Over the past few weeks, this video of an Obama supporter – evidently a poor woman from the Cleveland slums – rejoicing over Obama because he (i.e. the Federal Government) gave her a phone.
PJ Media columnist Andrew Klavan, admonishes conservatives for making fun of this woman:
“I hate to be sententious — I’m not even sure how to spell sententious — and God knows I like to ridicule my fellow man as mercilessly as the next fellow man, but this video that’s been making the conservative rounds that shows an anti-Romney protester declaring she likes Obama because he gave her a free phone? Not really funny. I know, I know — but really, the woman is clearly poor and not very well-educated. And mockery is a pin for the inflated, no? Though the federal programs liberals propose to help such people as the phone lady only make their lives worse, the principle that we ought to be concerned for them remains (sorry) the right one. Just because liberals call us mean until we want to hurl defiance in their teeth by saying anything we damn well please, doesn’t mean we should actually BE mean! As ever, I hold conservatives to a higher standard, because we’re the good guys.”
“And if you really want to make fun of Obama supporters (and who, at this point, does not) why not go after the well-to-do and educated?”
Usually, I not only agree with Andrew Klavan, but strongly agree with him. But this time I feel he is dead wrong.
Over and above the partisan struggle to defeat Barack Obama (as important as that is), there is a larger issue: the freedom to criticize. Why shouldn’t the Cleveland woman be subject to mockery? She is clearly stupid and corrupt, and therefore deserves what she gets.
Klavan makes the point that common decency teaches us that mockery and ridicule should be reserved for the “well-to-do and educated” not for those on the bottom of society. If common decency teaches us that, then common decency is wrong. The poor should not be off limits to criticism.
In a land as rich with wealth and opportunity as America, most poor people are poor because of the bad decisions they make and the destructive habits they cultivate. In the past, when the rich and powerful weren’t paralyzed by guilt and seduced by decadence, they took it as their solemn duty to cultivate the poor. One way they did that was to punish poor people when they behaved badly. Bad behaviour wasn’t excused because the offender was down on his luck. He was admonished regardless.
When poor people in Appalachia were God fearing and moral and went to church on Sunday in their Sunday best because they strived to act like they belonged to a higher class than they did, they were better off for it. But these days, when rich people act prim and proper but lack the confidence to preach what they practice, poor people feel free to ape the manners of Snoop Dogg and Eminem, and they are the worse for it. Criticizing and ridiculing and mocking poor people when they behave like that idiot in Cleveland is a good thing – for poor people!
Before Political Correctness came along, the left used to get this about the Power of Ridicule. Take Archie Bunker, the dimwitted racist who worked on a loading dock in the 1970’s TV series, All In The Family. Was Archie Bunker an accurate portrait of the typical white, working class labourer back then? No. Was it ‘fair’ for a rich Hollywood elitist like Norman Lear to make fun of the people who toiled by the sweat of their brow while he sipped drinks with umbrellas in them beside his Beverly Hills’ pool? No.
But you know what? White, working class people - as a group - are better off for Archie Bunker; because there was some truth to Norman Lear’s unflattering portrait. Regular people all across America saw a little bit of themselves in Archie when they laughed at him every week. This discomfort motivated them to quietly modify their behaviour. The result can be seen when the quintessentially middle-American Tea Party movement expressed spontaneous enthusiasm for the candidacy of Herman Cain. In the same way, all the stereotypical hick southern sheriffs and the racist American soldiers in Vietnam depicted in 1970’s Hollywood movies forced the conduct of US law enforcement and the US military to improve.
It wasn’t PC bullies screaming, “Racist! Sexist! Nazi!” and the HR department harpies hissing, “Fire him!” that made institutional racism unacceptable in America. These petty tyrants came along long after the war they are currently fighting was won.
The old war was against racism and working-class provincialism. The new war is against the degenerate poor and ideologically provincial elites. And the way you win that war is not by co-opting the arsenal of Political Correctness, but by employing what has worked in the past: criticism, both fair and unfair, serious and funny. Nobody should be above ridicule - including the weak and the ‘helpless’.
So when you see that woman in Cleveland talking on her Obama phone, go ahead and point and laugh.