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What Makes Someone an Elitist?

The rule of thumb for American politics in the media appears to be classifying politicians as being on the “beer-track” or “wine-track”, or, in the alternative Hillary Clinton formation, “Starbucks vs. Dunkin’ Donuts”. In other words, if you prefer wine over beer or Starbucks over Dunkin’ Donuts, then you are an “elitist”, and if not, you’re just a “regular person.”

The problem with this formulation is that with the myriad of consumer choices to be made these days, this seems to be a simplisitic formula by which to judge elitism, doesn’t it? For one thing, if you get coffee at Starbucks, are you more of an elitist than someone who gets a latte at Dunkin’ Donuts?

Here are some other issues:

I prefer beer to wine, generally, but I prefer wine to what passes for “beer” to most Americans–the flavorless pilsners that go by Budweiser, Coors, etc. Is that elitist or not?

I prefer gin martinis to vodka martinis. Is that non-elitist, or does choosing between martinis automatically make one elitist to begin with?

I like smoking cigars, but not only do my firefighter and military buddies enjoy them, but my country club golfer friends do, too. So is cigar smoking elitist, or a regular joe thing?

I prefer prime rib to filet mignon–which I’m pretty sure makes me not an elitist. Still, how close a call is that? Is the non-elitist choice there “burger”?

I prefer local family pizza joints to Pizza Hut. On the one hand, preferring local to chains seems to put you in the elitist camp. On the other hand, family joints tend to be more working class places. So does that mean non-elitist? It’s a tough call.

I can barely break 100 when I bowl, which I’m pretty sure makes me elitist, given the outcry over Obama’s abysmal 37. On the other hand, my Wii bowling average is about 180. So does that make me non-elitist?

Really, somebody needs to put out some sort of guide for this so that reporters can keep it on hand. And let me know if I’m an elitist, too, wouldja?

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About Alex Knapp
Alex Knapp writes about pretty much everything under the sun, including politics, art, religion, philosophy, sports, music, culture, and science.

Comments

  1. FormerHostage says:

    “Tell me what I can do to help.” ~ Regular Joe

    “I should be in charge because I know, better than you do, what’s best for you.” ~ Elitist

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  2. floyd says:

    Then defining elitism is like defining obscenity?

    I would say elitism is obscene , but what indefinable value would a statement like that have??[lol]

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  3. Alex Knapp says:

    FormerHostage-

    “Tell me what I can do to help.” ~ Regular Joe

    “I should be in charge because I know, better than you do, what’s best for you.” ~ Elitist

    So a regular joe is someone who looks for orders he can follow, and an elitist is someone who looks for people to give orders to?

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  4. COl[retd]A.M.Khajawall MD says:

    It is unfortunate, sad , and Tragic that some media will crater to sensationalism and end up duping, depriving , and deceiving the common people the real issues and challenges facing our Nation. We at a critical time in our current political process to move ahead decades but The Common Americans are not provided the opportunity by some media. A word bitter can divide this nation for ever and create lot of news for cooperate Media[Dollers] No body cares about America and everybody cares about dollars which could become less valued and valueless

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  5. Maggie Mama says:

    COL [retd] A.M. Khajawall MD, most non-elitist Americans believe we would all be a lot better off if Washington stayed out of our pockets.

    Every plan Obama is coming up with calls for more money …. and big government “misplaces” our money like the hundreds of millions in Dept of Education dollars that even outside auditors can’t track down, overspends our money on things like $700 toilet bowls for Air Force planes, and steals our money like the credit card charges which have yet again hit, for the umpteenth time, the news in the past few days.

    p.s. For the record when indicating you are retired military it is customary to also indicate in which US service branch you served.

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  6. David says:

    I’d have to reference the previous post here on OTB: If you take the time to discuss elitism or defend/debate the potentially elitist activities of your friends, you are elitist.

    Also, commenting on someone else’s defense of same is elitist.

    (Tongue planted firmly in cheek.)

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  7. Dave Schuler says:

    You should distinguish between being elite and being an elitist, Alex. Not all of the elite are elitist and not all of the elitists are of the elite.

    It’s not a matter of preferences as the body of your post might suggest—not what you choose but the attitude with which you choose them.

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  8. [...] Alex Knapp wonders what makes someone an elitist. Apparently it has something to do with drinking lattes, wine, and frequenting Starbucks. Posted [...]

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  9. James Joyner says:

    You should distinguish between being elite and being an elitist . . . not what you choose but the attitude with which you choose them.

    I think that’s ultimately right. If you prefer to drink microbrews because you think they taste better than Budweiser and can afford to pay the higher cost, as we both do, that perhaps makes you an elite. If you think it therefore makes you better than the poor losers who drink Bud, you’re an elitist.

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  10. DL says:

    In my sphere the difference between an elitist and a regular Joe is between fly-fishermen and worm fishermen. While fly-fishermen are often considered elitist, I prefer the determinate to be – whether or not they believe what they do is better -not just the act of doing it. In other words -even the worm fisherman could be called accurately and elitist

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  11. sara says:

    You own a Wii….so I’m guessing you’re an elitist?

    It might just be that I’m jealous because I can’t even afford to buy gas…

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  12. tom p says:

    Do you change your own oil? (I do)

    Do you or (your wife) clean your house? (yes)

    Do you (or your wife) cook most of your own meals? (yes)

    Do your children go to public schools? (I, a union carpenter, fail this test… than again, my son got kicked out of school for “distributing a controlled substance” while carrying a knife on school grounds… maybe that makes up for it?)

    Do you own a gun? (you don’t have to actually use it)(I do)

    Do you clean your own fish? (I do)(no fishing guides on the cricks around here)

    Or here is another way:

    Shakespeare or Elmore Leonard? (Nah… if you read anything, your an elitist.)(OK, I’ll admit it… I like them both)

    Beethoven or Willie Nelson? (let me take that 2nd choice back…. Clint Black is better)(Again I will admit I like both Beethoven and Willie… Clint Black is another story.)

    Yard bird from the grill with honey mustard barbecue sauce (your grandmother’s of course) or Cordon Blue? (forget it… if you know what cordon blue is… your an elitist)(again… both)

    Sour mash from a mason jar or Jack Daniels Single Barrel?(hmmm… having a hard time coming up with a snide remark on this one… I prefer Single Malt)

    Organic only or “whatever is on sale”? (Even I ain’t that picky)

    Portabella’s or Green Giant mushrooms? (Went into my local small town grocery yesterday… the GG mushroom package in front was half full of a brown colored liquid… the Portabella’s? They looked good) (yes, I am that picky)

    So what am I? Just another guy makin’ his way thru it all.

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  13. glasnost says:

    I think that’s ultimately right. If you prefer to drink microbrews because you think they taste better than Budweiser and can afford to pay the higher cost, as we both do, that perhaps makes you an elite. If you think it therefore makes you better than the poor losers who drink Bud, you’re an elitist.

    So calling someone a “loser” based on their consumer preferences makes you an elitist? It’s hard to see how this argument avoids generalizing out to “there are no better or worse preferences, just different ones”, and “there are no better or worse people, just different ones”.
    After all, there is no way to differentiate human beings, except based on their preferences, of which consumer preferences are an arbitrary subset.

    But, to illustrate the point from another way – a guy with a sticker on the back of his Ford, showing Calvin urinating on a Chevy symbol – that guy’s an elitist? How about people who think cigarette smokers – or heroin users – are worse people? Are they elitist?

    You’re making a much broader argument that you recognize by trying to salvage the concept of elitism. Alex is right to say that it’s an arbitrary and subjective amalgam of associating certain consumer products with wealth and good breeding.

    If you would refuse to use poor folk’s favorite brands, then you’re an elitist. Either that, or (my preffered explanation) the whole concept is incoherent, but fundamental and applied by anyone, to anyone.

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  14. markm says:

    “I prefer prime rib to filet mignon—which I’m pretty sure makes me not an elitist. Still, how close a call is that? Is the non-elitist choice there “burger”?”

    No, the non-elitist buys the whole cow on the hoof and has it processed and therefore get it all!!!!

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  15. Michael says:

    An elitist is somebody you don’t like, you has different consumer preferences than you.

    If you look at how the word it used in the media, you’ll find my definition surprisingly accurate.

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  16. What you need is a test, some way to numerically measure your elite status, behavior, and habits. These are things you can quantify and compare with others. As for your attitude, that’s not something that is particularly easy to quantify.

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  17. FormerHostage says:

    Alex,

    No.

    A regular Joe is one who does not naturally assume that they know the solution without knowing the situation.

    An elitist is one that believes they “know” what is best by virtue of their status, education, or political view and assume that anyone who disagrees with that analysis is just too stoopid to know any better.

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  18. mannning says:

    You may be an elitist if you are not a redneck.

    You may be an elitist if you graduated from an Ivy League college.

    You maybe an elitist if your net worth is over 2 million dollars.

    You may be an elitist if you want to be an elitist.

    You may be an elitist if you are a congressman.

    You may be an elitist if you are a celebrity.

    You may be an elitist if you think you know more than anyone else, and therefore should run things.

    You may be an elitist if you act like an obnoxious prig.

    If you have to ask, you are not.

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  19. tom p says:

    Manning, good list except for this:

    You may be an elitist if you want to be an elitist.

    I think, if one wants to be an elitist(he/she who knows better than all others), than that is what defines one.

    tom

    and contrary to rumors… we do read here in the great heartland.

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  20. mannning says:

    Thanks Tom.

    I was going by the old idea that to be something you have to assume that you are that something, and if you practice it long enough, you will be that something. Hence, you may be an elitist if you want to be one. Thing is, everyone has a different list of those things you must practice!
    Perhaps you end up merely a snob!

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