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MSNBC: Mark Ames and Yasha Levine
Broke the Koch Brothers' Takeover of America
Class War For Idiots / eXile Classic / November 29, 2009
By Mark Ames


This article was first published in The eXile on June 23, 2003.

As Russians openly strive to become elitny, America’s dominant oligarchs and feeble intellectuals live in a state of grotesque denial about their elitism. Billionaires act like hicks and get away with it. Liberal intellectuals try to suckup by learning sports metaphors. The smoke and mirrors works well for the billionaires but not for the nearly-extinct Left. So why are Americans still in the elitist closet?

When I was in America this past January, I visited Old Navy for my first time. It was there that it all came together for me: the whole intertwined web of America’s elites, diversionary elites, the War On Terror, globalization, neo-imperialism, and the anti-consumerism/globalization movements. Pouring through a giant bin of $12 dollar sweaters — with a satisfied feeling that finally I was the one profiting from the Schopenhauerean forces that run this planet — I began to understand how they were all linked, and how they came together right there in that Old Navy bargain sweater bin.

The Old Navy store chain is one of those cultural events that I missed out on, having spent almost all of the 1990s abroad. Before moving to Louisville in 2001 I’d assumed that Old Navy was just a Navy surplus store chain that had been bought out by some multinational and repackaged for the middle classes. Part of the eternal cooptation of bohemian fashion by the consumerist bourgeoisie.

Then I took a temp job at NPC as a data entry processor. I replaced a nineteen-year-old girl, a poor white single mother with a mousy face and a giant ass. She’d dropped out of high school to work at age 16. When I arrived for the first day of work, she was just pulling all the photos of her baby son out of the tacks in the cubicle mesh “walls.” Thanks to my hiring, she was able to move up a tiny notch on the administrative chain. She told me more than once how glad she was to be out of my position, and feared that I wouldn’t stay on as the Small Business Approval Department’s permanent data entry aphid.

“I don’t ever want to do that job again,” she said, moving her stuff down to the opposite end of our beige, chest-high cubicle corridor to share a slightly larger 2-desk space with a divorced woman twice her age and weight.

One day, wearing another one of her oversized navy blue and white Old Navy sweaters which hung over her baggy khakis, she told me how loyal she was to Old Navy, that it was her favorite store and she always goes there for herself or for gifts for others.

“It’s the only place I’ll buy clothes,” she said. “It’s my favorite store in the world.”

A year and a half later, during a one-day vulture-like mall sweep to take advantage of the Bush-economy bargains, I stumbled into the Old Navy store in Santa Monica. Now if I know my reader, then I can see the nauseous sneer crossing your face: “Ew, gawd! Shopping! Malls! New clothes! Third Street Promenade! Ames, what happened to you? How bouge, dude!”

If you’re thinking that, then all I can say is you’re either a fucking idiot or you’ve got very generous parents. I was that fucking idiot before moving to Louisville. Hell, it was places like The Gap that first helped drive me out of the country. But that was before poverty mattered to me. Being poor in America is no fun at all. It’s not only materially horrible, but it’s a national sin, proof of your innate sloth and depravity. You’re essentially a traitor to the State if you’re poor, so the smartest thing you can do is shut your mouth and hang an American flag on your trailer.

But there are some things which make poverty more tolerable. Wal-Mart for one. I’d moved to Louisville with not even a fork or a spoon. Wal-Mart sells all that — hamper, dishes, utensils, dish rack, sheets, telephones, you name it — for prices so incredibly low that I was genuinely grateful. I thought about Wal-Mart’s union busting, its abused work staff of geriatrics and economically desperate wage slaves, its stocks of Third World products which in turn further destroyed America’s manufacturing, its aesthetic Sovietization of America… and then I thought about my own shitty fiscal situation. Conclusion: “Fuck ’em.”

Wal-Mart is one of the few bones with a little meat on it that America throws to its tens of millions of lower-middle and semi-middle classes. Goods that once may have been unattainable are now attainable, almost free, thanks to union busting, employee abuse, Third World slave labor, the destruction of over-priced ma and pa stores, the homogenization of Middle America and every other horrible sin. When I said “Fuck ’em,” I didn’t mean it in the sense that I’d turned coat and gone right-populist like some David Horowitz. I just meant that I needed those cheap dishes. And I understood how, from the point of view of the economically struggling millions, you could mistrust and loathe all the natty left-wing intellectuals, all the rasta-haired, chin-studded anti-consumerists who want to steal that one bone that you’ve been given: access to goods. Goods that allow you to keep from slipping down yet another terrifying notch on America’s cruel socio-economic fortress walls. You may not have health insurance, job security or a pension, but if you have goods, even inferior imitations of Crate & Barrel, then at least you’re not entirely out of the picture.

Which brings me back to my Old Navy shopping spree in early January. I’ll admit, as much as I loathe shopping, that was a glorious day for bargains. My boxers, which I hadn’t replaced in years, were in tatters. I bought several new pairs for $3 each. New pants: $19. Socks for a couple of dollars. And sweaters for $12. The store that day was full, but I was the only white person. Mostly young Latino couples and a few blacks.

The tags on the $12 sweaters said “Made in Indonesia.”

Sweat-shop labor. Multinational. The Gap (Old Navy’s parent company). Shopping malls. All the reasons why such authentically middle-class-quality clothes were available for lower-middle-class prices. This, I realized, is The Gap’s strategy: use globalization to make middle-class clothes available to the lower classes at Old Navy; solid middle to upper-middle class-type clothes clothes at struggling middle-class prices at The Gap; and yuppie/upper-middle-class-level clothing at solid middle-class prices at its “high-end” store, Banana Republic. Each offers you an affordable and real climb up the socio-economic ladder. Like Wal-Mart.

Here a cruel and almost funny cycle revealed itself. Think about it. The $12 sweater in the Old Navy bin is made by grossly underpaid Indonesian sweatshop workers. Their exploitation allows me and the Latinos to stock up on nice sweaters for prices far less in real terms than these sweaters might have cost a decade ago. But the exploitation also feeds the resentment against America that draws Indonesians towards Islamic extremism. That extremism feeds terrorism, which leads to America’s military response: war. The war is fought predominantly by America’s underclass — the very people who shop at Old Navy, the very people who benefit from the sweatshop labor that produced the terrorism that drew them back onto the battlefield.

Another nasty cycle: the multinationals move factories out of America due to its high labor costs, thereby adding to the bottom half’s increasing poverty and wage stagnation in order to further enrich the shareholders, America’s thin upper layer. Production of goods is sub-contracted out to a factory in Indonesia which pays its employees pennies and offers no benefits or protections. The Indonesian slave labor camp ships its sweaters to Old Navy stores across America at prices cheap enough for the increasingly impoverished American working class to afford. This is how the nasty effects of globalization are masked: Ralph may lose his job at the factory, but the wages he makes at his temp work are enough to keep him afloat, and the cheap Third -World-produced goods just affordable enough to keep him from being completely disenfranchised.

The lower wages/cheaper goods cycle will continue to work so long as there is mass poverty and misery in the Southern hemisphere, meaning that goods produced there and sold back to the downsized Americans will continue to drop in price in sync with the downward-pushed wages. If all goes well, that is. This downward push on wages is the shareholding class’s biggest advantage: it can shut any factory down at any time and always find a cheaper, more exploitable place; or it can hang that threat over any existing factory’s head in order to force concessions out of it: reduce wages, dismantle unions and strip benefits from its workers, so that they produce goods which other downsized workers can afford.

The real losers, of course, are the Indonesian factory slaves. But what would they be doing if they weren’t being exploited by The Gap? Look no further than Indonesia. Since the crisis in 1997, the periphery is teeming with bloodthirsty separatist movements, while the Javanese heartland is pulled deeper into anti-American Islam, and the whole thing is dotted with tiny oligarchy settlements and multinationals trying to suck as much profit from the place as quickly as possible before it all explodes. So those Old Navy slaves don’t have a lot to look forward to if, by the grace of the good anti-globalization activists, or the will of Islamic xenophobia, their plant is shut down. That would be, of course, even more disastrous, leading to more Islamic terror recruits, and therefore the need for more American soldiers drawn from Old Navy’s lower-middle-class clientele–which, if you think about it, is good for Old Navy’s business, since the US government isn’t likely to shut down the Army and employ cheap Islamic serf labor to man our nation’s defense. Lower-middle class soldiers are good for their money, so long as they don’t die before they pay the bill. The government pays the Army soldiers to fight the Indonesian terrorists; the money gets wired home to wives who use it to buy Old Navy goods in order to purchase something like a middle-class life at a lower-middle-class soldier’s wage. And as Sam Elliot says, “I guess that’s the way the whole derned human comedy works.”

What should the Left’s answer to this be? For now, they’re attacking globalization’s one tangible benefit in the eyes of the struggling classes: The Gap and Old Navy’s affordable class-leaping offerings. It’s idiotic and only serves to further alienate the Left from their natural audience, the economically disadvantaged (or rather, the economically fucked). Hence, the charges of elitism. Whatever the Left’s strategy in combating this, it should NOT by any means try to invoke the lower-middle-classes’ pity for Indonesian slave laborers. They are Islamic, for chrissakes; the enemy. Won’t work.

The rightwing oligarchy and its mandarins explain away globalization’s savage effects on the lower classes as all part of prophet Adam Smith’s wonderful plan for humanity. Or, negatively, the American Right seizes on the affordability of the goods produced overseas to attack Leftist critics for being elitist snobs because they are dismissive of the value of cheap middle-class-quality goods to the lower classes (a fair charge against the Left, though the Left is right to be elitist here) and because the Left wants to interfere with the hallowed “free market” which they claim is economics’ equivalent to “pure democracy.” This is an insane lie, evil quackery, the separation of human behavior from the hallowed “market.”

For the right wing, lying has no consequences. Whatever they say about the proponents of globalization, no one has accused them, America’s oligarchs, of being elitist. Only the natty leftwing critics are elitist. Which matters, because if that vicious feudal wage-price-war cycle I described ever reaches its logical conclusion, forcing workers to actually pay factories for the right to knit Old Navy sweaters which are then given away, with cash bonuses, to customers, someone will have to pay for it. History shows that when things turn bad, it’s the elite who tremble most.

What makes a purge of the last remaining remnants of the feeble Left almost plausible is the fact that, as I said, they’re the ones trying to convince the downsized Americans that it’s immoral and distasteful to shop at Old Navy, it being a Gap store and all. Hell knows what the Left would like Middle America to wear: Bob Marley white rasta cottons and red/yellow knit cap? Thrift store outfits? That sounds way too complicated for most of us. At least at Old Navy they make it easy. Cheap and easy shopping — about the only legal pleasure left in America.

The Left needs to understand how truly sweet this bone of affordable imitation-middle-class clothes feels to America’s poor if it wants at least a hope of connectng. Their hatred of all things Gap, including Old Navy, is elitist. It’s rooted as much in a cultural elite’s disdain for “looking like everyone else” as it is in moral revulsion at sweat shops. That doesn’t mean the Left is wrong, but it is not a popular argument among struggling wage slaves who watch Friends and dream that some day they might be able to afford Banana Republic.

By their fashion choices, their affected poverty, their disdain of all the material things beyond the struggling class’s reach — nice suits and ties, clean haircuts, SUVs — the American Left seems to be literally mocking you at the same time that it tries to take away your Old Navy bone, and they add to the mockery by telling you that keeping you away is all for your own good, pointing to obscure statistics about stagnant real wages, wealth transfer, and so on. As if you don’t know what’s what. What’s what is this: what you can afford. In Louisville, among the real bedrock suckers, I realized that those who attack Wal-Mart — whether socially-committed activists or upper-class left-wing Manhattanites (like Barbara Ehrenreich in Nickled And Dimed) — must be living with the certainty that they’re never going to need Wal-Mart. I too attacked Wal-Mart until I moved Stateside. Then I needed it, no matter how much its hands were soaked in blood.

The Left’s elitism is manifest on a more personal level as well. No anti-consumerist or left-wing academic would want to hang out with the 19-year-old single mother data entry processor I replaced, and vice-versa. They don’t speak the same language. At least billionaire Sam Walton wore baseball caps, spoke plain American, went to church and was clean-cut. He doesn’t appear to be mocking the lower-middle classes. He just wants everything they’ve got, that’s all.

If one thing came through in Ehrenreich’s book, it was that she couldn’t stand being around poor shallow losers who worked wage jobs at Wal-Mart and in maid services, largely because they weren’t sufficiently aware of how horribly their lives sucked. So they were dumped as people, only useful to her as literary objects of pathos for her bleeding-heart bourgeois NPR readership. She even went so far as to attack workers who were fat, the greatest sin among America’s elite. For Ehrenreich, fatness is a choice, not a Schopenhauerian symptom, a secondary disease of poverty and a dead-end life. Junk food is cheap and easy, the fats a tiny buzz of legal pleasure.

So my near life-long revulsion for consumerism was really a kind of elitism, one I was able to maintain not because I got rich but rather because I opted out of the whole paradigm when I moved to Russia. That doesn’t make my “elitism” wrong. Not by any means. It just means that it is valid under certain conditions, and irrelevant under others.

The Left is an elite. Let’s admit it. From bourgeois liberals like Ehrenreich to Hard Leftists like the anti-globalization activists or even us at the eXile (though I’m never really sure how deep our Leftism runs.) Take Debbie, the data entry processor whom I replaced at NPC. I don’t ever want to be like her. Or around her, if I can help it. Or the tens of millions like her. Like many Kentuckians I met, she loathed Clinton for being a two-timer and respected Bush for being “real.” This is as good a reason as any to stay away from the disenfranchised.

As Talking Heads bravely sang, “I wouldn’t live the way those people do/I wouldn’t live there if you paid me to!”

Why shouldn’t the Left acknowledge its elite status? What the hell are we trying to hide? Who are we trying to fool with our denial of our elitism — the Debbies (who don’t listen to the Left anyway) or ourselves? Can you handle being in opposition to your own countrymen, your own targeted class, on the grounds that you know better?

I can.

What makes it so difficult to accept the notion that the tweedy Left is an elite is that, compared to America’s real elite — the all-powerful, vampiric right-wing oligarchy–the tweed elite is insignificant. Somehow the kleptocrats managed to invert objective American reality, making themselves “regular folks” in the eyes of the Debbies, while liberals and leftists, whose platforms are designed to help the poor and middle-classes at the expense of the wealthy, have been successfully tagged “elitists.” How did it work out that Bush, a pampered prep school brat who came from generations of wealth and never had to struggle in his life, is considered “regular folks” by the regular folks, whereas Clinton, who came from truly horrible white trash in Arkansas, the kind of poor broken home that Debbie was only a step or two away from and may yet end up in herself, is considered an elitist?

Clinton wanted to give health insurance to the tens of millions of Americans who are without it; the Republicans killed it. Now only an elite few can afford good health care. How is it that someone could call a poor sucker in Ken “elitist” for wanting to help him live longer, perhaps as long as a millionaire, while the millionaires and billionaires, the ones who have been using the Republican power to push through even more radical transfers of wealth into their pockets, are not seen as an “elite”?

The Left blames the rightwing media conspiracy, but I’m pretty sure that even if the American people were given exactly even doses of Left, Center and Right-wing ideology, that they’d gravitate in force towards Limbaugh Radio. First, because the Right loves America, genuinely so as far as I can tell. The Right identifies itself with America. The Right has always had an easier time sounding like convinced patriots: they like the symbols, the flags, Sunday at church, wearing suits and ties as often as possible. The lower-middle classes don’t hate these things the way that the Left instinctively does.

The Left, on the other hand, either likes an America that doesn’t quite exist or loathes what America has become, and that puts off most of the white working poor. Cultures tend towards extremes at certain periods in their history: during Stalin’s time you couldn’t be too anti-bourgeois and unsentimental; in England in the late 1600s, you couldn’t be too Protestant or anti-Catholic; and today in America, you can’t be too patriotic or too hokey.

Secondly, the white underclass — and we may as well call those tens of millions struggling to get into or to keep from getting tossed out of the nominal middle-class as a kind of “underclass” whose tragedy hasn’t yet been hallowed — really identifies with Bush. For example, his diction: this is where educated Leftists and liberals just can’t connect with Middle America. You can’t fake that hazy-headed simplicity of Bush’s. I remember being shocked by Bush’s first post-9/11 speech, which struck me as grotesquely unemotional, insincere, uninspiring and hard to listen to just for his sheer inability to hold thoughts longer than a sentence or two. That day my landlord sent over his electrician to fix my air conditioner. He told me, “Man, did you hear Bush’s speech? He’s angry, and he means business. If I was Osama and I heard that speech, I would be doo-dooing in my pants.” I remember looking at him, thinking, “Who extended the right to vote to this monkey?”

Bush’s mannerisms accidentally harmonized with Middle America’s, the very people who should be looking to lynch him for destroying their lives. But he’s got something they understand on some primordial mammal level. You’ve had to have had spent your youth avoiding homework, cheating on tests and spending weekends sucking a beer bong to speak like Bush does, particularly considering his Exeter/Yale/Harvard education. Amazingly, Bush’s inarticulate simplicity as well as his long years of coke-sniffing, drunk-driving sin are not only forgiven in Protestant Middle America, but are even considered virtues. In the Bible, Jesus says that God looks far more fondly upon someone who spends a life in sin and at the end repents than on a virtuous man who, at the end of life, allows himself to sin. So Bush played his cards right. Even Jesus apparently looks at him like a stand-up guy.

And lastly there is the issue of patronizing. All the good Leftists who come to help out the Debbies of the world are seen as inherently patronizing by the same Debbies. The Republicans talk about self-reliance, which goes over well in a country as crudely Protestant as America. They don’t make a fuss as they pick her pockets. The Left makes a big fuss about her as a victim while they try to fill her pockets, and for most Americans, that is just unbearable.

Another thing I learned living in Kentucky is that the have-nots don’t like seeing one of their own make it. I’ll give you another example. Louisville has produced, to my knowledge, only one alternative music deity, Will Oldham, aka Bonnie “Prince” Billy. In Europe and on the coasts, in Australia, he packs them in and draws the interviews. In Louisville, even 8 years after releasing his first album and about 5 years since his last local concert, he still wasn’t able to muster up more than 50 people to his lakeside show. I asked a guitar player in a doomed-to-be-local garage band why Oldham, my hero at the time, was so unappreciated locally. Her answer was an earful of invective against Oldham which came down to calling him an “elitist” — and she was a left-wing lesbian graduate student! She and all the others hated Oldham for making it out of town.

There is something pre-destined about Will Oldham’s fame that can be daunting, and, I can see, resentment-inspiring. I think that explains why Clinton is so loathed in Middle America: not because he’s sleazy (in Kentucky, good people are expected to rip each other off), but because he’s one of them. Which is why they’ll never forgive him.

Take, as a counter-example, America’s mega-oligarchy. They’re so fabulously wealthy and hard-working, these Bushes, Cheneys, Kenneth Lays, Jack Welches: they are Superhumans, a breed that Middle Americans simply never have and never will meet in their lives. They’re barely even real, yet at the same time, they don’t openly mock Middle America. In fact, they try to embody it.

Americans have a choice between two elites, the leftwing intellectuals, or their remnants, and the right wing oligarchy. Guess which one will win. Here’s a hint: one side has the money, the industry, the lobbyists, the police, bean-bag guns, APC-mounted water cannons, stun guns, pepper spray, rubber bullets, a near-monopoly on mainstream media contacts and lots of psychologically-impressive expensive dark suits with stern ties. The other side has mountain bikes and the ability to create 10-foot tall papier-mache puppets. Oh no, don’t use the fucking puppets on us!

The American leftwing elite was once a serious threat to the right-wing oligarchy: in the 1930s particularly and again in the 1960s through the late 70s, Democrats used their power to extend benefits to the poor and health coverage to the elderly. This was considered a good thing by the people who benefited from it, while the Republicans and their wealthy corporate backers who tried to nix it all were considered “elitist” and worse. If politics is all about the distribution of wealth, then there was a time when the right-wing oligarchy had to fear some of its wealth being taken and spread about by the liberal elite. From the oligarchy-elite’s point of view, they’ve had their revenge on LBJ and Roosevelt, and then some.

The right-wing elite crushed their leftist opponents from the late 70s onward. Oppression and cooptation work, folks.. Police tactics destroyed the more radical 60s revolutionaries from Marxists to the Black Panthers. Some were killed, others framed or driven to despair. The rest have been co-opted or pushed into the Vegan-treated margins. And no wonder. America’s capitalist business culture forces Leftists either to drop out of mainstream society, which can be terrifying, or drags them into the Office World, which is crushing. In other words, it’s nearly impossible to be a Leftist and a mainstream American, but easy to be a Right-winger and in the mainstream.

So it comes down to the pack mentality. The People are gullible and foolish in political matters and go by what they believe is their gut instinct. I can’t tell you how many people I know voted for Bush against Gore because they “couldn’t stand Gore as a person” or they “didn’t trust Gore” but they “felt comfortable with Bush” somehow knowing that he “isn’t sleazy.”

It’s this that makes the leftwing intellectuals by definition elitist, that is, apart from the Middle. The normals know instinctively that the left is an elite. Denials on the left’s party don’t help — this isn’t a rational argument, it’s about smell. So those of us who identify with the left, the Hard Left, better start facing an uncomfortable fact: not only are we an elite, but we don’t like the People and they don’t like us.

And this is where we turn to Russia and its idea of elite. Mercifully, Russian elitism is much more simple, straightforward and free of hypocrisy and delusion than its American counterpart.

It’s an instructive counter-example — instructive in that it proves how objectively crazy American political culture has become.

In the first place, the word “elitny” in Russian is an entirely positive term. There’s no room for false modesty in Russia. If an oligarch tomorrow decided to dumb himself down like Sam Walton — say, he puts on a Spartak scarf and takes the Metro to work to show that he’s just a regular guy — no Russian would buy it. At the very least they’d think he’s an incredible buffoon. His own deputy would probably ice him on the spot, not only for “showing weakness,” to borrow from American Me’s William Forsythe, but for “showing idiocy.”

One of the best ways of framing Russia’s attitude to elitism was described by Matthew Maly in his brilliant book, Understanding Russia, published about seven years ago but just as relevant today. He described Russian society as consisting of two layers: “Gods” and something like “All The Rest.” Gods, the privileged, the elite upper ten percent, live in a parallel world above what in Russia passes for law. The law as described by Maly is some kind of toxic crust that the masses stuck beneath do everything to avoid. One example: they learn how to walk past cops without getting noticed. It’s not easy, but it works, like fooling the spore aliens in Invasion of the Body Snatchers: just avoid eye contact and look like you’re on your way somewhere.

The Gods, on the other hand — the Russian elite — genuinely don’t see authority wherever they go because authority tends to defer to them. They take as much as they can, rarely pay for dinners, drinks or anything else in spite of their wealth, and flaunt their status with as much gaucherie and condescension as they are capable of.

Everyone here wants to make it into the elite. And for obvious reasons. Life is better as a God than as a cow. Strangely enough, in a country like America which prides itself on its rugged individualism and striving for excellence, the idea of a class of excellent people is something Americans would abhor and reject, even though this class exists. America doesn’t want to see it; therefore, it doesn’t exist. Case closed.

The first dividing line between the masses and the elitny, at least in Moscow, runs through transportation. If you take the Metro or busses, you’re a schmuck and the cops are likely to treat you as one. The first step out of the narod is getting yourself a car. The reasons are as much practical as anything: the Metro is stuffy and crowded (which makes it unbearably hot and smelly in the summer and a SARS incubator in winter). Women especially can get harassed and hit up on. And the cops: they wait at every crossing like crocodiles in the Serengeti rivers waiting for wildebeests to make their seasonal crossing: no matter what, some Metro passengers are going to become militsia food.

In the car world, the basic distinction is further broken down between foreign and domestic cars. One thing I’ve noticed this summer is how many women now drive cars. Girls behind wheels tend to be prettier than the average girl on the street, and they almost invariably drive foreign cars, whereas men drive mostly Russian cars. I’ve also noticed that most women drivers can be spotted at any given time either dialing or talking on their cell phones while driving (another elitny attribute) while men, at least those in otetchesvenie cars, are hunched over and staring ahead, hoping not to catch the predatory glance of a traffic cop.

The highest layer of elitny doesn’t drive at all. They have drivers who shuttle them around in their German sedans, paying no attention to traffic signals or speed limits. I’ve been in such cars myself. A few times, going about 120 MPH in downtown Moscow, we were pulled over by the militsia. My elitny friend and his driver literally laughed at the cop when he asked for their documents, responding to him in mocking bad English, which deeply unnerved the officer. Only a God would feel that confident. By the end of the conversation, the cop was apologizing profusely, using my friend’s first name and patronymic. My friend tried to pay him a 100 ruble fine, a menacing insult; the cop refused to accept it and finally walked away, bowing and scraping.

The elitny travel, they get good health care, they eat well every day, they don’t have to pay taxes and they party hard. They also like exclusivity — ekslusivnie as it’s called. They don’t like going to clubs, bars or restaurants where regular people are allowed in. Their food, clothes and parties are better than anyone’s. A girl I met from the miserable podmoskovie town of Pushkino told me about the local “baron,” a vodka magnate who, every weekend, throws huge parties including massive fireworks shows at his dacha-castle. She was impressed. It was either that, or dead-end poverty.

Interestingly enough, the opposite of elitny is “demokratichny,” or democratic. It’s not necessarily a pejorative (except to the elite), but it’s not exactly a compliment to a place if it’s described as democratic. Democratichny implies mediocrity because you don’t have to do anything or be anything special to be accepted. Prices can also be demokratichnie, but that’s not as much of an insult. The real issue is one of exceptional status: If you’re not exceptional, then by definition, you’re unexceptional. And being unexceptional is the biggest disgrace a Russian can face. Russia has always proven Nietzsche’s theory that a million humans are sacrificed to create one great one.

It’s obvious why one would want to be elitny here. Objectively speaking, only a sucker wouldn’t want to live like an elite. And really, do ours really live much differently? America’s elite lives essentially above the law; they don’t pay taxes or follow the laws in business or in private life; for them, there simply are no drug laws; they have much higher quality medical care than the rest of Americans, live longer, and own what are called “mega-mansions” which, unlike Russia’s, are well-hidden. The main difference is that America’s elite has much less fun on average than Russia’s, not counting the Hollywood stars of course.

Russia’s definition of elitism hasn’t always been this earthy. In the Soviet period, Russia had a similar battle between the all-powerful nomenklatura, the real elite (like America’s rightwing oligarchical elite), and the intelligentsia, the equivalent of America’s “liberal elite.” Like their American counterparts, Russia’s liberal intelligentsia were often savage critics of the state, only they were far braver and took far greater risks than the American Left.

The nomenklatura took the intelligentsia’s power seriously, far more seriously than seemed necessary at the time. Stalin nearly killed them off as a class, while Khruschev tried to co-opt them and Brezhnev wavered between moderate tyranny and qualified tolerance. Like the American right-wing oligarchy, the Soviet nomenklatura saw the Russian intelligentsia, particularly the liberal elite, as not only a threat to their power, but as inherently anti-Soviet and unpatriotic at heart. And they weren’t entirely wrong, not by a long shot.

The most startling thing to remember about Russia’s intelligentsia is how powerful they once were. The Tsarist-era intelligentsia, at least a part of it, was responsible for helping foment unrest throughout the 19th Century. The Russian intelligentsia was, again, brave, radical and essentially left-wing elitist, unpatriotic, anti-feudal. Lenin’s Bolsheviks, as the “Vanguard of the Proletariat,” made leftwing intellectual elitism a creed. The October Revolution was the leftwing intelligentsia’s crowning moment — and their most fatal. Twenty years later, they were hauled off to the GULAGs.

In the late Soviet period, again the intelligentsia was seen as a bourgeois liberal threat to the nomenklatura, was persecuted, but eventually, it again triumphed, bringing the hated (by the liberal intelligentsia) Soviet state down. And again, like in 1917, their own demise as a class followed. In other words, by their own liberal dissidence, Russia’s intelligentsia has twice committed mass suicide. Give the nomenklatura and the oligarchy in America at least this much: they’d never so much as make a phone call that wasn’t in their direct selfish interests, let alone bring down a state and their own class’s existence with it

Many of the fallen Soviet-era intelligentsia that I’ve met are as snobbish as the new elite, only they’re much poorer and don’t use “blya” every third word. However, they constantly deride non-intelligentsia types for being “nekulturny” or “iz provintsii.” Just recently, when I pointed at a cute bartender to a friend of mine from the intelligentsia elite who today has the manners and elitny apartment of a Soviet aristocrat but not the money or cars, she remarked dismissively, “The bartender looks like a typical Klava.” In other words, a common Russian peasant.

Common — that’s exactly what Russia’s elite avoids.

Common is exactly how Bush, an elite if there ever was one, got himself elected president. By being as common as common can be.

The Russian liberal intelligentsia elite twice destoyed Russia in the name of abstractions like revolution and democracy; the American liberal elite has never come close to seriously threatening the right-wing oligarchical elite, but they have oscillated between periods of limiting the oligarchy’s power and the other extreme where they are today, ceding all ground but a few harmless reservations in universities and the odd newspaper column. It appears that the only reason that the leftwing intellectual “elite” in America hasn’t been completely stomped out is that their continued existence as a harmless Bogeyman serves the Right well. Like Stalin’s saboteurs, the American Right’s “liberal elite” is blamed for everything that can and does go wrong. The feeble Left plays its part well, still trying to reason things out and work incrementally.

Unlike Russia’s elite, America’s liberal elite is completely deluded about who they are and what the American people have become. So I’ll say it again: stop pretending that you’re not elite. Instead, try and be MORE elitist than you really are. It’s the only way you’ll ever get respect.

First: forget about trying to court Middle America. You just get on their nerves when you try. The more you talk about the NBA playoffs or boxing, the more they fantasize seeing you in an orange jumpsuit and manacles at Camp X-Ray. Start off by not talking to The People anymore. Abandon them. At least you’ll feel better about yourself.

Next: enjoy yourselves. Take your cue from the Russians: you’re better than the common herd, so start acting like it. Life for a Leftie might finally become attractive to the masses if they think you’re onto something. And even if they don’t follow, at least you’ll be treated better if you treat people worse and behave like the Intellectual snob that you are.

This article was first published in The eXile on June 23, 2003.

Mark Ames is the author of Going Postal, and the co-author of The eXile: Sex, Drugs and Libel in the New Russia (Grove).


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Add your own

  • 1. Patriot  |  November 29th, 2009 at 9:34 am

    Nice article, but I disagree that more elitism will strengthen the left. You admit that the Russian left-elite failed twice– why should Americans emulate that?

    Elitism isn’t necessary for the left to triumph– loyalty and patriotism are.

    If you want to convince your 19 year old cubicle dweller to sign up for the Left, you have to show her that the Left is going to be there for her when things go wrong. That’s a basic human need– the need for in-group loyalty. You have to demonstrate bravery or no one is going to follow you.

    Second you have to show some kind of patriotism. Show me one leftist movement that has triumphed by demonstrating indifference the country which it inhabits. Leftists have to show that they are patriotic and love America. And why not love America? If we could actually live up to our stated egalitarian ideals that would be a pretty good deal.

  • 2. DarthFurious  |  November 29th, 2009 at 9:49 am

    “When I was in America this past January, I visited Old Navy for my first time. It was there that it all came together for me: the whole intertwined web of America’s elites, diversionary elites, the War On Terror, globalization, neo-imperialism, and the anti-consumerism/globalization movements. Pouring through a giant bin of $12 dollar sweaters — with a satisfied feeling that finally I was the one profiting from the Schopenhauerean forces that run this planet — I began to understand how they were all linked, and how they came together right there in that Old Navy bargain sweater bin.”

    Take it easy Mark, you’re starting to sound like Thomas Friedman…

    Now I’ve never been to mother russia, so I can’t say from personal experience, but from what I’ve read it seems to me that the reason for the difference in behavior between their oligarchs and ours is a much stronger devotion to the subtleties of thought control.

    Let’s face it; you can’t run a consumer economy by herding consumers into shopping malls at gunpoint. You can force someone to work against their will, but you can’t force them to shop against their will. Which leads to Chomsky’s “Manufacturing Consent” rant. And although the soviets did have a massive state propaganda machine, their official lies were always a bit too crass and obvious. Like an old georgian immigrant who I used to work with at IBM told me, “If they announced that there were no bread shortages, it meant you got your ass in line for bread because there was a shortage.”

    Why does the obvious elitist George W Bush act like a common hick? Because he was trained his entire life to act that way. The issue of wealth distribution in this country goes all the way back to the constitutional convention. Our wealthy masters have a long tradition of hiding their ill-gotten gains from what Alexander Hamilton called “a most fowl leveling spirit,” i.e., the left’s inclination toward wealth redistribution.

    If post-soviet russia’s oligarchs are symptomatic of anything, I think it’s the fact that political-economic revolutions have very little lasting effect on long-standing cultural “substructures.” Really, is there any real difference between modern russia’s “business” oligarchs and the Cossacks?

  • 3. dwayne chandler  |  November 29th, 2009 at 9:51 am

    And impotent white liberals in America
    (the Left) wonders(in private) why they
    are unable to win any of their “causes
    of the moment.”

    dwayne chandler.

  • 4. DarthFurious  |  November 29th, 2009 at 9:52 am

    …and of course I meant “foul leveling spirit” – Hamilton’s quote has nothing to do with chickens…

  • 5. Thor  |  November 29th, 2009 at 12:32 pm

    The entire article is just a nekulturny, bullshit canard to prevent us proles from learning what, in the heyday of Radio Free Whatever, was called “da troot.”

    “Geev us da troot.”

    Nobody gives a shit about Old Navy, the Gap, Wal*Mart, Indonesians, Polynesians, Silesians, expat Fresians, or non-Aryan Caukeesians. What we, the muck-sucking proles, want is “da troot.”

    As in, what number club did Kurgan Nordegren strap on when she when she went stalking her old man? What brand (the usual Nike SasQuatch Sumo with Mitsubishi Diamana Blue Board 103g shaft, or a Scotty Cameron Titleist Newport 2) came out of the bag?

    As in, how hard did the amped Kurgan have to swing that chosen club to hole a driver’s side window made of 2-inch, up-armored Steuben? The guy behind the wheel must have turned white!

    As in, how do we get on the dance card of Rachel (NASCAR’s Miss Fiberglass & Botox 1954-thru-2034)Uchitel, teacher to the stars?
    Hell, getting seconds is better than drawing a blank.

    Geev us da troot! No more bullshit!


  • 6. cult of skaro 24  |  November 29th, 2009 at 12:44 pm

    ….Or maybe do something other than just march and blog, and eat vegan.

  • 7. Spade  |  November 29th, 2009 at 1:11 pm

    The Liberals are elitist – certainly so:

    20% of Voters describe themselves as Liberals, the rest as either Moderates (36%) or Conservatives (40%).

    Liberals shouldn’t count on staying in power long… there just isn’t enought weight behind them.

    It’s all over except for the newest iteration of the Bananna Republic/Gap/Old Navy/Soviet GUM paradigm for Americans.

  • 8. nillionaire  |  November 29th, 2009 at 1:54 pm

    this is why to read the exile

  • 9. totalesturns  |  November 29th, 2009 at 2:41 pm

    The only honest thing to be written about class in America in the past five decades. Classic.

  • 10. alex  |  November 29th, 2009 at 4:00 pm

    This whole essay is making me think back to undergraduate economics and the theories of Thorstein Veblen…

  • 11. motorfirebox  |  November 29th, 2009 at 4:27 pm

    wow. nail on the fucking head.

  • 12. LordLeckie  |  November 29th, 2009 at 5:49 pm

    Excellent article, it truly is strange the approaches needed to get anywhere politically in america.

  • 13. Chris  |  November 29th, 2009 at 6:07 pm

    Wow. This article is simply the best synopsis of class war mechanics and psychology that I’ve ever read. Mark needs to be proud of it, and it should be reposted at least once every one to three years until it is no longer relevant.

    Ames may be the best journalist/pundit in America. Anyone who wants to contradict this assertion needs to post a link to more relevant and deeper penetrating material by their candidate.

  • 14. Rammspieler  |  November 29th, 2009 at 6:57 pm

    One of Mark’s best articles ever. This was the one that introduced me to Mark Ames and the eXile. A true masterpiece.

  • 15. William  |  November 29th, 2009 at 8:45 pm



    But you were quite unkind with your “giant ass” remark.

  • 16. Mish  |  November 29th, 2009 at 8:59 pm

    Why’d you guys delete the Shilling with Shiller Reloaded KNOW post?

  • 17. Metallica  |  November 29th, 2009 at 11:00 pm

    The correct spelling ought to be “Schopenhauerian” or “Schopenhaueresque”, F.Y.I.

  • 18. Bonecrusher Smith  |  November 30th, 2009 at 12:20 am


    “Ames may be the best journalist/pundit in America. Anyone who wants to contradict this assertion needs to post a link to more relevant and deeper penetrating material by their candidate.”

    BOHICA: Bend over, here it comes again.

  • 19. Nergol  |  November 30th, 2009 at 7:18 am

    Yeah! Can’t these buffoonish poor people see that the left is here to help them? You know – by criminalizing poverty by making it illegal to not have health insurance! And obliterating their savings by borrowing and printing money that can never be repaid to shovel it at multinational corporations as “bailouts” (Yes, I know, Bush did too – so?) Or by pushing to end this country’s middle east wars – you know, like operations like Code Pink used to until OBAMA! got elected, at which point they ‘reevaluated their position”. But hey, at least they, you know, help poor people by keeping Nativity scenes off the lawns of public libraries. Thanks.

    The left is so full of shit I’m surprised they don’t leave brown streaks when they walk by. The left stands for helping poor people? My ass. What the left stands for is its own power, especially in the form of huge, ever-growing government bureaucracies.

    Oh, and abortion. That too.

  • 20. Hon Kee Mufo  |  November 30th, 2009 at 8:48 am

    re: Nergol

    The left and the Democratic party aren’t the same thing. If they were, Cheney and co would be on trial, the health care bill would be single payer, and the financial services sector would either be dust or nationalized.

    Although in the spirit of this article: fuck your nativity scene. Most intelligent people stop believing in jesus by the time they graduate from high school, what’s your excuse?

  • 21. William  |  November 30th, 2009 at 10:17 am

    It seems most of the commenters here are speaking from the right. I’m amazed by the lack of understanding of what it means to be on the left, and how this article has been misread to be a validation of certain popular notions about the left, notions propogandized by the right’s anti-intellectuals. But then it’s well known that conservatives are not such careful readers, tending to view the world through a narcissistic one-view, closed-minded lens.

    For instance, #1s comments–

    “If you want to convince your 19 year old cubicle dweller to sign up for the Left, you have to show her that the Left is going to be there for her when things go wrong. That’s a basic human need– the need for in-group loyalty. You have to demonstrate bravery or no one is going to follow you.”

    There, numerous fundamental misunderstandings of liberalism. First, no one becomes liberal because they see the group as “being there” for them. Liberalism is a state of mind. You “become” liberal because you have an open, curious, inquiring independent mind and can see value in promoting what is good for everyone and not just yourself, friends, and family. You can empathize much better. You might not want to live in a trailer park, but you are able to empathize and pull for their interests.

    As for demonstrating bravery, how brave can it be to follow the patriotic flag-waving herd when the country is on a war-footing? If that vision makes you nauseous, then anyone who speaks out against that unthinking mob is brave.

    No, being liberal isn’t at all about being part of a group. Why do you think liberals are so hard on their own? We see the world as much more than our own group, and intellectual honesty is highly valued. Which is why we don’t have any Rush Limbaughs or Glenn Becks in our midst, let alone look up to as (cringe) “leaders!”

    Next, this quote, also from #1:

    “Leftists have to show that they are patriotic and love America. And why not love America?”

    This further demonstrates my statements above, that this particular conservative has so little understanding of what it means to be liberal and patriotic. PATRIOT needs to come out of his or her shell and try to see the world from more than a narrow lens of understanding. Turn off the TV and read some history books, for instance. Become aware of the lies that the established order has been telling you in school and the media all these years.

    Again, to speak against the policies that unthinking “patriots” like this one fall in line to support is what true patriotism is. Like the favorite liberal motto, “Dissent is Patriotic.” Most liberals devote a good portion of their lives to making their communities a better place to live. We criticize America because if people don’t see the problems, how will we ever make it a better place? Conservatives prefer to see the current state of things as “just fine, why change?” We know how foolish that kind of thinking is because we see the pain around us and we know when we are being propogandized. And we know what a folly it is to simply focus on the “family,” which we know to be non-inclusive and a ploy by the moralists and the wealthy to keep us isolated and controllable.

  • 22. Metallica  |  November 30th, 2009 at 12:04 pm

    After considering William’s argument, I have concluded that being a liberal is the shittiest life imaginable.

  • 23. Maxi  |  November 30th, 2009 at 2:30 pm

    There it is. That’s the Marxist-Leninist/Eichmann-Stalinist/Maoist Third Worldist/blah blah bla/etc that I need to become. A poor white southern revanchist one.

    Next year I finally go to a 4-year uni, my mother finally died and I’m burdened with a pile of debt. I’m selling the house for a modest amount to cover the journey into job-rich east Texas, then I’m guaranteed to sleep in a homeless shelter by night, go to a decent school by day. Might as well get to know these Texans, might as well disguise as them and infiltrate their world and poison it with leftist thought and make them put me at the center of their power structure.

    In order to make this country great, I have to delude myself into thinking it’s already the best place in the world. Hell yeah love those troops, our murderers are the best murderers, but why fight pissy-ass poor countries? How ’bout our boys make us proud and take down the rich and powerful Swiss? I love your Medicare too, grandpa. Let’s tell our congressman to give everyone Medicare! I hate those islamofacist ragheads, let’s not buy oil from them. But Alaska is sooo far away and that oil will only benefit those flaming liberal yankee Seattleites. Let’s put some more windmills here in the heart of Texas. MMMM love that bacon-wrapped steak, I bet this steak would taste better if it came from local organic grass-fed cows. You know what’s worse than the death penalty? Condemning them to a life of Gulag-enforced environmentalism! Only Hitler would pay these sick fucks union wages to clean up the Louisiana Dead Zone! The Cowboys sure have pretty blue colors, y’know those Democrats are also blue…I bet the Cowboys could work a donkey. I wonder how I’ll approach gay rights and illegals. Oh well, anything for power! Elect Mr. Future Pro-America 2020 right here.

  • 24. Maxi  |  November 30th, 2009 at 5:26 pm

    No..if they find me out at anytime in my life, it’s all over. The hicks will instantly retreat like roaches to their golden Limbaugh Buddhas and perform five bows ad nauseum..then proceed to tongue its navel. All the while I’m in the shitter for life, no..I need a different approach…social darwinism and functioning society in the same sentence should strike lightning repulsive thoughts. I must become the physical embodiment of the ultra hard right and bring out the liberal in everyone, I trust the left will seize this opportunity if it ever should arise.

    If you aren’t the smartest, the whitest, most hard working individual with the most personal connections, you deserve nothing in this world. You should literally spend all your time awake working the markets, making business contacts or another dog shall consume you. Your friend got shot? I have no pity on you you damn pussy, if your brother was truly worth something he would whipped out his with superior reflexes and stuck it between that punk’s eyes. I should shoot you right now in this moment of weakness and claim your gold as you struggle to accept reality and move on. Did you just step on my foot? Fucking GITMO for you, how dare you threaten the sanctity of this free noble spirit.

    Skinheads?! If any of you even have a drop of native goddamn raped american, you’re done, you’re inferior, you’re getting the gas. I don’t need you tainting the pure inbreed Aryan pool. Why did you shave your beautiful golden curls to begin with? You wanna look like a pack of niggas? Where is your wig, what happened to your powder, ‘the hell’s your blush anyway? You’re too lazy, too ugly, too worthless to have this hair, be considered of the same class. *BANG* You’re all fucking grunts, you deserve only the penny of the sweatshop labor I manage to extract out of you. Yes! Glorious military, extinguish the world, all renaming pleb labor under my control, and leave the earth’s bounty only for my consumption.

    Aryan-savior Lord Jesus Christ only helps those who help themselves. And by that he meant he would help slay them on the race to the top. THE STRONG LIVE AND THE WEAK DIE! SO DIE, DIE AND FEED ME! *bites neck*

    lol..I think I’ll stick to being the Cornel West of Texan people. Once Texas turns blue, the days of an extremist party controlling a first world power shall be over.

  • 25. Nergol  |  December 1st, 2009 at 2:09 pm

    Hon Kee Mufo;

    The problem with your problem with Jesus is that it forgets that leftism is a Christian heresy. There are no such things as pagans or atheists in the west – just pagan-Christians and atheist-Christians. In short, leftism espouses Christianity’s universal compassion and pacifism, without providing any of Christianity’s reasons for doing so. If we’re not all sons of the same Father, they you, pal, ain’t my brother, and I have no reason to spend a dime of my own money to see that you don’t die in a gutter.

    Liberals point to reason and logic as their guides, but I have a question about that. The Romans had a reasonable system – logical, orderly, non-Christian, and with not so much as a shred of mercy. If the Romans had been faced with the reality of having their entire civilization based on a commodity that had to be obtained from a faraway land inhabited by a restive, combative population given to fanaticism, how do you think they would have handled it? I think I know – and the answer doesn’t have a lot to do with bringing peace and freedom to the region. But – how would it be unreasonable, from a Roman perspective? How would it be illogical?

    Face it – mercy is illogical. They call it “cold, hard logic” for a reason. Secular leftists dismiss Christianity as a fantasy, but at least it provides reasons to do what it tells you to do. Believing that reason and logic can lead you to mercy and charity is a fantasy that not even the most starry-eyed snake handler could, on a moment’s reflection, believe in.

  • 26. robert chambers  |  December 1st, 2009 at 3:15 pm

    “…America’s real elite — the all-powerful, vampiric right-wing oligarchy”

    You must not know them very well to even think such a shocking sentence, much less type it. Well, in one sense you are correct: they ARE fascists but with a perfect, faux egalitarian cover. When you strip that layer away…. ah, but you cant. You can no more separate them than you can separate a dog from his fleas.

  • 27. adolphhitler  |  December 1st, 2009 at 6:48 pm’re wrong negrol, you dont have to believe in god to have mercy or to follow the golden rule.

  • 28. Patriot  |  December 1st, 2009 at 8:20 pm

    I think you misunderstand me. I actually am a leftist. However, I am a leftist who wants to see the left actually prevail.

    Regarding your points:
    I think you misunderstand me. I actually am a leftist. However, I am a leftist who wants to see the left actually prevail.

    Regarding your points:
    1. It is about bravery and solidarity. You think leftism is just about open mindedness and empathy? Then it is you who are falling into the trap of conservatives. Doing things requires a group, and organization. If you remember your American history, you will see that the dynamism of the early 20th century left in America was driven BY THE LABOR MOVEMENT. Those guys certainly knew a lot about bravery and solidarity. Free thinking and open mindedness was definitely a part of it. People who were not leftists, however, could take a look at miners, garment workers , autoworkers and others who were braving serious injury or DEATH in their struggle to organize for a fair wage and better working conditions.

    If you look overseas at South Korea you’ll see that protesters are respected because they really throw down. It’s not about some fucking puppets and happy feelings. It’s about headbands, being pissed off, and fighting the cops which is something they do pretty well in South Korea.

    Now America is not South Korea, and bravery doesn’t have to be demonstrated by fighting the cops. Nonviolent protest can be a brave act too. During the 1960s, millions of whites empathized with African Americans in the South, because people could see the bravery of the civil rights protesters. Think they weren’t brave? Then go try and face down fire hoses and police attack dogs.

    You write “you might not want to live in a trailer park but you are able to empathize and pull for their interests.” Well that’s great for all the happy Whole Foods loving liberals with good paychecks. But what about the folks in trailer parks? I can tell you that when you are living close to poverty it is pretty damn important to know who you can trust to have your back when shit goes wrong — which it will, when you’re broke. Why should anyone living in a poverty stricken trailer park risk what little they have for a movement that they perceive as cowardly? If all you can offer them is open mindedness and curiosity, well that’s not going to put food on the table. Don’t kid yourself, a lot of people living on the edge of poverty know they are being screwed– they just don’t trust people like you to be able to help them.

    Why should someone even think about joining up with “the left” if they think leftists are cowards and out of touch? You have to have group solidarity. If you can do this, _even conservatives_ who might disagree with you, will respect you because you have courage.

    Now, there are people on the modern left who are pretty brave in the US. Those Sea Shepherd folks, whatever you think of them, have some pretty serious courage. I’m not interested in some kind of milquetoast, atomized “liberalism.” I am about the kind of leftist politics that in the US won us the 40 hour work week, and brought down military dictatorships in Taiwan, South Korea and the Philippines.

    2. Actually I am very well read about history. When I say that the Left must show its patriotism, I mean that leftists should always couch our appeals in patriotic terms. For example, if we discuss labor and environmental standards, it should NOT be an initial appeal based on universal values and the general plight of humanity. Rather it should sound like this:
    “So called “free trade” is a joke. It is unfair for American workers to have to compete against workers in countries where workers are locked in factories and companies dump acid in rivers. American workers fought long and hard to make factories safer places to work, and for a living wage. we should never have to sacrifice those things into compete against countries who still chain workers to machines and pay them pennies per day . As Americans, we know all too well what happens when industry dumps toxic chemicals with impunity, and that is why we have banned it. America is a better place for it. Now some people will say that people in those other countries are just trying to make a better life for themselves and we shouldn’t criticize. Well I say that’s bullshit. I don’t care who you are, you don’t want to be chained to a machine, paid pennies a day and drink water with acid in it. If some people think that’s so great, maybe they should go live in those countries and let us know how it works out for them. We have our laws for a reason.

    So in closing, so-called “free trade” advocates are really just trying to make a buck on the back of the American worker, by throwing away all the things that have made this country great. ”

    THAT is how you talk about leftist ideas in a patriotic way.

  • 29. robert chambers  |  December 2nd, 2009 at 3:33 am

    whatever we may about it, manufacturing has departed north america and it’s not coming back. I’m not sure what you mean by LABOR at this point… if you mean electricians, police, construction workers, etc (blue collar jobs that cant be offshored) they are too well-paid to get hysterical over global warming and gay marriage. They probably aren’t too crazy about abortion, and dont ask/dont tell sounds good to them. I doubt they want fist-phkking taught to their 4th grade kids… so they fork it over for catholic school, since you dont have much choice in most cities.

    They have boats, they take their families to the caribbean once a year, they have a house in Ft Lauderdale… from which they fly the flag of the USA. In brief, nothing in common with the degenerate liberal-sewer ideology of harvard, hollywood, park avenue, greenwich CT. They’re just not interested.

  • 30. Carbon  |  December 2nd, 2009 at 7:05 am

    Mark, read this article and you will laugh your ass off!

    Goldman Sachs bankers are buying guns to defend against a “Populist Uprising”

    This one should go in “What you should know”…

  • 31. Patriot  |  December 3rd, 2009 at 11:03 am

    #29: Why couldn’t manufacturing come back?

    Why should I take your word for it, when you don’t seem to realize that a significant chunk of the labor movement is still pulling hard for leftist economic policies?

    “Michael Moore’s new film “Capitalism: A Love Story” premiered to a rowdy—and wholly appreciative—labor audience at the AFL-CIO convention. The event, following a noisy march from the convention center to a theater down the street, was organized by the California Nurses Association and the Labor Campaign for Single Payer among others. It offered a refreshing contrast to an otherwise staid and scripted convention.”

  • 32. robert chambers  |  December 3rd, 2009 at 4:35 pm

    Dear Patriot, manufacturing is not coming back because of globalization… there are certain jobs that have vanished from europe and north america, they wont be back unless they have to, and I cant imagine what the reason would be.

    Certain things cannot be done off-shore, but manufacturing is a very low % of GDP now, I dont know the exact number.

    It’s just the New Normal.

  • 33. Jussi  |  December 6th, 2009 at 4:55 am

    Hey, how about publishing a collection of these classics?

  • 34. adolphhitler  |  December 6th, 2009 at 9:32 am


  • 35. Patriot  |  December 6th, 2009 at 1:09 pm

    You should ask yourself whether globalization is some kind of heavenly law of nature, or if it is the sum result of policy choices by our governing business/political elites. Globalization isn’t some kind of invisible hand of God. In it’s current form it is the result of laws that favor the rentiers and the systematic destruction of the average citizen’s ability to engage in collective bargaining.

    For more on rentiers, see:

  • 36. Joseph Culp  |  December 7th, 2009 at 1:41 am

    I read this article back in 2003. Reminds me of when AMES was terrified at the thought of living in America and embracing the pain. Kudos to AMES for still being an expat.

  • 37. Markus Wolf  |  December 11th, 2009 at 3:07 pm

    Please someone stuff my wife’s listless vagina. Please

  • 38. Jyp  |  December 12th, 2009 at 6:07 pm

    “lower-middle-class”.. “lower-lower-middle-class”.. “lower-lower-lower-middle class”.. Anything but WORKING CLASS! That’s the problem with us.. we’ve turned into the fucking BRITISH! We’re too stupid to admit what we are: working class. We work. We do not own the means of production nor do we engage in intellectual production. We twist widgets. We work for owners. We slave for managers. Or we sleep in cardboard boxes under bridges. But we are not middle class.

    I work with a fella – an idiot. He works for 26 bucks an hour. He owes tons to the bank. He’s a fucking slave.. but he thinks he’s “middle class”. Why? Because he reads the fucking newspaper and he watches TV (hockey games). They tell the stupid fuck he’s “middle class”. It’s sad.

  • 39. jklmnop  |  December 24th, 2009 at 9:01 pm

    Russia was destroyed twice by the liberal elite? You mean first by Peter the Great and then in the Revolution? I kid, I kid.

  • 40. KUKEN  |  November 10th, 2016 at 2:03 pm


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