Archive for the Faux Elitism Category

…you think America won the Second World War.

Posted in All, Dumb Catchphrases, Faux Elitism, Illiterate, Inconsiderate & Rude, Pop Culture, Stupid Trends with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 1, 2012 by oooranje

This Cold War misconception is so laughable I barely want to spend time on it, but for the sake of setting the record straight, I will.

The United States entered the Second World War at the end of 1941 – nearly six months after Germany invaded Russia.  The United States did not fight a major battle until Midway, six months after that, and did not fight a major land battle until Guadalcanal, a year later, in November 1942.

In the meantime, Russia had absorbed the full brunt of the German advance, retreating deep into its country and losing millions of men.  The Siege of Leningrad started September 1941 (three months before Pearl Harbor), and was not lifted until the January 1944.  Stalingrad – the decisive battle of the war, and one of the most horrific episodes of bloodshed in human history – began in August of 1942 and raged on for six months until February of the next year.  When it ended, the Soviets had lost a million men – but captured or killed an entire Wehrmacht Army Group.

The war may not have been over just then, but Germany never recovered.  Yes, the Allies (not just America!) re-opened second and third fronts in Italy and Normandy, and yes, these clearly helped to hasten the end. But the reality is this – the Allied invasions only worked once Soviet Forces had neutralized a significant portion of the German forces, and weakened the defenders on the Western and Southern frontiers.

It is telling that England does not claim to have won the war.  As one of its first entrants, they would be in a unique position to claim the honor.  But, from their front-row view, it was only too clear who had turned the tide. My grandparents in Holland still fondly recall the playing of the Communist anthem, The Internationale, upon liberation, despite having a profound distaste for Stalinism and left-wing politics.

So, finally, let me state this one statistic: the Soviet Army under General Zhukov suffered nearly as many casualties in the three-day Battle of Berlin as the United States lost men in the entire war.  The scope of the two operations is barely comparable. And further, because I don’t think the history books are clear on this – the Soviets took Berlin alone, without allied help, taking on the full force of the remaining German defenders on their own. This is why West Berlin became an island of the West in the middle of East Germany – and why, later on, the Berlin Airlift became necessary.

If you want to claim that the United States won the Pacific Theater, you might have greater claim to that, but then you’d have to admit the atomic bomb saved lives and was in the end a relatively speaking humane end to the war.  As for Europe – thank the Russians / Soviets (I’m aware I’ve used the terms interchangeably here.  Oh well. Deal with it).

What the United States did do in Europe, however, is win the Peace by restructuring; the Marshall Plan remains one of the greatest achievements and policy decisions of the 20th century. But winning the peace doesn’t sound quite so sexy, does it?

…you allow your dogma to overwhelm reality.

Posted in All, Faux Elitism, Inconsiderate & Rude, Pop Culture, Stupid Trends with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 7, 2011 by oooranje

Another way to say this is that you let what, according to you, should be, supersede any consideration of what actually is, whether because you can’t, as a matter of personal taste and nicety, accept the status quo, or because your view of the world is too fragile to allow any dissent.

To illustrate this, consider first the example of gay marriage and, indeed, homosexuals in the United States.  In my experience, and among my friends and family, the only people who seem to think that homosexuality is a choice and not a full-on given are those who have no gay friends (I believe in spectrum theory but some people are definitely all the way gay/lesbian).  Anyone who is truly friends with a gay man or woman can tell you, their sexual preference is not a matter of putting on airs or sexual perversion; it is who they are and how they think.  Claiming otherwise is an insult.  Legislating and denying rights based on a spurious, pseudo-scientific claim to the contrary is morally indefensible and the height of self-righteous arrogance.

Similarly, meanwhile, with the retirement of the baby boomer generation and the rolling recession we now find ourselves struggling through, comes the new reality that we live in a world that cannot afford the entitlements we have promised ourselves.  Nothing has brought this into starker focus than the debt ceiling crisis, not because the Tea Party-demanded cuts did anything to actually solve the underlying situation, but more importantly because of the ballooning national debt that underscored the discussion.

Much has been made, on both sides, of how much might be saved if we cut military spending, or Medicare/Medicaid spending, but whatever your preferred choice of cuts, the reality is inescapable: our government’s income is not only unequal to the massive array of entitlement programs we have piled onto our nation’s credit bill, but is horrifyingly miniscule by comparison.  While rolling national debt may not be inescapable at this point, while a zero balance may be a thing of history, there is on some level the clear and unmistakable reality here that we are living – and spending – on borrowed time and money.  At some point, the interest on our national debt will overwhelm our half-hearted attempts to repay it, and then we will see serious downgrading and its devastating effects.

The truth is that we, the United States, cannot afford the cost of our good intentions.  We cannot afford to be magnanimous to all newcomers, fight a fully fledged (and debatably disastrous) War on Terror, subsidize public education including the increasingly worthless English degrees of countless graduates who honestly have no place at liberal arts colleges in the first place, and support union drives for higher salaries.  And that doesn’t include international aid spending, manufacturing subsidies and tax breaks, pork barreling and – oh yes – the truly staggering price tag of the new and frankly infeasible universal healthcare plan.

Over the next ten years, this fact will become unmistakable.  America in particular, but also the world in general face a choice, now: we can either adjust our expectations, entitlements, and proud humanistic intentions to something more in line with what we can actually afford, or we can hold to our dogma – and go screaming and weeping into the pantomime theatrics of corrupt, ineffective, and unproductive countries such as Greece and Portugal.

…because your desire to win trumps reason, morals, or any consideration of the impact of your actions.

Posted in Faux Elitism, Illiterate, Inconsiderate & Rude, Sports, Stupid Trends with tags , , , , , , , , , , on June 27, 2011 by oooranje

Ordinarily, this would be about the Yankees and how George Steinbrenner’s extravagant spending basically destroyed the sport of baseball (yes, I know, Yankees fans, if he didn’t do it someone else might have blah blah championships blah blah Derek Jeter), but today, on the heels of news of John Calipari’s contract renewal, it’s about something else.

The reality, the unquestioned, unquestionable reality is that John Calipari has served as the leader of not one, but two programs whose performance reached new, unprecedented heights in near-record time, reached the Final Four, and then had to vacate entire seasons worth of wins – in both cases the most successful seasons in program history – due to a wide array of NCAA violations.  In fact, had it not been for Kansas’ miracle comeback, we’d be talking about a vacated National Championship (a regular occurrence in college football these days, sadly, but in basketball?).  That is unquestioned, unassailable reality.

Cut to 2011, in Cal’s second year at Kentucky.  A program that had been in the doldrums reaches heights it had not aspired to for almost a decade.  The turnaround is remarkable, especially given just how much difficulty Calipari’s squeaky-clean predecessor had winning at the same school.

Except that it isn’t.  I’m not saying that Calipari has cheated this time, and I’m not saying he hasn’t.  What I’m saying is that his blemished record makes it impossible not to consider the possibility that he has.  A collegiate basketball coach is hired not only to make the players on his team better, not only to recruit good, eligible players to his team, but also to serve as the front-line defense of the reputation of the university he coaches.  Therefore, a failure to ensure that one’s program is above the law is ultimately a failure to do one’s job.

Calipari has a history of recruiting athletes who, for whatever reason, commit NCAA violations.  To plead ignorance once – in the case of Marcus Camby in particular – may fly, but to twice have entire seasons vacated because of your inability to police your program or check out the validity of your recruits – that’s incompetence at best.  At worst, it’s complicit and concerted cheating.  Either way, it’s impossible to call John Calipari good at his job when this is the legacy he leaves programs.

Finally, when Jim Tressel’s athletes traded paraphernalia for tattoos – not even financial compensation – Tressel was ultimately fired because he knew about it and didn’t report it.  No seasons – let alone wins – were vacated as a result.  And a football team is 7 times the size of a basketball squad of 15.  Calipari has repeatedly demonstrated his inability – unwillingness? – to ensure that his teams consist of legal, valid, and eligible athletes.  He continues to recruit players (Enes Kanter, most recently) who exist in the grey areas of eligibility.  In short, his coaching style is unrepentant and unchanged despite the two near-death penalties which he has saddled former squads with.  The man does not care how his actions affect the sport.  And Kentucky, by hiring him, has shown that they do not either.

For their sake, and for the sake of college basketball, let’s hope the violations are over. Personally, I doubt it.

…because you check in constantly on FourSquare/Places.

Posted in All, Faux Elitism, Inconsiderate & Rude, Pop Culture, Stupid Trends, Technology with tags , , , , , , on June 12, 2011 by oooranje

Beyond being a classic example of the internet making it easier for stalkers/spies/shadowy government agencies to follow your every move, if you are one of these individuals who is convinced that what the world needs now is to know exactly where you are every 5 minutes, you are wrong.

I can understand the appeal of checking off a litany of boxes (I play Borderlands compulsively, after all), and I guess I can understand the appeal of making all of life an interactive video game, but why post the results on facebook/twitter/whatever? I don’t need to know you just went to the Hard Rock Cafe any more than I need to know you just set the new high score on Tetris, or to see a picture of the massive shit you just took. It’s just not interesting.

This would of course be different if you were in an interesting place, like, oh, I don’t know, the moon, or the ISS, or Antarctica, but you’re not. You’re at the Spearmint Rhino in Vegas, or the Starbucks down the road, or at the gym. Pressing information, I know. Downright breaking news.

But ok, I guess, I don’t have to go out of my way to read this stuff. After all, I don’t have to visit your profile page or twitter feed. But oh wait, it also clogs the hell out of my newsfeed, to the point where I miss genuinely important stuff like the latest video of your stupid brainless kid crapping himself, or hipstamatic photos of your awful, yawn-inducing Ikea-decorated apartment, or your reaction to Jersey Shore.

Oh right, that stuff sucks too.  I guess there’s just one antidote to your mind-numbing updates.

“Unfriend”.

…you’re Duke.

Posted in All, Faux Elitism, Sports, Stupid Trends with tags , , , , , , , on March 28, 2011 by oooranje

A lot has been said about this particular topic, especially lately, and I could write volumes about it. The fact is, all of the various basic accusations are true: does Coach K get special treatment? Absolutely. Is there a tinge of racism to his recruiting? Yes, although the media shares part of the blame there for lionizing his teams beyond their ability year in and year out. And finally, are Duke fans utterly delusional elitists grasping at straws to explain their special treatment? Yes, yes they are.

First, for the favoritism shown Duke’s defense by referees: any Malcolm Gladwell reader can point out the snowball effect that the myth of Duke’s ‘hard work’ and ‘hustle’ has in terms of the calls they get on the court. Referees convinced that Duke has a lock on how to play defensive basketball are infinitely more likely to call borderline charge calls in their favor, and routinely do. Duke players are almost as notorious for flopping as they are for reaching in and hacking; as Wake Forest Coach Bob Staak once put it: “Oh yeah, Duke plays great F’ing defense. Five guys fouling all the time.” Duke plays a kind of high-energy, high-contact defense that should put them in the double bonus by the ten-minute mark (and does do so for other teams), but instead get lauded for their effort. For evidence of what happens when refs do call fouls against Duke appropriately, one need look no farther than their game against Maryland on February 12, 2005: all five starters fouled out, and they lost to an inferior squad in overtime.

Coach K is an unapologetic, self-aggrandizing control freak, and it shows in every part of his coaching strategy, from recruitment on up. The racism Jalen Rose identified in the Fab Five documentary is, in my opinion, not necessarily outright bigotry so much as Coach K’s unwillingness to recruit anyone he doesn’t think he can control (perhaps he was burned by Luol Deng’s early departure, who knows?). As a result, he tends to recruit smaller, less talented athletes, because he knows they know they need him and his system, and won’t depart early for the draft. While I would argue this doesn’t have to exclude inner-city African Americans, clearly, in Coach K’s mind, it does.

Make no mistake, when I say ‘less talented’, I don’t mean these are scrubs – they are still All-Americans. K wanted Harrison Barnes as bad as anyone else, among others. But by recruiting athletes who are not head and shoulders better than everyone around them, Krzyzewski places the onus of the discussion on his ‘superior coaching intellect’. According to K, the story should consistently be that his five, B-list athletes (to use a Hollywood term) can beat teams with 6 or 7 All-Americans on their roster, and that the brunt of the difference is made up by his unparalleled coaching. Nor is he gracious about letting others point this out: he repeatedly goes out of his way to point out that his team of hardworking underdogs are going up against lottery picks in every game. It’s a strangely passive-aggressive way of pumping yourself up, much like K’s yearly flirtation with the LA Lakers: clearly, in Krzyzewski’s mind, he is the only thing standing between Duke and basketball oblivion. He may actually be right, but not because his coaching strategy makes diamonds out of coal. What K brings to Duke is the myth of Duke as the great White hustlers, and the favoritism comes with it. Without K, that disappears, and they become another 16-13 team in the middle of the ACC pack.

Duke fans are absolutely insane about how their team has ‘fundamentals’ and ‘does it right.’ Over and over again, Duke haters are confronted with that line, almost verbatim, the idea that the nation loathes Duke because Duke is the only team that actually plays real, hustle basketball. Which of course is an utter lie; if Duke fans legitimately cheered for someone who ‘does it right’, ‘cares about fundamentals’ and plays hard, they would have been Tyler Hansbrough fans. Never has there been a clearer case of someone with limited talent and ability who worked his ass off to overcome that. And yet they howled against him, denigrated his performances, and finally, threw an elbow at him (a clearly intentional assault that Coach K later explained away by saying he shouldn’t have been on the floor), and therein lies the nuance of Duke’s outlook: it’s not racism per se, it’s elitism, and it’s phoney elitism. It is perhaps no surprise that a student body brought together primarily by their failure to get into Harvard and Princeton would spend the rest of their time at college desperately trying to prove they are better than the rest of the world, and, more specifically, better than their in-state, public-school rivals down the road.

Tyler Hansbrough, and the Carolina class that won the 2009 NCAA Championship with him, were hated above all because they exposed Duke for the self-satisfied, self-anointed blowhards that they are. Starting with the Senior Night game at Duke in 2006, their hard work made a mockery of the self-involved Duke Seniors, none more so than JJ Reddick. Reddick was supposed to be the white, blue-collar hero of that game, of that season, and of that decade. And then Tyler came along, and shot that 3 at the top of the key with the shot clock winding down, and the horrible reality came suddenly into focus: there were blue-collar, hard-working heroes who did it right and hustled on the floor, but they were Carolina Blue. Not, as it were, Royal Blue.

Duke continues to be the most overrated, mollycoddled team in college basketball. They are not the only ones to get preferential treatment, but they are among the worst. Why? Because elevating Duke, and praising them for ‘doing it right’ is insulting to every college basketball fan and player who has ever hustled, played good defense, or been a good sportsman. It is an outright lie, and if the basketball establishment were ever to admit that, Duke would fade from the firmament, with or without Coach K.

…you think the fact that you like Star Wars makes you a nerd.

Posted in All, Faux Elitism, Film & TV, Illiterate, Pop Culture, Stupid Trends with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 1, 2011 by oooranje

Once upon a time, being a ‘nerd’ was a bad thing. It meant wedgies, social exile, a dearth of party invites, and endless jokes about your intact virginity. Then, a funny thing happened. A couple self-avowed, undeniable nerds founded software companies, most notably Microsoft, and became extremely, extremely rich. So rich, in fact, that they passed the Justin Timberlake/Social Network test for ‘what’s cool’, several times over.

Suddenly, being a nerd became cool.

The trend then continued in film when comic books, long the province of acne-faced, minutiae-obsessed diehards, became the primary mine of blockbuster films. Cue pandemonium at Comic-Con, cue the Big Bang Theory, cue Gleeks and their absurd demands to be included under the nerd/geek banner (There is no world in which Glee belongs at Comic-Con in any form. Sorry).

And then the world writ large suddenly decided that the entrance requirements for nerd status had become significantly relaxed even as the social desirability of being a nerd increased. Any preference for anything vaguely brainy, scientific, or otherworldly was sufficient, never mind how spurious, ungrounded, or outright idiotic it was. Never mind that the movies now being used as evidence for nerd-dom were historically and continue to be giant, massive blockbusters. Anyone with a remotely snarky Star Wars t-shirt is now, apparently, a long-suffering nerd. Nerds unite!

You can’t have it both ways. You can’t make fun of people for decades for being passionate about their preferences in life, then claim to have been one of them all along when it apparently becomes cool to be in the club.

Moreover, being a nerd requires a certain amount of taste and specialization. Star Wars, Star Trek, and Avatar were all massive, four-quadrant movies. They were made to appeal to everyone. Liking something that everyone else likes does not make you a nerd. It doesn’t even set you apart. Being a nerd means having strange, varied, and even unpopular taste. That means Firefly, that means Cowboy Bebop, that means World of Warcraft and a dozen other things you’ve never heard of. Why? Because you’re not a nerd.

…because your parents subsidize your expensive lifestyle.

Posted in All, Faux Elitism, Inconsiderate & Rude with tags , , on December 10, 2010 by oooranje

Listen, there’s nothing I love more than hearing about your perfect, giant apartment in the perfect, expensive part of town surrounded by the perfect, expensive restaurants all around you where we should totally go get a drink and spend oodles of money on the perfect, expensive drinks (‘not like those other bars’ – yeah, god forbid you should offer beer or a drink under $18) so we can be seen by other perfect, wasteful, and spoiled idiots like yourself, but let’s level for a second:

If this is your first job out of college, and it is, then odds are I have a pretty clear sense of how much you make, and it isn’t that much more (if not less) than what I do. So let me say this simply: without external assistance, there’s no way someone our age, in our circumstances, can afford to live in that wasteful, expensive, ‘perfect’ way. Which is fine, more power to you, I’m glad you’re living in style and comfort, but – and this is the important part – that doesn’t qualify you to dispense advice about how I or anyone else should live, spend their money, or decorate their apartment. Because the odds are, we can’t afford to copy your subsidized tastes/eat caviar for breakfast/live alone in a luxury suite in Beverly Hills, and the fact that you aren’t self-conscious enough to get what a crutch parental assistance is makes you out to be a real asshole.

Just sayin’.