation from the early fall of 2008. Megan was speaking at the time of decidedly non-Ivy Sarah Palin, but her point carries through to Applebaum's snide dismissal of today's Tea Partiers:

[She] speaks to the sense of people who didn't go to Ivy League schools that Harvard grads think they're not quite bright, and definitely not competent to run their own lives without a Yale man supervising things. And they're entirely right that a lot of Ivy League grads do think this way, consciously or unconsciously.

… I may not like what she stands for, but I have to acknowledge its power--and yes, that frequently, the coastal elites earn the revulsion of Middle America. They don't, to coin a phrase, hate us for our freedoms--our homosexual coddling, abortion loving ways. They hate us because we act like we think we deserve to rule them.

Apparently Applebaum suffers from precisely this delusion. That's a shame--and the shame is hers.

UPDATE: Jonah concurs.

UPDATE UPDATE: Applebaum responds... poorly.


  1. cross-posted at From The Bleachers :-)

  2. It's also worth noting that being highly educated and/or intelligent (in the academic sense) does not necessarily translate into competence. I am intimately acquainted with several people who hold masters and doctorate degrees. They are also incapable of understanding and doing very simple things. They are very good at theory, not so good at reality.