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On Bill Maher's Real Time, last night, the guests were Rachel Maddow, Niall Ferguson and Joe Queenan.  For those that don't know, Rachel is an Oxford educated Rhodes Scholar, Niall is an Oxford educated Harvard history professor with an expertise in economics and Queenan is an author (and NYT's book section contributor) from working class Philly who did not attend either.

There was a moment that gave some insight into a schism that exists between the Harvard intellectual class and those that aren't that may have given an insight into the Gates/Crowely incident (specifically as relates to effective communication about Obama's policy implementation and not about the Gates/Crowely incident itself).

Videos (including bonus Overtime coverage), cuts and pastes, and thoughts below...

A bit of Wikipedia about each guest:

Joe Queenan (born November 3, 1950) is a humorist, critic and author from Philadelphia who graduated from Saint Joseph's University. He has written for numerous publications, such as Spy Magazine, TV Guide, Movieline, The Guardian and the New York Times Book Review. He has written eight books, including Balsamic Dreams, a scathing critique of the Baby Boomers, and Red Lobster, White Trash, and the Blue Lagoon, a tour of low-brow American pop culture.
Queenan's work is noted for his caustic wit.

Queenan Country, documents his lifelong fascination with Great Britain. In it, he describes the special relationship Americans have with the British.
His latest book, Closing Time, is an account of his abusive father and his working-class upbringing in East Falls, Philadelphia, especially in the Schuylkill Falls housing project.

Rachel Anne Maddow (born April 1, 1973) is an American radio personality, television host, and political commentator.[1] Her syndicated talk radio program, The Rachel Maddow Show, airs on Air America Radio. Maddow also hosts a nightly television show, The Rachel Maddow Show, on MSNBC;[2] she is a former guest host of Countdown with Keith Olbermann and other MSNBC shows. Maddow is the first openly gay anchor to be hired to host a prime-time news program in the United States.

Maddow earned a degree in public policy from Stanford University in 1994.[7] At graduation she was awarded the John Gardner Fellowship. She was also the recipient of a Rhodes Scholarship and began her postgraduate study in 1995 at Lincoln College, Oxford. In 2001, she completed her Doctor of Philosophy degree (styled a DPhil) in political science from the University of Oxford.[8] Her doctoral thesis is titled HIV/AIDS and Health Care Reform in British and American Prisons. She was the first openly gay American to win a Rhodes scholarship.

Niall Ferguson (born April 18, 1964, in Glasgow) is a British historian who specialises in financial and economic history as well as the history of empire. He is the Laurence A. Tisch Professor of History at Harvard University and the William Ziegler Professor of Business Administration at Harvard Business School. He was educated at the private Glasgow Academy in Scotland, and at Magdalen College, Oxford.

He is best known outside academia for his revisionist views rehabilitating imperialism and colonialism; within academia, his championing of counterfactual history is a subject of some considerable controversy. In 2008, Allen Lane published his most recent book, The Ascent of Money: A Financial History of the World[1] which he also presented as a Channel 4 television series.

These are, by any means, whether one agrees with their positions or not, three very accomplished individuals.  But their backgrounds are different and that showed in the Real Time panel from 7/31/09.

In the first few minutes Niall Ferguson cuts Joe Queenan off (on a point that Niall was correct about):  

Niall says:  "With all due respect, you're ignorant of economics."
Joe responds:  "Like I said, I didn't go to Harvard."

Even if (and he was) Niall was right, was he correct in how he said it?  Look at Joe's body language after that.  It carried on into overtime, where you start to see more about Joe's actual position -- but, again, look at his body language -- that's what's telling here (overall cool video):

This is indicative of interactions I've seen when I've visited Cambridge (U.S. and U.K.) -- where the intellectual class is perceived as having little patience (whether they do or not) for those who are not as well versed in their field of study -- while the "townies" (h/t to Hedwig for reminding me of that term and schism) see themselves as being disrespected and perceived as ignorant (whether they are or not).  

I don't bring this up to revisit what happened between Professor Gates and Officer Crowely -- though I would agree that Professor Gates should never have been arrested and wouldn't be surprised if this townies vs. Harvard issue was at play, as well as whatever else was going on (profiling...).

I bring it up because this is not an issue that would have been explored during the last eight years. We had a president who was, forgive me, (imo), dumb as a stump but could reach a large demographic. President Obama is a Harvard intellectual with high across the board favorables :). But does the way he present policy get across to those from a different background? Is it part of the problem with the misperceptions in the healthcare debate, with other issues?  

Do concepts that are obvious to many in the left wing -- especially the intellectual wing of the left wing -- come across as too much in the weeds or not of benefit to some demographics?  

I don't have the answer.  I hope someone else does, because the poll numbers are not pointing to enough people being reached on single payer and all the urgent issues that need to be more widely understood now.

Originally posted to aggregatescience on Sat Aug 01, 2009 at 06:44 PM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  I like that we have adults back in charge (6+ / 0-)

    but it is true that you won't convince many by talking down to them.

    Similar to the argument on the site the last few days about Southern Bashing. Even in stereotypical generalizations, it probably is counter-productive. Still, isn't the first time on the GOS...and won't be the last that we do that.

    Also, I think there is a need to end ignorance rather than just mock it. Maybe knowledge will help some of those we mock now. Perhaps. But it is worth the effort.

  •  Joe Queenan came off to me as being very (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    angry and resentful of the two "educated" on the panel.  Every time he spoke, I could feel the anger seething in his voice.  I liked everyone else's input - Bill, so-so... he can be irritating with his constant "I hate the Christians" meme.

    When I give food to the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask why the poor have no food, they call me a communist.- Dom Helder Camara,

    by wahine on Sat Aug 01, 2009 at 07:02:11 PM PDT

  •  Blaming the victim (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    I am offended by people who say things like, "I don't know what happened between Professor Gates and Officer Crowley". I'm sorry, but we all know plenty about what happened at places we never visited: Hiroshima, Buchenwald, Selma. I've had enough interaction with cops to know that many are macho, authoritarian, and ignorant. Small-town cops may be the worst, because they feel they need to protect their community from outsiders. So yes, I understand what happened with Crowley and Gates and I don't like it. It's one thing to be stopped and threatened with arrest while driving a car in one of these towns, but it's even worse to be arrested in your own home for the crime of being arrogant, or what white racists call uppity. And yes, Gates is lucky he lives in Cambridge MA and not Cambridge MS, or he might have been roughed up on the "ride" to the police station, then had his charge increased to "assaulting a police officer".

    •  But that's not what this is about (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Bouwerie Boy

      I said that about Crowely/Gates to point out that is not the issue I'm raising.  It very well could have been racism, but I also think the townie issue was there, too, and that has implications, as well.

      The diary is about the schism that exists, communication-wise, between intellectuals and working class and whether that has something to do with the weird polling we see on policy.

      Basic things in people's self interest (i.e. single payer health care) is not getting through.

      Why is that?

      That's what the diary is about.  

    •  Have a look (0+ / 0-)

      at the picture of the three men coming out of the White House. Google     afterbeers_ps    
      Here is Mr. Gates's friend Obama eager to finish the meeting and visit the press and photographers. See what the ignorant, authoritarian, macho racist cop is doing.
      Sometimes a picture is worth a thousand words.

      •  A question for you (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Bouwerie Boy

        since we need more than the Professor Gates of the world to support President Obama's policies (again, that's what the diary is about), how do we reach those who may be ignorant, authoritarian, macho, racist or, in other cases, the misinformed and lied to by the Becks and O'liarlys of the world?

        •  I would like to ask you..... (0+ / 0-)

          What are Obama's policies? Continuing the war? Continuing to discriminate against gays and women? Continuing Bush's policies of torture and spying? Favoring Wall Street instead of the people?
          If you really think Obama has your interests at heart or cares about you - well, good luck.
          How has Obama stood up agaist racism? Good Democrats called racist because they didn't think he was the best candidate? The Clintons called racist after all they did to promote equality?
          What has he done to support the African American community? Helped with morgages? Loans? Health care?
          How do you reach the ignorant, authoritarian, macho, racist, misinformed? Tell them how awesome Obama is and how he has their interests at heart?
          Please answer.

          •  Wow (0+ / 0-)

            It's been six months.  He has a lot of shit to undo and not all of it will happen right away.  

            Am I happy about everything he has or has not done? No.  Do I want to give him more time before I hate on him?


            So, are you Canadian or American?

      •  Could You Post a Link of the Pic (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        When I Googled, I got a picture of Sargent Crowley helping Professor Gates down the steps.  Professor Gates appears to be holding his cane in his left hand and steadying himself on Sargent Crowley's arm with his right.

        I couldn't find any other pictures.

  •  Obama isn't from an elite background and (4+ / 0-)

    seems to be able to talk to anyone respectfully, as an equal, without talking down his ideas and without being patronizing. For example, he talks about his mother last days in the hospital spent talking on the telephone with insurance cos.

    •  Agree 100% (0+ / 0-)

      I'm a huge fan of Obama and like his communication style. My question is about how his policies are being perceived.  Why are the poll numbers so skewed against things that are in voters best interests?

      I don't think it's just the right wing noise or, in the case of health care reform, insurance hacks...  Somehow, effective understanding about things like single payer is not getting across to certain demographics.  

      My question is: why?

      •  media and repubs are against him, are not helping (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        him communicate policies. look at all the misperceptions about health care. if media helped with the communication that would help. i saw some video of his town hall and q&a on health care, visit to Kroeger's. it was great.

        •  I saw that, too (0+ / 0-)

          I also saw that the cable and mainstream media didn't carry much of it.  

          A Google on healthcare reform polling is interesting for how it's all over the place:

          I think this falls less on Obama than on his and Congress's communications teams. The message is not cutting through the B.S. I'm reminded of Clinton's war room during his first campaign.  The ability to focus the message and keep hammering it until it hit home.  They didn't keep it up once Clinton was in office, but it was effective during their campaign.

          •  Obama did not talk to the reporters and maybe (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            he left them together on purpose so that they can connect.

            Regardless of how he acted towards Prof Gates at the meeting, the officer was wrong to arrest him. Let's just assume the officer's report was the honest truth, it still does not excuse his arrest. It just shows that he in incompetent and not in command of his emotions as well as being vavalier with the law. There is no law agianst being indigrant at being accused of breaking in into your own home.

          •  also, health care is the big one and imo Obama (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            is taking a community organizing approach - if it's too top down (after all it is legislation hence originates in congress) there will be other problems (look at the birther thing happening, for example, even with his hands off approach); as many ppl as possible must be on board to make it work. imo that's why he didn't appoint Dean in his administration; Dean and his org are working their a's off to get at least a strong public option, but they're not under the admin. and p.s. that's why we all must do our part, telephoning, contributing for ads when possible, etc.

  •  Most people don't watch his speeches (3+ / 0-)

    They may catch a headline, see a short piece on the local news, see an ad, or talk to a friend about what's going on.  So if the headline is off base, or the ad is deceptive, that is what they know.
    I work in a school setting with highly educated folks who have no clue about much of what is going on in Washington D.C. although they can talk with insight and knowledge about Michael J. or Lindsay L. It is always amazing to me how little people pay attention.  town or gown.

    The world is changed. I feel it in the water. I feel it in the earth. I smell it in the air. Galadriel

    by Leftleaner on Sat Aug 01, 2009 at 08:02:04 PM PDT

  •  secret (0+ / 0-)

    Live is about humbling the arrogant. and Joe the satirist was humbled and so was Gates.

    (2008 election humbled the Clintons and McCain)

    God is a process not a person

    by Dhirty on Sat Aug 01, 2009 at 09:02:18 PM PDT

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