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The Elite Media View America

Wednesday, 20 February 2002 12:00 AM

Think of it. He's never watched "Sex and the City" – probably doesn't even know what it is. He eats cheese doodles and watches football games lying on a couch.

Chances are he doesn't have the vaguest idea which wines one drinks with which entrees and has never habituated a Starbucks coffee house or one of Lizzie Grubman's favorite Southampton gin mills.

And, horror of horrors, his favorite actor is Chuck Norris.

This is the view of our president that New York Times reporter Frank Bruni reportedly presents in his forthcoming book, "Ambling into History."

Bruni, regarded as the most unashamedly pro-Bush of all White House correspondents, appears to see Mr. Bush as an admirable human being, even if somewhat plebeian in his tastes and attitudes – a notable flaw in his otherwise praiseworthy character, in the eyes of Manhattan's or L.A.'s self-appointed elites.

Now, Mr. Bruni himself may exhibit strong enough character to approach the subject of his book – a pariah in the eyes of his fellow journalists – in an honest and straightforward manner, but he betrays the thoroughly unpleasant characteristic so common among the more celebrated mainstream media journalists – an insufferable elitism.

Who the hell cares whether Mr. Bush fails to measure up to the debased standards of upper-crust media elites? Must we go into a swoon when we learn that the president of the United States is given to munching cheese doodles while watching football? Who gives a tinker's dam if he prefers bare-knuckled actors to such liberal idols as Martin Sheen?

Who, that is, other than our self-appointed media elite, not one of whom would have ever gained admittance to the salons of the 19th century's elitist Four Hundred, who at least had a generous supply of good taste in choosing the sort of people with whom they wished to associate.

This media super-snobbishness is always there, but in the case of Bruni's book, and in an article in the current Atlantic Monthly, it comes into full – and nauseating – view.

And, in the case of writer David Brooks' Atlantic Monthly piece on the so-called Red America – that huge and dominant chunk of America portrayed in red as having ... gasp ... voted for George W. Bush, it, unfortunately for Mr. Brooks, also came into the view of one Blake Hurst, a Missouri farmer, superb writer and proud resident of Red America.

In a lengthy – and hilarious – article in The American Enterprise magazine, Mr. Hurst skewers David Brooks' insufferable elitism as displayed in his look at an America neither he nor his fellow snobs pretend to understand.

Get that. "More sophisticated and cosmopolitan." I bet that means they are riveted to the TV screens watching every sleazy episode of "Sex and the City," groveling at the feet of Martin Sheen and Barbra Streisand, and disdaining lying on the couch on a Sunday afternoon, nibbling on cheese snacks while watching football on television.

To get some idea of how the other 90 percent of America lives, Mr. Brooks put on his safari jacket and pith helmet and went on an expedition to an area of Red America – Franklin County, Pa. – where a majority of the population of 121,000 showed the poor taste of supporting Mr. Bush against Mr. Gore, elitist America's anointed one.

As a result of his expedition into darkest Pennsylvania, Mr. Brooks, in the words of Blake Hurst, "courageously trekked to Middle America, studied the natives there and reported back to readers of The Atlantic Monthly, one of the nation's toniest opinion magazines. He reports that out here in Red America (as the last election maps dubbed George Bush country) we're dumber, poorer, fatter and less well dressed than those in Blue America (the parts of the country that voted for Al Gore). At least, his data show, our wives have more orgasms."

Mr. Hurst comments on the fact that, while Blue America, that liberal sinkhole that held Mr. Gore in such high esteem as to vote for him, doesn't know beans about Red America or even cares to know, Red America is well enough informed about Blue America.

"A certain arrogance explains the lack of reciprocal interest," Mr. Hurst wrote. "It seems that Blue Americans just can't imagine that the rest of the country isn't downright envious of the way they think, or dress, or spend their days. The differences between the two parts of the country can no longer be assigned to the provincialism of Middle Americans. The deregulation of airlines and communications, the interstate highway system and mail order have guaranteed that our exposure to coastal life is easy and cheap. Red America is peppered with satellite dishes, Internet connections and book-club memberships. In fact, these links may well be responsible for accentuating the nation's cultural divide. From the Playboy Channel to Johnnie Cochran to nonstop news about Monica, we get a bellyful of Blue America whether we want to or not. "

Hurst comments on Brooks' use of statistics to prove the shocking fact, to them, that only 53 percent of conservatives call themselves intellectuals while "75% of self-identified liberals do. In the Red America I know, humility is a cardinal virtue, and most of us wouldn't be caught dead calling ourselves intellectuals, though we do often identify ourselves as conservative," adds Hurst.

Hurst remarks that one of the biggest differences between Red and Blue America, aside from Blue America’s scornful disdain for Red America’s deep religious faith, is how Red America looks at the military. Noting that Red Americas volunteer for military service at "radically divergent rates" he quotes historian Victor Davis Hanson as writing:

"The vast majority of those who fought in Vietnam as frontline combat troops – two thirds of whom were not drafted but volunteered – were disproportionately lower-income whites from southern and rural states. These were young men of a vastly different socioeconomic cosmos from the largely middle- and upper-class journalists who misrepresented them, the antiwar activists and academics who castigated them, and the generals of the military high command who led them so poorly."

Hurst concludes with this parting shot: "The prayer list at my small Southern Baptist church is currently full of families with loved ones deployed to the Middle East or Central Asia. I wonder how many churches in Bethesda are similarly occupied. Every small town I travel through in my region has a monument in the city square, or a plaque at the city park, listing those who were lost in each of America's wars. The rosters run on and on. Red America may be deficient in producing poets and advertising men, but the guy who used to sell me gas was a paratrooper on D-Day, and I spent an interesting hour at my wedding reception with two close relatives, on different sides of the family, discussing their tours of duty in Korea.

"Red America is never redder than on our bloodiest battlefields. We may be thought of as hick cousins, we will always be caricatured for our faith in God, our children's accomplishments will probably be discounted by the most prestigious colleges, and Hollywood and Manhattan will always draw their rubes and villains in our clothes. But Red America didn't have to relearn patriotism after Sept. 11. Selfless sacrifice is still an honored tradition in our communities, whether it takes place on the nation's battlefields or at home in the nursery.

"Mr. Brooks ends by ... wondering whether Americans will stay the course in the war against terrorism. After 10 pages of patronizing my neighbors and me, it's interesting that he's not worried a bit about Red America's response to the terrorist threat. Instead, he frets over the ability of his Blue neighbors to find the sturdiness required to win the war. So on the most important question to face our nation in decades, the gut instincts of middle America are, despite our SAT scores, the right ones," Hurst declares.

There was time when journalism was seen as the last refuge of cynical malcontents, drunks and philanderers – a crew of disreputable ink-stained wretches unsuited for any useful occupational pursuits.

I think the nation was better off when it was they to whom America turned for the news. At least they were a manly sort, utterly devoted to heterosexual activity, who fully understood who and what they were. And their reporting reflected that.

And because of that self-knowledge there wasn't an elitist among them.

Phil Brennan is a veteran journalist who writes for NewsMax.com. He is editor & publisher of Wednesday on the Web (http://www.pvbr.com) and was Washington columnist for National Review magazine in the 1960s. He also served as a staff aide for the House Republican Policy Committee and helped handle the Washington public relations operation for the Alaska Statehood Committee which won statehood for Alaska. He is also a trustee of the Lincoln Heritage Institute.

He can be reached at

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Think of it. He's never watched Sex and the City - probably doesn't even know what it is. He eats cheese doodles and watches football games lying on a couch. Chances are he doesn't have the vaguest idea which wines one drinks with which entrees and has never habituated...
Wednesday, 20 February 2002 12:00 AM
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