I suppose someone has to write this kind of article about the new Obama age – all chatty and gossipy, and smug about it; even at a magazine like The New Republic. Or maybe especially there, because the deepest minds disappointingly often are also the most snobbish – or rub shoulders with them. And Michelle Cottle always knows just how to do the job – but that doesn’t mean I have to like it.
The New Yorker does this to me every time – I’ll read the issue’s feature articles and be left impressed by their depth and empathy, and then read the Talk of the Town section and just be left slack-jawed by the shallow, insular upper class brattiness in some of the items. Left thinking just, who are these people?
A telling moment in Cottle’s article comes when a parent at one of DC’s elite primary schools harrumphs:
It was remarkable how naked the status anxiety became at all the schools under consideration, recalls one dad [..]. Parents would just chatter away, he recalls, about “‘Oh my God, wouldn’t it be just amazing if’–their daughter, fill in the blank, Zoe or Chloe or whatever–‘wouldn’t it be amazing if they had a sleepover at the White House!’ Then they’d envision themselves having to pick up their child and telling people, ‘Oh, I’ve got to go over to the White House!'” He harrumphs, “People would actually say this stuff out loud. It was just embarrassing.”
Right. That’s exactly the reaction I have when I see otherwise smart and intelligent people being quoted saying stuff like this:
Washington old-timers and Obama insiders alike are predicting an urban renaissance of sorts. “There’s a glamour about Barack and Michelle that I think will infuse the capital in a way that we have not seen for some time,” says Holder. “They are both tall, good-looking, striking people with adorable little girls. I can’t help but think that’s going to have an impact.”
Yes, that’s Attorney General-to-be Eric Holder. I mean, WTF? What does that even mean? The Obamas are tall and good-looking and “I can’t help but think that’s going to have an impact”? What – how?
And think about it – even if there is something there, hidden somewhere behind the nonsequitur, wouldn’t you be embarrassed to even admit it?
There’s superficiality of all kinds. I guess this is just a kind I don’t get, and which invariably gets up my nose. And yes, I hate celeb news too, with its humiliating Janus face of alternated licking and kicking. Its one-two of ingratiating prostration before those who are hot, and mean-spirited assults on those who can be torn down. It seems to me to reveal and condense the worst traits of humanity. And no, it’s probably not the most pressing issue in the Republic right now. But jeez.
Most grating is perhaps the fact that the kind of people being quoted saying embarassing shit like this actually think themselves the cool people who “get it” – you know, instead of feeling moved to temporarily hide underneath an ornamental garden rock. Rich people really are different.