Thursday, July 2, 2009

Intellectual Snob and Political Correctness

The latest post on theintellectualsnob.blogspot.com reveals the 'truth', that whoever and whatever the writer claims to be, she isn't.

She isn't the Yale and Havard alumnus. I'm not too sure if she was from Raffles Girls Secondary and Hwa Chong Junior College. It's pretty odd that my wife came from all the schools mentioned except for Havard, so I didn't know whether to take her seriously when she said she could be the one behind Intellectual Snob. Shucks, right? It'll be a nice Mr and Mrs Smith scenario, minus the guns and explosions.

Intellectual Snob now claims to be an NTU undergraduate in this latest admission.

What interests me greatly is the truckloads of reactions her posts have attracted. Many of them border on flaming, aimed at criticising and accusing the blogger of "elitism".

"Elitism" is the new witch, let's burn her!

It is highly ironic, amidst the angry mob of critiques, that what I see as a very dramatic and well performed role-playing/make-belief has provided all of us with a parody of elitism.

Most of us are exposed, in this instance, to be over-sensitive towards any brand and manifestation of elitism, even if it were impersonated by non-"elite".

Intellectual Snob, on hindsight and based on the latest revelations (assuming they are true), has given us the most fundamental lesson on information and personalities in the realm of cyberspace - don't believe everything. But we believed her, her posts and her biodata.

We are taken away into her fantasy world. It is not wrong to fantasise, by the way. I could fantasise that I have Dutch blood and all that, like a certain Dawn Yang/Yeo, and that is cool, because that is fantasy.

I think what Intellectual Snob has done is a class act. She has assumed the position of the popularly despised, by gloating her "credentials", "background" and even giving herself a monicker "Intellectual Snob". Why didn't I even see this in the beginning? The language and derogatory signifiers that she has used are so condescending, and too "good" to be true.

Her persona is a non-elite caricature of an elite. It represents what most of us dislike about elitism.

This saga exposes the extent to which we are so sensitive and so ready to stamp out or sweep under the carpet any hints of elitism. I believe it appears that our sense of political correctness favours the lower-to-middle classes, i.e. most of us feel a rich man insulting a poor man is more morally wrong than the other way around.

It is as if the traditionally oppressed (by socio-economic class, in this case) presumably speaks the greater truth.

Whether this is intended or unintended, I think Intellectual Snob is amazing. She wears the skin of the monster we hate, and in the process exposes most of us as monsters ourselves, exposes most of us as blinkered proponents of a certain brand of political correctness, a certain set of discourses that collectively villainises upper class extravagance, despite most of us harbouring dreams of upward social mobility.

In the end, as much as I do not want to say this, we are our own George Lim Heng Chye. I am saying this with a straight face. We all have a moral position, and most of us are part of a moral discourse that valorises a certain type of poltical correctness that we view to be the most legitimate, so much so we share a common perception (although often critically stereotypical) of the constitution of victimhood and villainy.

The creation of elitism comes with the celebration of the socio-economic and "life chance" underdog, but its moral discourse creates the invisible underdog that are the "elites", a term that has steadily acquired negative connotations. The "elites" (to use it neturally) are the moral underdogs.

Perhaps it is the status frustration of some of us as we wield our pitchforks and torches and chastise (or disparage) elitism. Ironically, there are some among us to desire to be in the privileged positions the "elites" enjoy. We are monsters, aren't we?

Intellectual Snob may be intellectual, may be a snob, or she may be neither, but I believe she has given us something to reflect on, if we can even see beyond our own biases to grasp it.

I believe it is time to start questioning the moral inclinations and political orientations of what we understand as "political correctness". As we unwittingly (or not) champion this common brand of political correctness on a daily basis with our attitudes and behaviours, are we not being elite and snobbish ourselves for claiming to be part of what is "right" or "true"?

-add-

I think I should create a blog and post as a highly homophobic bigoted Christian fundamentalist and use all the rhetoric that their critics find to be unreasonable and self-righteous.

This saga really exposes another brand of intolerance we have not yet come to recognise, or probably never will.

I don't know how to put it in words, but I think about subjectivity and discourse when I learnt about Intellectual Snob's recent admission. A non-(elite)member becomes a member, and in the process becomes the "outsider" of her own "community", who proceeds to earn the hatred of her own "community".

(Although unrelated...) The Good Woman of Setzuan, any one?

15 comments:

shonendumm said...

tv mobile quote, "a free society is one where it is safe to be unpopular."

Sam Ho said...

thanks. very deep!

yes, tv mobile has a lot of interesting "life's tips" and "words of wisdom". but the visuals are totally unrelated haha.

Lim Leng Hiong said...

"The creation of elitism comes with the celebration of the socio-economic and "life chance" underdog, but its moral discourse creates the invisible underdog that are the "elites", a term that has steadily acquired negative connotations. The "elites" (to use it neturally) are the moral underdogs."

The meaning of the term "elite" has become a bit garbled. In Singapore it has always carried the negative connotation of "inner circle" and "ruling class".

I hope you are not saying that the act of criticizing elitism turns the critic an "elite" because in light of the Singaporean context of "elite" that doesn't make any sense.

For example,

Mr. A: "Sir, if you are not going to give me a single cent, then I accept. I am already sick and unemployable, why must you keep scolding me that I am incompetent and complacent? That isn't helpful."

Mr. B: "Are you criticizing me? That makes me the moral underdog and YOU the elite! YOU are an elitist snob!"

Mr. A: Nice try, sir.

"I think I should create a blog and post as a highly homophobic bigoted Christian fundamentalist and use all the rhetoric that their critics find to be unreasonable and self-righteous."

Someone has been there and done that, I'm afraid.

I suspect he is a Poe, and the problem is a very good Poe won't have any friends.

Do double agents have any friends?

Sam Ho said...

i guess we generally don't appreciate parodies, especially if the parodies were critical of our personal experiences and beliefs system.

i'm concerned with the 'holier/mightier than thou' traits of elitism, and as well as criticism of elitism.

elitism may derive from a position socio-economic and material privilege.

however, i notice that the criticism of elitism holds considerable amount of 'moral privilege'. as in, the oppressed and underprivileged are assumed to speak more 'truth'.

i'm looking at "elite" and "elitism" as a metaphor, as containing traits that its critics also share.

i also want to point out that certain actions and positions have acquired moral meanings/connotations. for instance, we find it permissible to criticise rich people for flaunting their wealth, more so than poor people with their lesser privileges. we attach 'good' and 'bad' labels to certain discourses and positions.

overall, i see the whole issue of elitism and reactions towards it, as a highly moralised saga. it's a moral battle versus a socio-economic and attitudinal battle.

Molly Meek said...

It did occur to me that the blog could be parodic, given that the persona didn't seem to be as self-conscious to call herself a snob. I wouldn't say that the parody was very well-executed though. Between slamming her "elitism" and showing/praising how she has successfully proven "frogs" to be stupid and narrow-minded, we cannot forget the main problem, which is that the person seems to suffer from what s/he calls elite envy. Sure, s/he probably has something against the elite she portrayed herself to be. But what is disturbing is that she won't have any issues if she becomes one of them.

Of course, although s/he now claims that the original persona is not authentic, do we know that the shift is real now? After all, she could very well close the blog or delete the entries/change the profile. So I'm just commenting based on the latest revelation. Maybe a few days later, s/he will reveal herself not to be envious, but simply making fun of the inadequate ones who feel envious.

Sam Ho said...

very interesting. i think i can live with that. it is entertainment, and it is opinion, nevertheless.

i have elite envy by the way. i want lots of material wealth and economic/commercial opportunities to start out with.

it's about subjectivity too, and it isn't easy to see from outside your position without having to discard the values significant of that position.

i kind of enjoyed some posts though. don't know why. maybe it's the lure of blatant political incorrectness?

Lim Leng Hiong said...

To Sam:

"i'm looking at "elite" and "elitism" as a metaphor, as containing traits that its critics also share."

I disagree with your use of "elite" here - if it's about in-group snobbery why not just call it "in-group snobbery"? If it's socio-economic privilege just call it "socio-economic privilege". The term "elite" has been so butchered that it is becoming a meaningless label.

I prefer a direct, clear channel of communications. That may make me a clear-communications snob but definitely not a clear-communications "elite".

To Molly:

"Of course, although s/he now claims that the original persona is not authentic, do we know that the shift is real now? After all, she could very well close the blog or delete the entries/change the profile. So I'm just commenting based on the latest revelation. Maybe a few days later, s/he will reveal herself not to be envious, but simply making fun of the inadequate ones who feel envious."

Yes, that's the problem - it's not easy to do an effective parody, and a botched attempt will cause the trust of the audience to evaporate, and create a wide spectrum of enemies.

It can easily degrade into "Oh I was only pretending to be this/saying this so as to trick you into saying that..." kind of pointless bickering.

Molly Meek said...

The blog is thoroughly enjoyable not necessarily for any intrinsic value in the writing but it's immensely interesting as a cultural text, especially when we take the comments posted by readers into consideration.

Sam Ho said...

nah, you don't have to agree with my interpretation haha.

i just only wanted to share mine.

to me, to be elite in a way is to be privileged, relative to others. in that sense, there are identity markers that can be used as a basis for comparison.

for example, "moral elite", "social elite" and "intellectual elite" and so on. and elitism has nothing to do with preference, unless your set of preferences gains you some significant form of advantage and privilege over another.

and having a different reasoning doesn't make one an elite, unless it has, to stretch it, some implications on whether it'll put you in a position of privilege.

that said, the social elite may not necessarily be the moral elite.

Lim Leng Hiong said...

Ok, I see your views :)

I should mention that I went over to read her blog and didn't enjoy any of her posts there.

As for the commenters, I see many angry anons arguing with each other ad nauseum using labels like "frog" and "elite".

Why is all this interesting again? Maybe this is some personality-dependent thing (I'm more towards introvert), because I really don't get it.

The Void Deck said...

The blog is great parody and from the reactions, also great comedy. Why and how people took the blogger's claims at face value just shows how much people want to selectively believe what they read in the net.

Recruit Ong said...

lim peh is recruit ong, u really believe i still recruit ah??? hahaha


She wears the skin of the monster we hate, and in the process exposes most of us as monsters ourselves,

eh brother, to despise elitism is not being monsters hor.. u seem to equate --> 'despise' = "monster'
wrong liao lor..

In the end, as much as I do not want to say this, we are our own George Lim Heng Chye. I am saying this with a straight face.

wah piang oi!!! sorrie lor, homophobic George despise gays, whereas i despise ppl like financial fraudsters like greedy bankers or ppl like Madoff.. u tell me am i a monster? hahaha

Sam Ho said...

your interpretation wrong liao.

monster here = people wanting to claim superiority (moral, or discursive).

and to be like george is to be righteous at the expense of other people's views (something we do most of the time any way).

kwayteowman said...

Sam,

I think I should create a blog and post as a highly homophobic bigoted Christian fundamentalist and use all the rhetoric that their critics find to be unreasonable and self-righteous.

The KTM doubts you can pull it off. The KTM has been reading and analyzing blogs a long time. Haven't really been writing 'cos he's actually got a real job and bigger fish to fry.

But anyhow, this is what the KTM has learnt: the only way to write a blog well is to exercise one's "inner voice". This makes the blog sincere and will allow you to connect with your readers. If you are trying to pretend to be something you are not, it will be extremely difficult for you to write like you presently do. You can try just for kicks and check if the KTM's theory is correct. :-P

IS is actually very articulate and highly intelligent, but she definitely has issues.

The KTM does not believe that she's doing a parody like Molly Meek. Even if she is, she almost certainly must have this sense of superior (thing against "frogs"). Very hard to be so articulate in expressing an idea unless it's something that one truly believes.

IS actually does write very well (reference to form, not content). Very rare to see such eloquence in local blogs. :-)

Since the KTM is here, he will also give you his two cents on elitism. Elite has a dictionary meaning, which refers to a small select group or "inner circle" as you say.

Elite/elitism used in local blogs is nothing more than a labeling exercise. Only those weak of mind need to resort such labeling. One such labeling is this dunno what pro-PAP label. What the heck for? The KTM actually wonders why people dun say that the PAP is pro-KTM. ;-P

The truth of the matter is that the online world is not a true reflection of the real society. The real world is much more sane and normal. The online world is filled with empty vessels, many of whom are losers with the same elite-envy that IS has admitted to.

So yes, the KTM agrees with your view that "some of us as we wield our pitchforks and torches and chastise (or disparage) elitism. Ironically, there are some among us to desire to be in the privileged positions the "elites" enjoy". Believe it or not, the KTM is not saying this in a judgmental way. Rather, this is like a conclusion draw from reading many, many blogs and working hard at trying to understand the psychology behind the bloggers. :-)

Again, this is another one of those wild KTM theories. So, dun have to take it too seriously. :-P You are encouraged to read these blogs yourself, analyze and come to your own conclusions. You come up with another theory, do share with the KTM. :-P

Molly,

Long time no talk online. Hope that things are well with you.

This IS blog has issues and cannot be compared to yours lah. :-P

The persona is most definitely false because the circle is extremely small and Sam Ho's wife (given that she went to Yale) can most definitely pinpoint the individual if the facts highlighted on the blog are true.

Even if (and a big IF) some RGS girl who went to Yale harboured the so-called "disdain for frogs", the person would have to be out of his/her mind to have written the blog and revealed enough information for him/her to be identified. When the KTM read the blog, he quickly came to two possible conclusions: (i) this identity is fictitious; or (ii) there's some serious mental case running around in one of the GLCs. :-P

But really, this blog is really all ado about nothing. Even if IS were real, so? Even if we have an anti-amphibian elite, so? Why does it matter?

Suppose one Yale alum is a bigot (or a crook), so what? All HYPSM alums are bigots (or crooks)? So what's the big deal? The KTM really isn't losing any sleep. :-)

Sam Ho said...

i was thinking of Borat/Bruno redefining comedy, and intellectual snob could very well redefine online parody.

but for the moment, there will be people who find it distasteful.