Hatin’ on Palin

In George MacDonald Fraser’s picaresque novel Flashman (which is set in 1839-1842), the hero (actually more of an antihero) marries the daughter of a very wealthy Scottish mill owner. This creates problems with Lord Cardigan, the commander of the fashionable regiment in which Flashman is serving–indeed, Cardigan has insisted that Flashman leave the regiment. Here’s Flashman, trying to get the decision reversed:

Just the sight of him, in his morning coat, looking as though he had been inspecting God on parade, took the wind out of me. When he demanded to know, in his coldest way, why I intruded on him, I stuttered out my question: why was he sending me out of the regiment?

“Because of your marriage, Fwashman,” says he. “You must have known very well what the consequences would be. The lady, I have no doubt, is an excellent young woman, but she is–nobody. In these circumstances your resignation is imperative.”

“But she is respectable, my lord,” I said. “I assure you she is from an excellent family; her father–”

“Owns a factory,” he cut in. “Haw-haw. It will not do. My dear sir, did you not think of your position? Of the wegiment? Could I answer, sir, if I were asked: ‘And who is Mr Fwashman’s wife’ ‘Oh, her father is a Gwasgow weaver, don’t you know?'”

Flashman is a fictional character (Cardigan, unfortunately, was a real person), but this interchange captures very well a certain kind of snobbery…a kind of snobbery which I think accounts for much of the anger directed at Sarah Palin. Just as Fraser’s Cardigan gets much of his sense of self-worth from his noble birth, and looks down on anyone not born of an equally noble family–regardless of that individual’s personal accomplishments–we have in America today a significant group of people who get a feeling of self-worth from their educational credentials, from speech patterns associated with membership in an elite, etc. The fact that Palin has been as successful as she has without these things is a threat to many people–it is particularly a psychological threat to people who identify as members of an elite, but really are not–like those who drank the academic kool-aid, got degrees in some squishy-soft and unmarketable field, and are now working as untenured and poorly-paid adjunct professors (if they are lucky) or at Barnes & Noble (if they are not). To these people, Palin is “nobody” is the same sense that Flashman’s new wife was “nobody” to Lord Cardigan. Without the proper accoutrements of social position, building a business–even becoming governor of a state–are no better that being a “Gwasgow weaver” was to Cardigan.

More on Palin hatin’ from Victor Davis Hanson.

18 thoughts on “Hatin’ on Palin”

  1. A Flashman fan – I KNEW there was a reason I liked you all! George Macdonald Fraser wrote riotiously amusing picaresque adventure – but it was all historically accurate, too!
    And yes, the current social and media elite do give off that same ‘look down the nose, NOKD’ air when they consider Sarah Palin as Fraser’s Lord Cardigan, don’t they?

  2. I think similar was the venom directed at Margaret Thatcher. When someone is hated to that degree, it is usually for a very bad reason-like enabling people who don’t talk right to become millionaires. They’re philistines and have more than cultured people like us.Eewww.
    And she’s a grocer’s daughter!What is the world coming to?

  3. I note that the Palin hatred is bipartisan, and that the elites and wanna-be elites of both political parties are close enough in their world-view that they rally together to keep the common folk in their place.

    They consider themselves a natural aristocracy. More and more of those who suffer their rule consider them to be either a kleptocracy, or a kakistocracy. This does not bode well for a quiet civic future, as the top of the pyramid is weighing awfully heavy on the middle.

    Subotai Bahadur

  4. The Palin book on Amazon seems to be the subject of a campaign to trash it in reviews. I pre-ordered it and read it yesterday. Today I see reviews posted two days ago, all negative and many with hundreds of “helpful” votes which moves the review to the top position. Thus, someone going to the site sees all one star reviews with hundreds of “helpful” votes. This is more sophisticated that previous fake reviews of books by controversial right leaning authors. Now they are posting longer reviews with information that seems to show they read it yet some show things that are not in the book. I hope Amazon catches on that they are being played.

    The book started slowly with florid prose that I thought would make it heavy going but, after about 40 pages, it picked up and is a good read. Her descriptions of local and state government, about which I know something, are very good. I assume the rest is also pretty accurate. After all, AP assigned 11 reporters to “fact check” it and they came up dry.

    She really has had an amazing life.

  5. Similar to the way the same types (many, the same people) trshed Reagan, but with Palin they also let their misogynism have free reign.

    Whenever I have doubts about Palin, something soon reminds me of who hates her, why, and how they express it, and I am back on her side. Anyone who those people hate and fear so much must be OK.

  6. @ Marty:

    “Whenever I have doubts about Palin, something soon reminds me of who hates her, why, and how they express it, and I am back on her side. Anyone who those people hate and fear so much must be OK.”

    My thoughts exactly.

  7. I will just go ahead and say it. I love Sarah Palin. I may not vote for her if she runs for president in the Republican primary, but I love her. She is great looking, outdoorsy, she is in shape, and most importantly, she is driving the left absolutely insane. So there must be something good (great?) about her.

    As an aside, I even love the way she talks. Her accent certainly sounds upper midwestern, very nasal in tone, even though she grew up in Alaska. She speaks with words that a simpleton like me can understand – and I love that too.

  8. I will so have to get a copy of “Steel Bonnets” . . . because that is where so many Americans came from – from the hard-fought borderlands. One of my other essential references is Grady Mcwhiney’s “Cracker Culture”. http://www.amazon.com/Cracker-Culture-Celtic-Ways-South/dp/0817304584 I used that so much in creating some of the characters that I write about on the old frontier, like the Browns, in the Adelsverein Trilogy.
    I don’t think you can truly begin to understand flyover-state America until you grasp things like Cracker Culture, and that wonderful essay by Walter Russell Meade outlining the principles of Jacksonian thought.
    Seriously – I didn’t really begin to understand my own political leanings, until I read W.R. Meade’s essay.

  9. I think there have traditionally been multiple status hierarchies in American society. (When Peter Drucker first came to the U.S. from Austria, he observed that every group–business, labor, academia, etc–felt itself under-appreciated by the larger society…and he thought this was wonderful, because it meant that no one group was completely in the driver’s seat)

    What is going on now is basically an attempt to collapse all the multiple status ladders into a single ladder, with access and position tightly controlled. I don’t think there’s any conspiracy to do this, but it’s the underlying principle of a lot of things that are being pushed.

  10. I too am a great Fraser fan — I cannot forgive him for being so discourteous as to die before writing his Civil War book.
    Those interested in the Border should also read his The Candlemass Road, a fine novelette that covers the ground of Steel Bonnets.

    As for Palin, I agree that much of the reaction is snobbery, but I think it is mixed with status panic. Without massive government intervention in the economy to provide jobs and position, many children of the upper middle class are going to slide down the social scale.

    I also argued recently that Palin was actually more qualified to be Pres than almost anyone else who has been named to the national ticket over the past decade, and this too makes her an intolerable threat. How could someone plucked from the wilds of Alaska be better qualified than the best our political class has to offer?

    See “Sarah Palin & the Dysfunctional Political Class,”

  11. JVD…I agree that status panic is very much a factor: indeed, this is a point where the Cardigan analogy partly breaks down, since while Fraser portrays him as a snob, he also makes clear that Cardigan is totally secur about his own status:”..the spoiled child of fortune who knows with unshakeable certainty that he is right and that the world is exactly ordered for his satisfaction and pleasure.”

    Ironically, a lot of the parents who are in such panic about their kids’ futures are actually doing serious harm to those futures…too often, their focus is so strongly on first, credentials, and secondarily, “skills,” that they ignore the importance of developing meta-skills, or what used to be called “character.”

  12. Oh, JVD_l – I am so with you – how DARE G-M Fraser die before he explain, in fiction and at entertaining length, how Flashman fought on both sides, in our very own dear Civil War!
    I so wanted him to maybe have an encounter with Elizabeth Van Lew, who was a spy for the Union in Richmond … a maiden lady of certain years,who pretended to be mad, but in the meantime spied very effectively. The drama that he could have made out of that… really, if his estate wants a ghost-writer, I think I could do a damned good job of it, with that turn of plot!

  13. Fellow Fraser Fans: he also wrote “Quartered Safe Out Here,” a memoir of his own service in the WWII British campaign in Burma.

    It’s interesting to read this book in combination with “Defeat into Victory,” by William Slim, who was the top commander in Burma…the same campaign viewed from the bottom and the top. (Fraser had a high opinion of Slim)

  14. …and after you’ve read Steel Bonnets, and maybe Albion’s Seed, read Tom Sowell’s “Black Rednecks and White Liberals” for an interesting perspective….


    Susan Lee

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