Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Nancy McClernan vs. the Radical Chic Part 1

When I was growing up I assumed, like most Americans, I was a member of the "middle class".  This wasn't exactly based on incisive socio-economic analysis. Most Americans figure you're either poor - and live in a ghetto or Appalachia  which makes you "lower class" - or rich and own a mansion and yacht like Elmer J. Fudd, millionaire which makes you "upper class" - everybody else is middle class. I wasn't aware of the term "working class" until at least high school, much less proletariat or bourgeoisie.

But my family was definitely working class. My great-great grandfather was a rank and file soldier in the Civil War (Union of course!), who left his family destitute thanks to his alcoholism. My maternal grandfather was a leader of the Philadelphia Teamsters, which is pretty much as working class as you could get - but my grandmother (whose grandfather was the Civil War soldier) made him quit because the socializing he did as part of his job (he hung out with Jimmy Hoffa) made him drink too much for her liking.

My paternal grandfather owned a cafe on the Philadelphia riverfront and then became, I believe, a bus driver but I'm not actually clear on that. My father worked in customer service for several industrial climate control companies, and I guess because it was white collar I didn't think of it as working class. My mother was a secretary. The father of my best friend Laura was an ironworker.

So yeah, my family was working class. And as a college drop-out (my scholarship was only for one year) and single mother I remained working class until an early adoption of desktop publishing led me to technical writing and web development. Now I'm a Vice President in corporate America and have no guilt.

So I have to laugh at people like Liza Featherstone, who said this of Paul Krugman:

When either Katha Pollitt or Paul Krugman are attacked by lesser minds - which is pretty much all other minds - it really pushes my berserk button. And I already despised Featherstone for her attacks on Hillary Clinton and other feminists.

According to Wikipedia, Featherstone:
...graduated from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism in 2008. Featherstone was a Knight-Bagehot Fellow in Business and Economics Journalism at Columbia for 2007-08[1] and an adjunct professor at the City University of New York. Since 2009, she is an adjunct professor at the Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute at New York University and, since 2008, an adjunct professor at the Joseph S. Murphy Institute of Labor Studies.
So in other words her entire career has been as an academic and journalist - she comes from exactly the same social class as Krugman. And then there's her husband Doug Henwood who writes Left Business Observer and appears to believe he's qualified to opine on Hillary Clinton's aspirations among other political subjects on the basis of his BA in English from Yale. And then there's Featherstone's and Henwood's employer at the Nation, Katrina vanden Heuvel who is an heiress.

I don't hold it against any of them that they are not working class. I certainly don't feel their opinions should automatically be discounted as Featherstone does to Krugman. And there are plenty of right-wing capitalism-loving assholes among the working class - I doubt that Liza Featherstone has socialized much with people from the working class though, so like radical chic types generally she probably romanticizes them as variations on Bruce Springsteen or something.

It's the self-congratulatory radical-chic hypocrisy of Liza Featherstone that astounds me. Perhaps she believes that because she writes about Labor it makes her an honorary member of the working class.

It's the same radical-chic delusion that has these lefties attacking Sheryl Sandberg for daring to write a book encouraging women to be more assertive in their careers. And of course they admire Liza Featherstone for attacking feminists who are not suitably radical chic.

So who is Verso Books?  I will address that in Part 2