Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Above the Fray

Following up on Chris's post yesterday, this is long an issue I've found fascinating. Lots of people imagine themselves to be, somehow, above the fray. The most obvious group which does this is journalists and their brethren. They fail to see themselves as actors on the political stage, instead of detached observers. This doesn't simply apply to "straight" journalists, but to most commentators who come from that world (I think most conservative pundits fully understand that they are actors, so it's more liberals who feel the need to cling to this notion). It's pretty weird to achieve a position of prominence in our public discourse, a platform from which you can communicate information and persuade, and yet still somehow see your words as irrelevant.

I've also seen it in academics, who for all their supposed liberalness, to a great degree really see themselves outside of this grand messy business called politics. It's dirty, somehow.

You see it in technocrats, who too often devise their magical pony plans without considering the need to understand the broader context.

From what people say, you see it in a lot of liberal donors/institutions, who somehow like to see what they do as operating outside of politics.

And, generally, you see it in a lot of "smart" people who imagine their political opinions are arrived it from some pure intellectual calculation, when more often than not they're just repeating what they read in Maureen Dowd's last column.

Not all of these things are exactly the same thing. Some involve peoples' need to feel intellectually independent, some a kind of arrogance, some just a lack of self awareness. But they're all part of, somehow, this "thing" which I've tried to get a handle on for quite some time - a general phenomenon where people somehow see themselves as outside of the pool of muck that others are swimming in.