Day By Day

Monday, January 19, 2009


One of the more interesting quotes to surface in recent days was Debra J. Saunders' admission that for many in the MSM, "To trash Bush was to belong." [here]

Think about that for a second -- bashing Bush was a mark of admission to and acceptance within the journalistic fraternity. To defend Bush or to fail to trash him would be to invite exclusion from your peers.

On one level this is simply peer pressure operating and it is horrifying to contemplate the implications of such group think in an institution so important to the functioning of democracy as the press, but it might also be seen as a manifestation of an even more troubling development -- the tribalization of America.

This is not in itself a new subject -- historians and social scientists have long been describing and denouncing the fragmentation of American culture. But for the most part their concern has been the persistence and salience of ethno-cultural divisions that, for many of them, were to blame for the failure of Americans to develop a European-style class consciousness.

More recently there has been much anguished commentary on the subject of "culture wars" that plague our political system as opportunistic politicians and consultants exploit "wedge issues" that can reliably pit constituencies one against another.

Finally, there has been a dawning recognition that the "meritocratic" mechanisms instituted in the middle decades of the Twentieth Century are today being manipulated to perpetuate an increasingly closed credentialed technocratic elite whose values and beliefs stand in sharp contrast to those of most Americans. This realization has begun to spark a reappreciation of an old Marxist concept -- the "New Class" especially the reconfiguration of that idea by Canadian economist and Kennedy advisor, John Kenneth Galbraith [here] and [here].

These sources of fragmentation -- political, functional, class-based, regional, ethnic, religious, and the like, seem to be hardening into relatively impervious group identities that might be described as "tribes". This, at least, is the conceit that informs one of the more interesting blogs I have recently encountered. Check out the "assistant village idiot", a New Hampshireman who has had some interesting observations of the phenomenon. Check out his musings on the subject here.