Last Week, Irish Catholic-Americans Used to be Not White; This Week, They Used to be WASP Aristocrats
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I don’t like to pick on lefty Matt Stoller, who is a valuable voice on anti-corporate monopoly topics, a type of thinking that was overly dominant in America until a few decades ago and is now overly forgotten. But his new Tweetstorm is a funny example of how the Brett Kavanaugh Thing is un-stoppering all sorts of slightly unhinged free association psychological projections by our pundit class over their unresolved high school status anxieties:


1. Kavanaugh’s clearly on display anger and pain was quite confusing to millions of Americans. Many saw authenticity in his voice and thus in some way believed he is telling the truth. It is time for us to wake up to what aristocracy is. Aristocracy is a moral system.

2. Most Westerners have a hard time imagining aristocracy. The enlightenment kind of pushed the end of feudalism as a moral frame. The idea of divinely ordained social hierarchies doesn’t make any sense to us.

3. We think of aristocracy as a bunch of men in whigs and women in petticoats and corsets, a sort of black and white before color TV world. That is not what aristocracy is. Aristocracy is a belief in the moral right of elites to rule and abuse everyone else *for their own good.*

4. There are clear moral codes owed by aristocrats to everyone else. Military service, for instance. Stewardship. Noblesse oblige.

Can’t have that!

Sometimes people are nostalgic for these, like our elites don’t even have a sense of social obligation. That’s nonsense. Aristocrats were monsters.

5. Before 1775, Americans lived in an aristocracy. It wasn’t just a set of states with slaves and women without rights. Almost no one had political rights. Children learned social hierarchies of rank before they learned the difference between their left and right hands.

I thought Noel Ignatiev had proved that Irish-Americans like Kavanaugh, who attended a Jesuit high school, were not white until rather recently.

6. It’s easy to see abuse today and just sort of say see there’s always been abuse. But the aristocracy of the pre-revolutionary world was different. Because people didn’t think of it as abuse, they thought of it as enforcement of moral rights.

7. Kavanaugh was sincerely angry. But he wasn’t angry that he was caught lying. He was angry that people were attacking his moral system of aristocracy. It isn’t just a white male thing. It’s a super-rich powerful village thing. He was angry people were criticizing Versailles.

8. I went to a boarding school similar in some ways to Georgetown Prep. A culture of brutal hazing. Noblesse oblige.

Oh, no, not noblesse oblige!

Servant leadership. Massive wealth, unspoken. Sexual assault. Anorexia. Connections to insane power. It’s normal in some ways, but massively unusual in others.

9. I was sort of a weird student, a gawky Jewish kid from Miami with a group of beautiful and athletic WASP-y kids mostly from New York and New England. We went to chapel four times a week. This is a very strange world. You get trained to be comfortable with power and hypocrisy.

10. Kavanaugh grew up in that world. He doesn’t know any different. He can’t imagine any different. To him all of us are just peasants and he doesn’t owe any of us the truth. It is beneath contempt for us to make moral demands on him.

11. His whole career, from being one of the most sleazy and dishonest operatives in the Kenneth Starr investigation to lying about torture, stolen emails, and wiretapping, is about manipulating the peasants. He’s an aristocrat.

12. But it goes far beyond Kavanaugh to how DC has been for 40 years. This is my favorite quote from the whole insane Clinton impeachment saga. “[Clinton] came in here and he trashed the place,” says WaPost columnist David Broder, “and it’s not his place.”

13. The total contempt for normal people has been a hallmark of Western politics for four decades. Kavanaugh is just the most obvious signpost. We are now beyond aristocrats pretending to live in a democracy. He just demands what is his. And Trump loved it.

14. Across our culture, from Tim Geithner to Bill Clinton to Brett Kavanaugh to Mark Zuckerberg, we tolerate aristocratic abuse. This was obvious in the financial crisis. Tens of millions of people kicked out of their homes, and yet they were the ones who carried shame.

15. My favorite Kavanaugh quote is his regret at not going to work for Facebook in its early days. “You know,” Kavanaugh said, “I am committed to public service, as I said, but I do spend some time reading Robert Frost, ‘The road not taken.’”

16. It reveals how becoming a massively wealthy Silicon Valley exec and being a right-wing Federal judge are basically both legitimate positional objectives. It’s such a great window into this aristocratic culture.

17. Anyway, I guess I’m putting this out there because we have to start understanding the genuinely privileged position of people like Kavanaugh, which is a function of elite upbringing. He was a super rich coddled DC kid.

18. What Kavanaugh is displaying looks like the pain of an abusive white male. And all those GOP Senators look like out of touch white men. And they are. More than that they are aristocrats. This is about the morality of power. Kavanaugh is an aristocrat and disdains democracy.

19. This may be some sort of turning point. If we want a democracy, we are going to have to take back power, starting with our own sense of self. I am inspired by all of the people talking about how they were abused and saying that was wrong. This is how we regain our society.

20. We must end aristocracy. Aristocracy in the Obama WH was about bailouts for bankers and debts for peasants. The aristocratic pretensions of the Trump administration were on display this week. “We must disenthrall ourselves,” said Lincoln, “and then we shall save our country.”

Keep in mind that Stoller, who also criticizes Mark Zuckerberg of Phillips Exeter (but the son of a dentist), is trying to be fairer and more class-based than most.

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