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Snobbish tendencies

By Gregory J. Hand
web posted July 23, 2001

Florence King, writing in two separate columns in National Review, has commented about the slide to stupidity that the country has been taking as of late. In doing so she cites two emerging groups of people, "Duhs" and "Ignos." For King, a "Duh" is a "human pothole." "If America were ancient China," She theorized, "this would be the Duh Dynasty..." She further expounded that, "It's one thing to have a Duh IQ; quite another to have a Duh attitude, like the interviewees in Jay Leno's sidewalk surveys who grin proudly when they have trouble placing James Madison." For King, "an Igno is a Duh with a college education," therefore idiocy on a different level.

Reading through King's missives on the type of people who frustrate her served as reminders of those people that drive me to distraction. On occasion they are often the same Duhs and Ignos, albeit for different reasons. No, those I dislike so intensely are the ones who, according to the dictionary, tend to "patronize, rebuff, or ignore people regarded as social inferiors." While an image of Hillary Clinton suddenly comes to mind, and she is certainly one of these people, what I am talking about is a whole subset of people who have, while for different reasons, a similar mindset of superiority. I am talking about, for lack of a better word, snobs.

There are not only a lot of these condescending snits out there, but unfortunately there are several different types of them as well. There are the fame or celebrity snobs, whose notoriety makes them more important (in their minds) than most. There are moneyed snobs, those with a lot of money, or who like to cast airs or the appearance of being moneyed. Then there are the intellectual snobs, those with no real concern for money (if they have it) but who base their snobby attitude on intellect, real or imagined. There are also the more complex cultural/society snobs. It is not merely having money or intellect that concerns them as much as their desire to be at the top of the social order. Last, but certainly not least, are the confused snobs, those that are in one of the prior categories, but for some reason or other long to be in another.

Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston: Love us!
Love us!

When one thinks of fame or celebrity snobs, the word 'Hollywood' comes to mind, as fame snobs tend to be celebrities of sorts. But they do not have to be 'A-List' stars such as Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston, who had the audacity to brag in a recent legal filing they initiated that they were, "perhaps the world's most recognizable couple." You could randomly pick someone from MTV's ten 'Real World' series whose only claim to fame was humiliating themselves in a house full of fellow losers on national television for a couple of months.

It could even be someone on any of the trashy daytime talk shows, who, because of their appearance on national television and despite the embarrassment of it all, thinks themselves above all others who have never been on television. Also don't forget local 'celebrities' like the neighborhood newscaster as well (big fish in small pond syndrome). The key to being a celebrity snob is to have some sort of notoriety about you, good or bad, and believing yourself better because of it.

Moneyed snobs are among the most common of snobs, all the more so with the large numbers of people who have become wealthy since the Reagan administration and the unparalleled prosperity that followed, despite what children are now taught in school. The recent dot com explosion that created instant paper multimillionaires (and billionaires) saw a massive increase in the number of moneyed snobs as large sums of money were spent to create a lifestyle that vanished as quickly as it appeared. Those dot com 'brats' (as they were often referred) that managed to avoid the dot com crash still face the Alternative Minimum Tax's burden as they hide in their parent's basements, their expensive homes and luxury cars long since repossessed.

But not all people of wealth are snobs, notwithstanding the best efforts of the class warfare crowd to demagogue those with any money as the embodiment of evil and the source of all the world's problems. A good measure of whether or not someone is a money snob is the amount of name-dropping involved. For example, if a friend informs you that while they were out shopping this past weekend they wound up buying a pair of shoes, you would not call them a snob. If they informed you that they went out to Neiman Marcus and bought a $600 pair of Ferragamo shoes (note both price and brand mentioned), that would be typical money snob behavior.

And before we move on we cannot forget the most recent money snob to take New York society headlines by storm, Lizzie Grubman. This is the haggish Hamptons socialite who backed a Mercedes SUV into a crowd of people after not getting her way and whining something about someone (other than her) being 'white trash.' Lest it not be mentioned elsewhere, child snobs, or adult children of wealthy parents whose lives are heavily, if not completely, subsidized, are some of the worst moneyed snobs. They are better termed brats, leeches whose only excuse for being so snitty is that someone else is funding their attitude (see college students below).

Intellectual snobs have no money, or if they do, it is not something with which they use as a means of being snobby. In fact, intellectual snobs are often socialists or communists. This is shown by what they tend to support, which oftentimes necessitates despising money or at least pretending to do so, even if they, or their parents who are sometimes paying for the lifestyle, have a lot of it.

Indeed, it could be successfully argued that the distinguishing characteristic of an intellectual snob is an embracement of such 'progressive' causes and specific remedies to cure them that habitually requires an end to capitalism and the American way of life. Look at how leftist politicians, environmentalists, peaceniks, feminists, gay activists, homeless and animal rights advocates, and on and on, condescendingly sneer at anyone not wholeheartedly embracing their various agendas. If you cannot see their vision for a better global society, then you deserve the disdain that you get.

Where do these people come from? Visit a college campus today and see what is going on there (not most of the professors, who tend to be culture snobs, to be discussed next.) No, the faux intellectual snobs, while including some professors and graduate students, are the teenage and early twenty something undergraduate students. These are the ones who are so brilliant as to be enlightened (indoctrinated) by the liberal orthodoxy taught at most schools today, but ironically not intelligent enough to realize that with all these rights that are demanded come corresponding responsibilities.

Probably from Europe's version of Harvard
Probably from Europe's version of Harvard

Look at the hooligans who just rioted at the G-8 Summit in Genoa, Italy. It is true that many Europeans participated in the mêlée that ensued. The poor unfortunate chap who was shot dead thinking the Italian police would allow him to hurl a large fire extinguisher at them unchallenged was Spanish. But there were also large contingents of Americans as well, completing their parentally funded summer tours of Europe with a little bit of last minute rioting before heading back to the yacht club. I supposed it is something to tell their unfortunate colleagues at the posh private schools in the fall who didn't get to hang out in Europe on mommy and daddy's credit card. Isn't it just amazing the number of rich white kids who travel the globe lamenting the capitalism that allows them their nice homes, their fancy cars, and the extensive travel that they enjoy so much? Are they that ignorant?

To answer the question, yes, they are; and they are because of this supposed superior intellect that has given them an enlightenment that most dolts like you and I don't have, protesting for a variety of inane causes (Free Mumia! Save the suckerfish! Stop global warming!). It is unfortunate, but their grasp of the issues, despite their strenuous arguments to the contrary, is rudimentary at best. They have no realistic idea, beyond their utopian pipe dreams, of the ramifications of the policies that they advocate. It is difficult to rationalize with them, because they immediately snobbishly dismiss any opposing arguments as inferior ones coming from intellectually substandard people.

The most rapidly rising class of snobs are the cultural/society snobs. These are people who go to symphonies, operas, wine tastings, foreign films, coffee houses and various other stylish venues not because they necessarily enjoy it, but because they like to be seen at such events, and they enjoy bragging about going to those who did not attend. On the flip side they also get pained looks on their faces when discussing amusement parks, NASCAR, public beaches, Wal-mart, chain restaurants and any other place where Grubman's 'white trash' might be hanging out. How déclassé.

They tend to congregate either in San Francisco or LA on the West Coast or New York, DC or Boston on the East Coast, as anywhere not attached to an ocean is 'flyover country.' They love the words 'diversity' and 'culture,' and often praise both lovingly just because it makes them look more sophisticated to be discussing such things.

Like the intellectual snobs, the cultural snobs are part of the 'hate America' crowd, albeit for different reasons. The intellectual snobs hate America because they are all socialists and communists looking to create some naïve workers paradise and destroy capitalism. Cultural snobs, on the other hand, hate America only because it looks better when they travel to Europe to put down other Americans, and to lament to anyone who will listen that France is better then America because it is more 'diverse' and has better 'culture.' Besides, who are snobbier, and therefore can appreciate the attitude, than the French?

Our last type of snob is the most tragic of the snobs, and that is the confused snob. The confused snob is just that. They are that way because they find themselves pigeonholed into one category while longing to be in another. Hollywood types and politicians are the most common types of confused snobs.

There are those celebrities in and out of Hollywood that are not content to be simply known as being rich and famous, tossing attitude around because of it. It is fun only for so long. No, they long to be taken seriously, to be something more than the characters that they portray.

This is why so many Hollywood types have attempted to become this type of snob. Anyone in Hollywood can be a celebrity or money snob. Look at Liz Taylor, with all that jewelry gaudily piled on, or Madonna, blue-collar girl from Detroit with the really atrocious fake British accent. They don't care about coming off as brilliant, just rich and glamorous. However, to really distinguish oneself from the rest of the other famous multimillionaires at the awards shows, one also has to come off as having a brain as well, and to have a brain, apparently, one has to also become a fill-in-the-blank activist.

There are so many of them out there as well. Take Martin Sheen, who since he plays a President on NBC once a week actually thinks that his input into world affairs is something noteworthy as he goes meandering from protest to protest. There is also hemp-loving-environmentalist-whacko Woody Harrelson, whose profile by Paper magazine senior editor Carlo McCormick was actually entitled, "Can Woody Harrelson really save the World?" Can you imagine that world? God help us. Then you have Jack Nicholson in Moscow recently hanging out with Soviet President Vladimir Putin, who, according to a Reuters story, "wanted to ask Putin how he planned to improve living conditions in Russia." Is he kidding? Is that the best he could do? Could he not have picked up the phone and called Martin Sheen for a more noteworthy cause before leaving the country? While we certainly don't want to forget the long list of celebrities who enjoy testifying before Congress on their pet issues either, we must continue on.

Musicians are also exceptionally prone to this sort of behavior. There are those, such as Barbra Streisand, who likes to sit around and preach her political beliefs on a stage paid for by patrons interested in a concert, not a Democratic rally. Bette Midler has also been known to do this. Barbra is also one who enjoys pontificating her thoughts on public policy to politicians who are only interested in being seen with a celebrity and campaign contributions, not what dribble comes out of her mouth. The tragedy is that she hasn't clued into that fact just yet.

But there are other musicians, such as Jewel, any 'grunge' band out of the Northwest or Bono of U2, to name a few, whose claim to intellectual snobbishness is tied directly to the lyrics they write as they try to push their own version of 'justice' and social commentary through those works. Remember the fad in the 80's of large gatherings of singers for social causes, such as "We are the World," and "Do they know it's Christmas?" Remember the videos shown on MTV, with all of them standing around with this look of smug superiority? That is (faux) intellectual snobbishness personified.

But Hollywood types aren't alone in this sort of confused behavior. While they often try to be intellectual snobs and involve themselves in politics, there are politicians who also mistakenly think that they are celebrity snobs. John McCain would be a good example of such. Poor Mr. McCain, since hitting his high point in winning the New Hampshire primary last year has thought himself quite the cult of personality. As of late he has spent far more time playing off his celebrity status than his role as politician or Vietnam prisoner of war. Even Hillary, the consummate intellectual snob behind the scenes, becomes something of a celebrity snob when appearing in (staged) public events with throngs of (bussed in) people cheering, Rosie O'Donnell gushing in the background.

A snob is defined as "one who affects an offensive air of self-satisfied superiority in matters of taste or intellect." The underlying commonality between all the aforementioned categories of snobs is shallowness coupled with a consummate insecurity, the need to constantly belittle others in a myriad of ways to make one feel better about oneself.

It is often stated that the measure of a person's character or class is how they treat those who either are beneath them in a social situation, like a person in the service industry, or those from which they can derive nothing. People of class, of character, treat everyone equally, not based on fame, wealth, intellect, social standing or the pretence of such.

In essence, that is what being a snob is all about, a lack of class. Lizzie Grubman, despite all of daddy's money, couldn't buy an ounce of dignity, not that she probably tried. Ironically it was dear Lizzie that wound up acting the part of the 'white trash' in the mess the little brat created, despite her snobbishness of coming from a family with a lot of money. That Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston are a famous couple is one thing. They are. But how classless, let alone obnoxious, is it to have to announce it to everyone?

The very idea of living one's life in a constant state of superficial comparisons with others to prop up one's frail self-esteem seems to the more secure casual observer to be somewhat ridiculous. While that may be so, it is the Duh and Igno approach to prove to the world, and to themselves, a reason for self-worth. It is at best highly immature, but don't expect those who stumble through life acting this way to easily surrender the pretense of their own importance in society. For all the ridicule that snobs rightly deserve, apparently it is better to be known as a snob than a Duh.

Gregory J. Hand is currently a weekly columnist with NewsCorridor.com, and a contributing columnist with OpinioNet.com. He can be reached at ghand@newscorridor.com.




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