Four years have passed since Team Trump and his charmed Republican submissives decided to mimic his pretended anti-elitism by using “elite” to refer to educated friends of the working class.
Class resentment is real—a real force of good. Could the actual elite turn that resentment against the few political allies that America labor has and trick them into voting for their own continued abasement? Could semantic reassignment marketing decree that pro-labor politicians are “elite” just by speaking and pointing? Could a Republican PR professional simply say Goddamn elites! in a scowling southern drawl and successfully make pro-labor policies like better wages, healthcare for non-congresspeople, potable water, and workplace safety look elitist? Is it really that simple?
Goddamn elites, think they can tax the 1% to provide shelter, medicine, and food stamps for the unemployed.
That sounds crazy. Let’s tweak it a bit:
Goddamn elites, think they can tax our white 1% to provide shelter, medicine, and food stamps for them niggers.
That was the plan. It was first dished out by Palin and then mastered by Trump. It is
The strategy now has an official name in academia. It was coined by Rick Roderick in the early 1990s. He called it the redneck imitation-based GOP image reversal experiment, or RIBGIRE. Its essential method is what we have just been talking about. Rich kids who only majored in business and never had any real friends enjoy the fruits of their class position … and become self-conscious representatives of the class that has empowered them. They avoid all liberal arts training, are empathically stunted, and decide to become politicians or think-tankers or lobbyists or in some way serve the masters that have established the institutions that reproduce their advantage. That is, they go into advertising and learn how to engineer desire and self-concept. They learn the art of inception, or ideology: of how to imprint belief and desire in humans to produce a favorable outcome. With this power, you can lead people to act against their own best interests and even fight for the planners who have immiserated them.
The RIBGIRE strategy is simple. It has the logical form of a disjunctive syllogism:
- Act angry to create affinity with angry redneck viewers.
- Act angry at the economic elite—those who do not have to work to survive. Those who “own” rather than work. The ones who buy politicians and policies that help me. The ones who use us and laugh in our faces.
- There are two parts in this evocative image: the using and the laughing. The Republican RIBGIRE strategy is simply to ignore the use part (political economy) and harp on the laughing part.
- The real definition of elite (elite-A) is class, which means money and power. But there are secondary things that come with class, such as personality and education (elite-B). People who are smart and polite and rich come off as insulting.
- All you have to do now is find people who are pro-labor but who are also educated and well-travelled (liberal). They are “cultural elites.”
- Now, the GOP is barking loudly about how they hate these smart and cultured liberals (elite-B).
- If the GOP is anti-elite-B, they must be pro-labor.
- The party of capital is actually the party of labor.
- Therefore, the GOP functionaries of the economic elite are undercover pro-working class progressives, but only came out of the closet recently with the IRE posturing.
[The bad premise is (7).]
How far can the fiat-based reality-creation power of pure marketing go? Could such semantic marketing re-brand the party of social welfare, humane treatment of humans, race and gender equality, police abuse oversight, healthcare, empirical science, and critical thinking become “the party of elites” overnight by the power of mere name calling?
Perhaps the GOP mind makers imagined that the NASCAR cohort would react like this:
Hey Tess? The billionaires and their millionaire talking heads on Fox News have just switched sides. Seriously. They were just now getting really nasty about the elites! Did you hear me? The political and economic elite actually hate the elite and are on our side. Good. I hate those fucking educated bastards. Thinking they’re better’n everyone else. Giving our tax money to help the niggers and the goddamn Mexicans.
It seems to have worked. The parasite class that lives off the misery of the white workers got their victims to cheer for them. How did this happen?
The code theory
The term “elite” must be rendered plastic, but not entirely so. Part of it changes—having money and power is replaced by having education. The part that stays the same is just the inference from negation: the enemy of the “elite” must be the common man’s allies.
The actual elite used “elite” while pointing at the anti-elite and waited to see if anyone in the working class would buy it. Politicians who push for pro-labor and pro-decency policies are elite because that’s a smarty-pants idea, isn’t it? Improving things? When life is tough, you don’t want to see a smartypants savior stepping in to help you. (Who does he think he is?) When life is tough, you want to see racial minorities, or some other easy-to-otherize group, get hammered. But these educated folks want to help the damn darkies.
Helping labor is good, but helping labor and blacks is bad. So bad, that I would rather be hurt as long as I get to enjoy the Schadenfreude of knowing that cops are still shooting blacks for fun and Latinos get arrested.
You’d think that difference in actual policies would mean something. Shouldn’t reality be the litmus for determining elitism?
No. Class has to be sidestepped—sidestepped and replaced. Race. Language. Religion. Fake differences. Elites don’t promote social welfare in general, but only for the wetbacks and niggers. Elites oppress the “white” in poor white workers. It is white, not worker, that is stressed. The class that gains the most from cheap labor makes anti-immigration noises even as they hire as many Mexicans as they can. Like Trump! But his
victims supporters don’t care. His “support the blue line” (I know that you guys suffer, so I’m gonna support police brutality) and “build the wall” (I’ll say I hate cheap Mexican labor and add some fake crime talk) talk stands out because it is immediately gratifying.
Who are the elite?
Elite originally meant a small group of rich, powerful, upper class, well-connected, system-supported, and system-dominating “players.” There really are such people. The ultimate example of the Elite is the dictator: someone who implements police and military power for self-gain and profit with legal immunity. Dick Cheney, for example, is a member of the Elite.
So the word is full of aversive intent. Can it be detached from its original basis of imputation and applied to its opposite, the social-welfare minded? That would be an example of extreme alchemy.
Well, people with the fascism gene, who tend towards unconditional promotion of authority, e.g., Trump
victims supporters, will buy any semantic reassignment. Trump’s tax break for the (actual) elite and destruction of social programs hurts white workers—that is, it “help” them. Trump’s intentional downplaying of the COVID plague is killing thousands for no good reason—that is, it is “working.” Trump’s elimination of Obamacare is gonna increase sickness and death among white workers—that is, it will “insure” them. And people with a decent education or upbringing tend to promote food and shelter for the unemployed—that is, they are “elite.”
It seems that the current Fox/Republican inversion of “elite” is just another day at Trump’s Opposite Day Office of lies. But there is a reason that Hannity and Carlson (mis)use the term so much, and why their power-worshipping cohorts parrot them, and now even Mitch McConnell and Lindsay Graham use the word in the inverted way without cracking up.
Where, in reality, is this equivocation finding traction? The original “elite” just means “ruling class.” The new “elite” means “educated and pro-social.” Might these two uses actually share some commonality? Yes: education.
Class position and class consciousness are the original and essential basis. An accident of being rich is being educated. And sometimes the rich, when truly educated, also increase their ethical intelligence and not extract too much value from workers, and at least provide food, housing, health care, and education. That decency dawns on anyone who don Rawls’ veil of ignorance. It is hard to get an education and not want to improve quality of life for humans. Even sorority girls have to drive through the ghetto sometimes. Lowering crime benefits everyone.
Enter Orwell. Let “the elite” now mean anyone with an education who wants to do this. Yes, socialists and educated people generally tend to come from familie that can afford to pay for education.
That correlation, between wealth and education, is all you need to “rebrand” the term. And so that is what Trump has done, now casting the Republicans as the friends of the antisocial (uneducated) poor. That’s why the antisocial or Republican elite love Trump. He let the party of the ruling class act like klansmen again, and poor rednecks love that.
Observation: Rednecks are more about vibe and energy and personality than policy. Educated people, however, only care about policy.
Puzzle: The poor in northern Europe vote for policy, rather than brand image. Why, then, are Americans so dumb?
Solution: Marketing. Americans are so marketing saturated that they think like ideal marks, ideal marketing victims. The smile, the look, … the vibe in that car or mop commercial is everything. That snarl from Nancy Grace, that a priori hatred and always scoffing facial tension of Tucker Carlson’s forehead, … the judgment of my proxy is what matters. My emotion has a proxy, has a political existence in this fake nominally representational democracy. A redneck feels Trump’s denigrating racism and love of violence towards darkies. That, the promised gratification of Schadenfreude, trumps policy in America because reality for us just is marketing. Data is an accessory. It is the overall messaging and my reader response that is real. Sensationalism. When marketing saturates culture, the chemical stew conjured by fantasies is the value of the object. It is the language and ideation of “pet” that makes a Pet Rock into a really fun pet.
Placebos are very powerful.
American culture is placebo culture. But our placebos are made by the universal trumping force of capital, its intrinsic dynamical nature is the organizing DNA of culture, all the way down to spontaneous desire and self-concept. Humans listen to commercials 18 hours a day. Braggy seduction is just the clay of existence. I will vote for a robot even if he admits that he was designed to destroy humanity, even if he has I KILL YOU printed on his forehead, if the robot smells like apple pie and complains about welfare exploiting blacks. All the robot designers have to due is hire a marketing team to find out what to spray him with, what southern accent to give him, and people who have been seeing objects through sales pitches all their lives will vote for him. Things are the stories that sell them. Their real natures and actual mechanical action on the world, and real measurable effects—none of this matters.
When Trump says “Punch the nigger!” that is a bigger win for the NASCAR class than free healthcare.
You see, information about “things” and “the world” is received. Info comes from outside–in. Well, it just so happens that marketing, or story-telling, is also a flow of information from outside–in. How easy it is to substitute a HDTV screen for a window. You still get things! Nature and being still comes! But now, there is a god-like engineer making the things, which also sing of their value, and have women that you can see sucking them. I mean, you just see this like it’s happing on the other side of the window.