Culture war: The rules

Could somebody remind me—-I have so much difficulty keeping track . . . poker and Nascar are all-American, but feed caps and PBR are inauthentic, they’re just for hipsters, right? I have a feeling that poker was inauthentic a few years ago, but now that the fad has peaked, poker-playing is normal again. How about MMA? That sure sounds all-American, but given that I’ve actually heard about it, maybe it’s just another example of upper-class slumming. On the upside, I have a feeling that if we wait a few years, gay rights will go downmarket enough that it will be ok to go to a pride march without forfeiting one’s credentials as a middle-American. $45 pasta, though: I think that will remain upper-class.

Background here (via Jay Livingston).

P.S. This discussion is appropriate for our blog because it relates to questions regarding social divisions that arise in discussions of politics.

6 Responses to Culture war: The rules

  1. RobC April 26, 2012 at 10:04 pm #

    Great FT article. Charles Murray talks a good game, but he orders at a fancy restaurant like the Harvard-educated political scientist he is.

    • RobC April 26, 2012 at 10:06 pm #

      I should have said, “like the Harvard- and MIT-educated political scientist he is.” Give the man his proper due.

  2. Thomas April 26, 2012 at 11:52 pm #

    Number of times the phrase “All-American” appears in Coming Apart: 0
    Number of times the word “authentic” appears in Coming Apart: 1 (referring to “authentic full-time stay-at-home fathers”)
    Number of times the word “hipster” appears in Coming Apart: 0
    Number of times the word “poker” appears in Coming Apart: 0

    • Andrew Gelman April 27, 2012 at 9:16 am #


      I don’t think he talked about poker or pasta in Coming Apart either. That doesn’t invalidate Jay Livingston’s (and my) point that a lot of choice is involved in deciding what activities are part of the upper-class “bubble” (as Murray puts it) and what activities are not. Classifying gay rights as part of the bubble and poker as not . . . well, ok, sure, fine. But if Murray felt comfortable at gay rights parades and uncomfortable at a poker game, I think he could come up with reasons why poker is a trendy bit of upper-class slumming (along the lines of PBR) while gay rights parades are a true mixing of social classes in the American tradition. (Longer discussion here.)

    • Tamily December 21, 2012 at 5:35 am #

      Felice Gelman is a tireless wkreor on behalf of Palestinian (and others’) rights, and her letter makes some great points. I hesitate to correct her, but there is one statement in her letter that comes up short on an important point: although Palestinians in Gaza have certainly fired rockets at Israeli territory, Israel itself fired a far greater number of rockets at Gaza and its civilian population during Operation Cast Lead. Actually, before Cast Lead, when Hamas was firing thousands of rockets into southern Israel, Israel was not sitting on its hands and doing nothing. Israel was already firing much more deadly munitions into Gaza, killing many times the number of Israelis killed.The following is from a Human Rights Watch report of July 2007 ) From September 2005 through May 2007, Palestinian armed groups fired almost 2,700 rockets into Israel, killing 4 Israeli civilians, and injuring 75 civilians and at least 9 soldiers, according to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. From September 2005 through May 2007, the same period covered by the rocket attack statistics cited above, the IDF fired 14,617 artillery shells into Gaza. This fire killed at least 59 people, wounded another 270 people, and did significant damage to many civilian structures.6 Of the 38 Palestinians killed through September 2006, 17 were children under the age of 16, 12 were women, and one was a 60-year-old man; Human Rights Watch, in its field investigations, identified 5 of the remaining 8 men as civilians. A subsequent artillery attack on November 8 killed or mortally wounded 23 and injured at least 40 Palestinians, all civilians. This is not insignificant. Israel has claimed that it was bombarded mercilessly before it finally decided it had to act in Cast Lead to protect its citizens, and it is terribly unfortunate, but Hamas’s fault, that so many civilians were killed. But the truth is that Israel was inflicting far worse military damage on Gaza (not to mention the siege) during the same time period before Cast Lead. Cast Lead was not the result of unprovoked firing from Gaza, but was a massive escalation of the violence from the side that already was responsible for the overwhelming proportion of violence.

  3. Josh April 27, 2012 at 8:28 am #

    Something similar occured here in Boston after the 2004 world series: