Chelsea and Me: On the politics—or non-politics or pseudo-politics—of engaging a power player on Twitter

Let me preface this post with a disclaimer: I’m probably as embarrassed as you are—in fact, more embarrassed, I’m sure—that I’ve devoted as much thought to this tempest in a teacup as I have. But having poured this much thought into this little tea, I feel that I should share, lest my cup spilleth over. So here goes.

I’m finding the pushback—at this blog, on Twitter, and across Facebook—about my exchange with Chelsea Clinton super interesting. One of the leitmotifs of the pushback is that it’s somehow unfair of me to engage Clinton about Arendt. Now that it was an act of almost spectral comedy, if not lunacy, to so engage, I’ll freely admit. Which is mostly why I posted the whole exchange. But unfair? That tells me something about my critics. A lot of things, in fact.

But before I tell you about those things, let me say this: I didn’t actually seek out this exchange. I retweeted what Clinton wrote with a comment, a snide comment, as I admitted. I didn’t direct my comment at her, issuing a challenge and expecting a response. I was as surprised as anyone that she would see it, much less respond to it. But having gotten her response, I had a choice: ignore her or respond to her. I opted to respond, but as I said earlier, I deliberated about the proper mode of response. And decided I should respond the way I would to anyone else who gets something wrong. Which is what I did (politely, you’ll see; once she engaged, I tried to keep things on the up and up). I thought democratic manners required nothing less. And it was not I but she who kept the conversation going, returning to it again and again, long after I had assumed it was over.

But here’s what I’m thinking about the pushback.

First, had this exchange occurred with a Republican, or with one of the sons or daughters of a famous Republican, say Eric or Ivanka Trump, I have no doubt that I’d be hearing nothing but lusty cheers and congratulations, particularly from Democratic Party partisans. I mean these are folks who manage to muster a fresh cackle at every prodigy of stupidity the right manages to produce on any given day. But Chelsea Clinton is part of the team, so, well, the obvious. And that’s fine; I don’t begrudge people their partisanship. But I do ask that they cop to it and not pretend that I’ve somehow transgressed a norm they’d never acknowledge if the other party were on the receiving end of it.

Second, there’s a related element that’s worth noting. And that has to do with the politics of intelligence/education, social class, and partisanship. The Democratic Party and its supporters like to think of themselves as the party of the smarties. Obama, Clinton, Clinton, Clinton: all so smart, all so well educated, all so well spoken. That’s why they’re entitled to rule, their supporters think. (Believe me, I’ve had these conversations many times.) And that’s not just about politics; it’s also about social class, or at least the culture and style and markers of a particular kind of social class. Unlike the Trumps and other vulgarians of the right, these are people who know how to carry on a conversation at a cocktail party or on Charlie Rose. (Is that show still on, by the way?) Indeed, a well educated liberal person on Twitter—a professor of political science, in fact—made a point of noting to me that none of the Trump kids had read Hannah Arendt. That Clinton didn’t seem to get Arendt didn’t matter. It was enough that she had read Arendt. Or knew to show that she had read Arendt.

I’ll confess, I find that kind of thing distasteful. (Arendt has a great line in Eichmann about how the well-heeled educated German classes of the postwar era didn’t really have a problem with the fact that the workaday Jews of Germany—little Hans Cohn from around the corner was how, I think, she put it—had been murdered during the Holocaust; it was that Einstein had been sent packing. That was the real crime: the loss of all that wondrous cultural capital.)

My objection is not just academic or aesthetic or cultural; it’s also political. I don’t believe in technocracy. I don’t think I (or people like me) am qualified to lead the country or to have a Clinton-like position in this country because I went to good schools or read a lot of books. There’s a limited place for expertise in a democracy, but it’s limited. I know I’m in the minority here on this, but I get no comfort from the fact that Barack Obama reads great literature (that was a Facebook post a while back) or that Chelsea Clinton knows how to name drop Arendt. For me, that doesn’t reflect the legitimate needs for some limited expertise. Nor does it reflect the requirements of good leadership, and it sure as shit is not about democracy. It’s about social class, social standing, and social signaling.

In any event, a lot of the pushback from certain quarters seems to have more to do with that, with the anxiety around the role of intelligence and social signaling in the Democratic Party and liberal social circles, than it does with the ethics (or aesthetics) of engaging with Chelsea Clinton on Twitter about Arendt. To that extent, I not only think my criticism of Clinton is fair game—after all, if you think a source of liberalism’s cultural and political legitimacy is that liberals know something, it seems only fair to point out when they’re full of shit—but I also now have come to think that, despite the fact that I mostly posted about the exchange because I found it hilariously strange and amusing, it may serve a useful if limited political purpose.

Which brings me to a third point. The celebrity dimension. Some folks on Facebook and elsewhere don’t like that. I get it. Were I reading these posts, I might also think to myself, eh, big deal, he’s talking to Chelsea Clinton, why he’s going on about it? How is that helping The Cause? He should be spending his time on something else.

I guess all I’ll say in my defense is: give me a fucking break. I spend most of my time on social media getting into the minutiae of the politics of the healthcare bill, rounding up folks to make phone calls to their senators, making historical comparisons between Trump and other presidents, writing about whatever books I’m reading, reporting on what I’ve found in a Clarence Thomas opinion or some obscure text in political economy, and for about 18 months there, posting on Hannah Arendt.

For the most part, I avoid virtually every single sectarian intra-left internet spat. I don’t drone on about Chapo or the Jacobins and their haters or whatever bit of leftbook celebrity esoterica is currently preoccupying people on social media. I don’t get caught up in whatever atrocity of the day has the Twitterati chattering. Nor do I chastise other folks who do get caught up in that. I just try to stay focused on the things that matter to me and leave others to their thing.

So I think I’ve earned my right to a moment’s levity, and a slightly self-mocking post about my one-time engagement with a player like Clinton. To me, as I said, it’s funny. You may disagree; that’s fine. But I think we can both agree that the republic will survive these 24 hours of my indulgence. And while I do appreciate all the well-intentioned people who feel duty-bound to tell me that I would be better served spending my time on other things, I do wonder how they square that position with the fact that they’re spending all this time enjoining me not to spend all this time on this thing.

And for those who are simply annoyed that people around you are talking about this when you just couldn’t give a shit, I feel your pain. All I can say is: welcome to my world. That’s just the way it sometimes goes on the internet.

Fourth, the gender dimension. In the initial draft of my blog post, I had a long discussion about mansplaining and why I didn’t think that was what was at play here. After reading it over, I thought, oh, don’t go there. You can’t win this argument, not on the internet; you’ll only generate more accusations of mansplaining. Leave it out, leave it alone. So I did. And I will.

Fifth and final, the power dimension. I get the strong feeling that some people still think Chelsea Clinton is a little kid in the White House, getting her every pre-teen face and every teenage gesture subjected to nasty scrutiny from the right. People, Chelsea Clinton is nearing 40 years old. She’s a high-powered player in New York financial, cultural, and educational circles. She’s the leader of a major global foundation. And she’s increasingly a major player in national political circles. She has elected to be in the public eye. Those more than one million followers of hers on Twitter didn’t just happen. She’s created that audience, that following. I’m not going to play little ole’ me here, but I am in fact a professor at Brooklyn College; I don’t just play one on TV. The idea that I’m somehow this big powerful person who’s victimizing a hapless Chelsea Clinton is, well, a little silly.

I was going to close this post with a line from Smith—where he talks about how odd it is that people lower down on the totem pole always identify with the misery of their social superiors, seeing in abjection of elites some kind of universal state of disrepair or perhaps even their own misery—but I figured, nah, why elevate this like that? Instead, I’ll close with a plea that we all of us grow up and stop pretending that Chelsea Clinton is some poor little lamb who has lost her way and who needs protection from the likes of me. She’s already got Jordan Horowitz playing wing man for her;  I think she’ll survive my tweets.

65 Comments

  1. Chris Morlock July 30, 2017 at 2:46 am | #

    Let them eat cake. That’s all I get from elitist blue checks on Twitter. The idiocy of non-dialectic quips bestowed upon us by our betters. But then again we have intellectual/academic elitists to correct their inane comments.

    I guess this passes for a discourse these days. You write good stuff Corey, don’t get sucked into a world where no one cares what you think.

  2. Anonymous July 30, 2017 at 6:31 am | #

    Thanks for the bits of additional analysis which, like most of your writing, usefully evaluates events of the moment with emphasis on historical context.

    The self-justifying parts of the post, although fully persuasive, might have been better edited out. The only people who didn’t already understand these points will mainly refuse to be educated by them. To the extent that you become a public figure, the best strategy for all but the most egregious actions is “never apologize; never explain”.

  3. Anonymous July 30, 2017 at 7:03 am | #

    Is it trivial that this 21st century power player’s up close view of Hillary’s and Bill’s careers has not given her sufficient political talent to respond (to a certified expert on Arendt) with any shred of self-deprecation and/or humor?

    A winning response would have been, for example:
    “Corey, thanks for reminding us that not every evil seen as banal by its perpetrator or supporters fits within Arendt’s intended meaning. So many kinds of evil, and so little time to coin new phrases for them…”

    The ability to respond in that manner would probably have put her in line to be the next Democratic nominee to replace New York U.S. Senator Schumer, as the compromise choice after Schumer and his next primary opponent have savaged each other to the point of both being unelectable.

    • LFC July 31, 2017 at 8:49 am | #

      Yes, she probably should have gone initially with a graceful, self-deprecating reply — if not precisely your suggested one, then at least something similar in tone.

      I didn’t follow the exact sequence of Twitter exchanges, but my sense is that this option was only really available at the v. beginning. Once the exchange heated up (e.g. — paraphrasing one tweet — all those fancy schools didn’t teach what you what ‘banality of evil’ means), she prob felt she had to respond more defensively. Twitter itself as a medium prob pushes in that direction. (I spend rather minimal time on Twitter, which is facilitated by not having a Twitter account.)

      • LFC July 31, 2017 at 8:51 am | #

        correction:

        “didn’t teach you what ‘banality of evil’ [etc.]”

  4. intelligence_or_indulgence? July 30, 2017 at 9:39 am | #

    I initially misread “intelligence” in the following bit as “indulgence”. Obviously, the rest of the paragraph didn’t make sense so I had to reread and catch my error. I had to laugh because, to me, indulgence seemed more what the paragraph and the essay, and the twitter argument might’ve been about. Ignoring her obvious mistake, Chelsea demands her bit of royal indulgence. Much in the way indulgence seemed the theme her mother’s muddling, failed campaign.
    INRE: “Second, there’s a related element that’s worth noting. And that has to do with the politics of intelligence/education, social class, and partisanship.”

  5. Donald July 30, 2017 at 9:50 am | #

    I actually felt a little sorry for Chelsea Clinton in the other post for the reason someone else gave in the other thread– as a person who has said something stupid on the internet on more than one occasion and been ridiculed for it, I can feel her pain. In no other way do I feel sorry for her and the analysis in this current post makes it all worthwhile.

  6. s.wallerstein July 30, 2017 at 9:51 am | #

    Chelsea should send you a check for the free tutoring and a thank-you note.

    It’s never too late to learn and if she pays attention, she might just learn some political theory from you.

    That could be a step for her towards liberating herself from her horrid parents and becoming a person
    who looks at the world with eyes wide open. I doubt that that will occur, but you did your best.

  7. Karen July 30, 2017 at 10:04 am | #

    Why should Chelsea Clinton not notice what Corey Robin tweets about her? His writing and thinking are far too dangerous (another Arendt observation) to the established order which she represents for her. If anything, her “engagement” indicates that he is a lot more influential than he presumes. I would be surprised if Chelsea had not also read “The Reactionary Mind” in her travels through the Sidwell-Stanford continuum.

    Chelsea Clinton is so used to being praised for academic overkill and alleged intellectual prowess that she probably doesn’t get called out that often. Although her main Twitter activity is virtue-signalling and retorting to the usual Trumpian suspects, she also has a beef with the left. Witness her mendacity on the campaign trail regarding Bernie Sanders’s alleged plot to destroy Medicare. The umbel doesn’t fall too far from the hemlock.

    Since Chelsea is famous for not very much other than sitting on various boards, “engaging” with a leftist like Corey Robin serves to raise her public profile and her brand among the moderate Democratic establishment and the wealthy donors currently summering in the Hamptons and the Vineyard. I have no doubt that she’s using Twitter as a political campaign for Nina Lowey’s congressional seat in New York. There’s a reason Mom and Dad bought the house next door in Westchester County.

    • LFC July 31, 2017 at 8:57 am | #

      1) If I were a betting person, I would bet (a fairly substantial sum, actually) that Chelsea Clinton has not read The Reactionary Mind. It’s certainly possible, but for some reason it doesn’t seem likely to me.

      2) HRC needed to establish a NY residence before her first Senate run, didn’t she? My guess is they bought the house more in connection w that than w an eye to Chelsea’s future political ambitions.

    • lazycat1984 July 31, 2017 at 3:44 pm | #

      My guess is that Mr Robins name appeared to her on some kind of enemy list- along with Doug Henwood, Mark Ames and anyone else who has a substantial audience and reveals the DNC Clintonoids for the neoliberal parasites they are.

  8. Jeff Donnelly July 30, 2017 at 10:31 am | #

    Just out of curiosity. As a teacher, when you engage with a graduate student, is the goal to score points or to educate?

    • ajc July 30, 2017 at 10:45 am | #

      I imagine it is to disabuse them of their ignorance, like Socrates did with his many students (while scoring points in the eyes of the right-minded Athenians who eventually made him drink hemlock). Obviously you are one of those right-minded Athenians in my analogy.

    • Corey Robin July 30, 2017 at 11:13 am | #

      To educate. Chelsea Clinton is not my graduate student, indeed any graduate student at all. (Though she does have a PhD.) That you would conflate her position as the heir of a family dynasty and aspirant to lead the United States with that of a student: that is precisely the problem.

  9. Rich Puchalsky July 30, 2017 at 10:44 am | #

    I got a completely different impression from the whole exchange, but eh.

    “Indeed, a well educated liberal person on Twitter—a professor of political science, in fact—made a point of noting to me that none of the Trump kids had read Hannah Arendt. That Clinton didn’t seem to get Arendt didn’t matter.”

    That’s not representing his claims. His claim was that *you* didn’t get Arendt, and he was calling on the full power of his degree and position — in fact, calling on someone else who went by their real name on Twitter who knew him to testify that his real name was what he tweeted that it was — to try to get you to engage with him as an expert.

    Chelsea Clinton is not a “power player” or whatever you called her. She’s the heir presumptive to the American Empire. Prepare to have this exchange quoted like a decade from now and for people to argue more and more tendentiously that there is some sense in which the article can be interpreted so that the use of “banality of evil” is in some sense justified.

    • Corey Robin July 30, 2017 at 11:10 am | #

      I was talking about a different person, Rich, than the one you’re talking about. I’m fairly certain I got his position right. Your other point: yes.

      • Rich Puchalsky July 30, 2017 at 7:26 pm | #

        I didn’t notice that there was more than one political science Ph.D. claiming expertise in that thread.

        At any rate, if you agree that she’s really the heir to the empire, then we’re not talking about the #Resistance — it’s the #Royalistance .

  10. Aaron Silverman July 30, 2017 at 11:17 am | #

    I disagree with many of your political analyses. However, I found your engagement with Clinton on twitter to be entirely appropriate and edifying. But it rarely occurs to me to take the time to make such a blase comment, so I remained silent despite my support.

    Ah well, first they came for the perverters of Niemöller’s poem, but I remained silent because (up until now) I was not a pervert…

  11. xenon2 July 30, 2017 at 11:33 am | #

    I presume you don’t follow @ChelseaClinton and that every time “Arendt” is mentioned on twitter, you receive notification.

    I read Arendt not as a school assignment, but b/c I was lucky enough to subscribe to The New Yorker when it was good. I went to an obscure school that no longer exists. I can’t imagine saying I read as a school assignment. Or, maybe I can.

  12. Roquentin July 30, 2017 at 12:03 pm | #

    Don’t listen to them. I don’t want to aggrandize this into something it isn’t, but you can hear the tone of the whole sad, shitty 2016 election in the pushback against you. When Hillary was wrong about something, when she wasn’t who she held herself out to be, this was the exact treatment given to anyone who bothered to point it out. Then and now, it’s as if you’d committed some kind of awful act of lese majeste against the royal family of the US, the Clintons. In the echoes of their pushback, you can hear the kind of people who would yell at a peasant for daring to talk back to Princess Chelsea, King Bill, and Queen Hillary. To put it bluntly, fuck that. That’s what they really want, royalty, and you can see it even more clearly in this facile obsession the US media has with the British royal family. You could really sit down and write a satirical political tract about how the last 30 years were a sort of war of royal succession between the feuding lineages of the Bushes and the Clintons.

    Bootlickers, the lot of them.

  13. bob mcmanus July 30, 2017 at 4:30 pm | #

    Hell, and I thought I was approaching the big time by arguing with Corey Robin.

  14. LFC July 30, 2017 at 5:15 pm | #

    a well educated liberal person on Twitter—a professor of political science, in fact—made a point of noting to me that none of the Trump kids had read Hannah Arendt. That Clinton didn’t seem to get Arendt didn’t matter. It was enough that she had read Arendt. Or knew to show that she had read Arendt.

    This position is strange (if you’ve read X and misunderstood one of X’s basic pts, why bother having read X? except to say you’ve read it, which doesn’t count for much except at cocktail parties etc.). If in fact C. Clinton had read Eichmann in Jerusalem in school and didn’t understand the meaning of “banality of evil” after reading the book, that would also perhaps be a bit strange, but it’s possible.

    I’ve read a little Arendt, but not the Eichmann book. Still, even without having read the book, I’m aware that the phrase ‘banality of evil’ has something to do w what Arendt saw as Eichmann’s ‘ordinariness’. So unless the newspaper account in question had highlighted the arsonist’s ordinariness, I prob. wouldn’t have used the phrase in a tweet about the article (if I tweeted, which I don’t). [comment continued in next box]

  15. LFC July 30, 2017 at 5:17 pm | #

    [comment continued]

    Last observation is that the phrase “banality of evil” may now have taken on a life of its own, separate from what Arendt meant by it. And people who know the phrase may feel free to toss it around in contexts where Arendt never wd have, not even knowing quite exactly what they mean by it. I suspect that may be what happened here. Even if Clinton did read the Eichmann bk in h.s. or college, she may well not have thought about it since then. What’s remained w Clinton is the phrase ‘banality of evil’ and she’s forgotten how Arendt used it, assuming she once knew. Whether that’s an indictment of Clinton or of Sidwell or Stanford, or all three, or none, I’ll leave people to make up their own minds.

    • Billikin July 31, 2017 at 4:47 pm | #

      Yes, I think that the phrase has taken on a life of its own.

      FWIW, I thought that Clinton’s comment was inappropriate, not because I have read Arendt, but because of the English language. It seemed supercilious to me.

    • Billikin July 31, 2017 at 5:25 pm | #

      Just a brief word of support. I think that your behavior was entirely appropriate. You did not beat up on Clinton, you offered her correction in your area of expertise. She kept coming back for more.

  16. cynicalatheist July 30, 2017 at 6:13 pm | #

    I don’t believe in technocracy. … There’s a limited place for expertise in a democracy, but it’s limited.

    I have reluctantly come around to a similar position on expertise. I’ve seen educated people do worthless work, and “ignoramuses” fix intractable problems. My old boss always used to start discussions with, “Here’s a stupid question…” Little did I know that he was engaging in a subtle form of teaching. To use a market metaphor, it is almost as if our culture is experiencing an expertise bubble. We need to sell a bunch of it, clear out our accounts. Put its price back into line with the fundamentals. Only then can we move forward.

    • cynicalatheist July 30, 2017 at 6:31 pm | #

      Maybe this describes the situation (Lao Tzu, III, 8):

      Not to honor men of worth will keep the people from contention; not to value goods which are hard to come by will keep them from theft; not to display what is desirable will keep them from being unsettled of mind.

      We over-value expertise so we’re always unsettled.

      • jonnybutter July 30, 2017 at 7:12 pm | #

        We (humans) will do just about anything to avoid making judgements, so we pretend to not make them, pretend to be helpless. The ‘evidence’ says; the ‘market’ says; the ‘experts’ say; the ‘ideology’ sez.

      • Ben July 30, 2017 at 8:49 pm | #

        I dunno, I mean President Trump and perhaps Senator Kid Rock are also a rebellion against the overvaluing of expertise. Or, maybe that’s the point.

    • bob mcmanus July 30, 2017 at 7:56 pm | #

      culture is experiencing an expertise bubble.

      Overaccumulation of intellectual capital along with overaccumulation of industrial capital and financial or fictitious capital can be a fun approach, because then we have a structure with which to look at the overaccumulation of social capital in the age of facebook and twitter. At least we get some metaphors. Science, knowledge, techne has always been considered by Marxians to be congealed or dead or historical labour thus intellectual capital.

      Anyway I try to avoid the temptations of irrationalism by looking at what kind of intellectual elite we have, what function they serve, how they are produced and reproduced, etc. Expertise isn’t bad; capitalism is bad.

      • cynicalatheist July 30, 2017 at 8:57 pm | #

        Expertise isn’t bad; capitalism is bad.

        Maybe that’s the real lesson. It’s not that expertise is bad, it’s that our attitude toward expertise is made perverse by capitalism.

        • jonnybutter July 30, 2017 at 9:55 pm | #

          FWIW, no reason you can’t avoid both the temptations of avowed irrationalism (Left or Right) and the possibly even more seductive temptations of an irrationalism which pretends to be rational – in this case, technocracy.

          Of course expertise itself isn’t the problem. The conceit of technocracy is that the ‘data’ interpreted by ‘smart’ people will make the correct course obvious, as if there were no assumptions or values underneath. That makes as much sense as Obama’s/the Dems’ apparent love of compromise – not as something debatable in a particular situation, but as a value unto itself – something good in itself. It’s ridiculous if you think about it for about 2 seconds!

          There is no escaping value judgements. Your tactics and expertise are in service of values whether you choose them, or you let them choose you. That’s all I meant. Irrationalism – Left or Right – is my enemy

          • Mr Pancks July 31, 2017 at 5:00 pm | #

            Well put, jonny. Reminds me of my esteemed Frankfurters on instrumental vs substantive reason. –Just calculate the how-to, never mind the wherefore.

          • jonnybutter July 31, 2017 at 9:13 pm | #

            thank you Mr Pancks. Pretty smart those Frankfurters

  17. Dean C. Rowan July 30, 2017 at 7:44 pm | #

    1. Props for pointing out the obvious distinction between CC as a child in a circumstance entirely outside her control and CC as an adult with almost complete control (within 140 characters).
    2. Props in particular for your first response to CC’s lame tweet. I’m assuming “casually” prompted her to think “banality,” which might or might not be fair. But your tweet targeted pop media conflation of cliches with ideas as much as CC for disappointing expectations.
    3. Props, too, for deploying pop media technology in a way the SOBs who hyped it from day one foolishly imagined it would typically prove beneficial. To my mind your experience is an exception that proves the rule.

  18. Chris Morlock July 31, 2017 at 3:48 am | #

    I can’t believe no one has caught on to the subconscious implications that drove this crazy story. I thought Corey had the idea that the real “banality of evil” here was the Clintonian “Judases” selling out the working class with their “free market” solutions to everything while effortlessly rising from humble working class roots to become the “royalty” of America and the symbol of the Neo-Liberal movement.

    That’s what rubbed Corey the wrong way with that flippant and ignorant quip by Chelsea. The Clinton’s represent how Democrats gradually sold out to big money interests and did it not out of hatred for working people or some kind of need to “rule the masses” ala the “Reactionary Mind”, but because they could advance and do the masters bidding.

    Am I crazy? That’s the only thing that would make any of this twitter silliness mean anything to me.

    • cynicalatheist July 31, 2017 at 8:03 am | #

      Hi Chris, you may be right about the subtext – the same thing occurred to me. Of course, it may also just be that Robin’s an Arendt fan and a professor?

      • Chris Morlock July 31, 2017 at 6:08 pm | #

        Yes, definitely, but I see the subconscious reaction as a reason for the entire incident.

        My experience is that Arendt is almost universally misunderstood and the “banality” is the most often used and misused quote. Remember that famous Bansky painting of the same name? Look at it, I think we got it totally wrong too, lol. What does Hitler sitting in front of one of his own building paintings have to do with Arendt’s idea that otherwise good and rational people do horrible things when then submit to a power structure that leaves moral reasoning to superiors?

        I thought that the absolute irony of a heir to the thrown of a political movement and social philosophy that stripped economic justice from the Democratic party would be especially noteworthy for making such a silly comment. She is where she is because her parents left the “morality” of their decisions on the free-market and the further dismantling of the social state to their superiors. Now she uses a quote like that incorrectly, it’s super cringe worthy.

        Corey, isn’t this what was the catalyst for your correction? Plenty of people make the same misuse of the phrase, but from Chelsea it just felt wrong……….

        • Drewbie August 4, 2017 at 6:49 pm | #

          But what on earth would it mean, then? That we are so complacent about bizarre violent crime committed by someone with raging mental illness that this is merely meh? If so, we report the death of one non-important person outside of local news?

  19. Jeff Steck July 31, 2017 at 8:31 am | #

    Quit rationalizing. To put it somewhat differently than Jeff Connelly above, teachers teach. Some students [or “students”] get it,,some don’t. Do you spend three-quarters of your class time trying to explicate one point?

  20. P Diddy July 31, 2017 at 10:17 am | #

    Curious that the same person who spends so much time admonishing others to keep their eye on the ball (healthcare, etc.) and not waste time on distractions like the Russia investigation would spend so much time and effort patting himself on the back for zinging Chelsea Clinton on twitter.

    • lazycat1984 July 31, 2017 at 3:50 pm | #

      Anyone who zings an aristocrat has my full support. Chelsea is a gigantic fraud on every level yet holds multiple highly paid positions. She is by any independent account a less than brilliant person who always has been and probably always will be spectacularly rich yet did zero to earn it. Less than Donald Trump.

  21. Z July 31, 2017 at 10:31 am | #

    “In any event, a lot of the pushback from certain quarters seems to have more to do with that, with the anxiety around the role of intelligence and social signaling in the Democratic Party and liberal social circles, than it does with the ethics (or aesthetics) of engaging with Chelsea Clinton on Twitter about Arendt.”

    I think that is very true. Similar developments can be almost daily seen about Macron; an unquestionably well-educated person (and by all account a very talented investment banker) but whose entourage and core electorate would like to anoint the exemplary philosopher-king, even though his use of intellectual references (if not his understanding of them) rarely rises above the level of the catch-phrase (to give just one example, he entitled one of the chapter of his book The Great Transformation, but never discusses Polanyi’s book and in fact arguably outlines an articulation between economy and society which is precisely the one Polanyi criticizes; much like Chelsea Clinton’s use of the banality of evil).

    “My objection is not just academic or aesthetic or cultural; it’s also political. I don’t believe in technocracy. I don’t think I (or people like me) am qualified to lead the country or to have a Clinton-like position in this country because I went to good schools or read a lot of books. There’s a limited place for expertise in a democracy, but it’s limited. I know I’m in the minority here on this, but I get no comfort from the fact that Barack Obama reads great literature (that was a Facebook post a while back) or that Chelsea Clinton knows how to name drop Arendt. For me, that doesn’t reflect the legitimate needs for some limited expertise. Nor does it reflect the requirements of good leadership, and it sure as shit is not about democracy. It’s about social class, social standing, and social signaling.”

    Also very true. Well, with only the nuance that I hope you are not in the minority after all, or that you won’t be anymore soon.

  22. KHerrington July 31, 2017 at 11:34 am | #

    I didn’t even read Arendt, but watched this movie and I could have recognized that Clinton was off: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1674773/

  23. Cripes July 31, 2017 at 1:53 pm | #

    In fact if I understood Chelsea’s Twitter musings accurately, and I believe I have, she appears to think that banality of evil actually means other people’s acceptance of violent acts as normal. This explains her use of the word “normalizing.”

    I can hear the Clapping of the Goosesteping academics from here.

    PhD, indeed.

  24. Pelham July 31, 2017 at 3:03 pm | #

    “There’s a limited place for expertise in a democracy, but it’s limited.”

    Fully agreed. And I suggest that the boundaries around expertise be tightly drawn and a great deal of transparency imposed. Otherwise, they might do something expertly stupid, like bail out the banks and leave mortgage-holders to twist in the wind.

  25. glinka21 July 31, 2017 at 6:53 pm | #

    The wealthy power elite of the Third Way Dems has many defenders, Corey. And they’re as much inside a self-justifying, closed system, as those Levi-Strauss discussed so many years ago. Outsiders are only welcome if they come to stare at in awe. You’ve riled them up by rubbing away a bit of the educational veneer of one of their own, showing what’s beneath to be less than gold. Honestly, I admire Clinton for responding, but the parcel of fierce yap dogs being fielded in her defense are hilarious, more than anything else.

  26. Thomas Rossetti July 31, 2017 at 9:29 pm | #

    I have tried to leave this political theory catnip alone. But Corey Robin comes off as the King of Comedy Rupert Popkin! The sad political theory stalker of the Ruling Class. How pathetic and so unaware he seems of his own sad motivations. Serious shit is happening and maybe a little solid scholarship about the noxious right wing doctrines of Steve Bannon would be in order. But what we get from Corey Robin is a slipshod attack on Obama and Clinton as Ruling Class bad guys..

    • Thomas Rossetti July 31, 2017 at 9:47 pm | #

      Why no discussion of the authoritarian Left? Say from Rousseau to Marcuse to your self? One further question: WHY DO YOU ALLOW FOR ANONYMOUS COMMENTS?Chelsea Clinton is out there with her name! Half of your posters lack that basic integrity. My guess is that your blog is loaded with Bannon trolls. How many white nationalist do you think haven’t discovered your congenial critique of liberalism? Baby? Bathwater? So Corey Robin does it ever occur to you how cheap a politics you play? Banal or reprehensible? Obamacare? Just Ruling Class shit. Neo liberal shit. Like my beliefs. But I put my name to them.

      • LFC July 31, 2017 at 10:22 pm | #

        @Thomas Rossetti

        (1) By my count, there are only two anonymous comments in this entire thread. An anonymous comment is one posted under the word “anonymous” or something very close to it. Apart from those two, every other comment on this thread uses names, initials, or pseudonyms. None of those qualifies as an anonymous comment.

        (2) I don’t agree w/ Corey on everything (and I have a somewhat more favorable, or less unfavorable may be a better way of putting it, view of Obama (and even HRC for that matter) than many posters here do), but Corey is not a member of “the authoritarian Left” (assuming for the moment that that phrase designates an actual movement of any significance in the U.S., which is highly debatable). That charge is very unfair. I also don’t think C.R.’s work owes much in particular to Marcuse, but that’s a separate point.

        • Thomas Rossetti August 1, 2017 at 1:26 am | #

          This is right put of Orwell. Crazy logic.

    • Corey Robin July 31, 2017 at 10:16 pm | #

      “maybe a little solid scholarship about the noxious right wing doctrines of Steve Bannon would be in order.” If only I had written a book on the right and its doctrines, and then issued a new edition of that book with a chapter on Trump and Bannon.

  27. Thomas Rossetti July 31, 2017 at 11:40 pm | #

    For a liberal the political problem is how to achieve ones one’s political goals where others are in opposition to those goals. This necessitates what is often a politics of compromise. Like Mick Jagger said. So the noble minded militants of the left subject those who seek real, but incremental change, to charges of having sold out to the Ruling Class. This is Corey Robin’s position in a nutshell. But I would remind him that the problem is how men who disagree don’t kill one another! That is first problem that liberalism addresses that Corey Robin’s cheap politics of I am Right and therefore I deserve the ball and if you don’t give it to me I can legitimately call you names like Ruling Class. Is there anything in your book that I can learn that having read David Spitz’s “Patterns of Anti Democratic Thought” I would not already be aware of?

  28. Propertius August 1, 2017 at 12:12 am | #

    On rereading the Twitter exchange, may I respectfully suggest that you have misdiagnosed the issue here. I don’t think the real problem is her reading comprehension (or indeed whether she ever read Arendt or at most skimmed it to meet a course requirement).

    I think she just doesn’t know what the word “banal” means.

  29. Butch Buckman August 3, 2017 at 8:43 pm | #

    I’m fine about your dialogue with Chelsea Clinton but your unwarranted dig at the Charlie Rose show was just plain snotty

  30. jonnybutter August 8, 2017 at 9:03 pm | #

    but your unwarranted dig at the Charlie Rose show was just plain snotty

    The Charlie Rose Show is not only a gigantic, stultifying bore, but it is *meant* to be a stultifying bore. Charlie himself is a well trained chowderhead who struggles – interminably and almost always unsuccessfully – to put a coherent question together. He says ‘notion’ a lot in an attempt to sound articulate.

    Charlie keeps a lid on everything always. He neutralizes any discussion which threatens to take steps to border on the vaguely interesting. He is a human antacid.

  31. Bud August 21, 2020 at 3:22 pm | #

    Just an educated prole stopping by to say fuck yeah and right on CR

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