Biden's insults show what Christopher Lasch called 'elite insularity'

Joe Biden's recent insult to a Fox News reporter during a Jan. 24 press conference is getting a lot of press, but some editorials are defending the president by downplaying his misconduct and comparing it to Donald Trump's remarks.  Biden's words are not a surprise, as he has insulted grassroots people before.  And he is not the first Democrat to insult those who are not on his side.  Barack Obama also did it, showing class contempt, what historian Christopher Lasch called "the revolt of the elites."

Peter Doocy asked Biden calmly if he thought inflation might be a liability in the midterms, and Biden called him a "stupid son of a bitch." 

YouTube screen grab (cropped).

Even if he didn't think anyone could hear him, his comment shows that he doesn't accept a reporter asking him such a question when American families are facing a sharp rise in the cost of living.  By answering Doocy in this way, Biden considers that it is not necessary to inform the citizens.  Since information feeds democracy, his answer is an insult not only to Doocy, but also to the American people.

Christopher Lasch, who died in 1994, was a social thinker and historian of nineteenth- and twentieth-century American culture.  This intellectual observed that the elites have gradually become detached from society.  He reminds us that although there have always been privileged classes, they have never been so dangerously isolated.  In the past, wealth implied civic obligations, such as funding libraries and hospitals.

In his posthumously published book, The Revolt of the Elites and the Betrayal of Democracy, Lasch notes that "the growing insularity of the elites means, among other things, that political ideologies lose touch with the concerns of ordinary citizens" (1996, 80).  Biden's insult shows that political power can rest in the hands of an elite isolated from the people who do not understand and citizens' concerns.

Obama, Clinton, Biden: self-proclaimed humanists, true arrogant elite

While most mainstream media commentators and celebrities praise Barack Obama, they pretend to ignore that he insulted Tea Party activists by calling them tea-baggers in 2009, instead of listening to what they had to say.  Bill Clinton also used this insult against these anti-tax protesters.  Initially, it was CNN anchor Anderson Cooper who mocked them using this language.

Everyone also remembers candidate Biden's interview with black radio host Charlamagne Tha God in May two years ago.  When Charlamagne said he wanted to ask him more questions, Biden replied, "You've got more questions?  Well I tell you what, if you have a problem figuring out whether you're for me or Trump, then you ain't black."

Not only had the Democratic candidate shown in this way that he felt he did not have to answer, to be accountable, but he also used language that he considered appropriate for African-Americans.  Black conservative activist Candace Owens reacted on her Facebook page by denouncing this broken English: "Do black people not understand English?  Can anybody find a clip of Joe Biden saying 'ain't' when speaking to a white man?  This is plantation-politics at its finest."

Biden spoke to black Americans the same way he insulted Doocy: in both cases, he considers that he doesn't have to answer, while prices are rising.  They must vote for him in a kind of tautology: we must support Biden because we must support Biden.  And he insults those who don't, just as Hillary Clinton called Trump voters a "basket of deplorables."

Lasch was interested in how elites impose moral standards on society while emancipating themselves from them because they consider themselves superior.  He gives the example of upper-middle-class liberals who want to impose a sanitary and moral order on society and present themselves as working in favor of the people, but fail to understand why the lower classes refuse to be sanitized.  There are many other instances of this kind of arrogance.

Lasch makes this observation:

When confronted with resistance to these initiatives, they betray the venomous hatred that lies not far beneath the smiling face of upper-middle-class benevolence.  Opposition makes humanitarians forget the liberal virtues they claim to uphold.  They become petulant, self-righteous, intolerant.  In the heat of political controversy, they find it impossible to conceal their contempt for those who stubbornly refuse to see the light — that which 'just don't get it,' in the self-satisfied jargon of political rectitude. (op. cit. 28)

While many in the media tried to portray Biden as a kind and caring man during the presidential campaign, he has already insulted citizens who questioned him or expressed disagreement.  In March of 2020, a worker at a Detroit factory confronted him, accusing him of trying to abolish Second Amendment rights.  The Democrat called him a "full of s---" and asked him not to be such a "horse's a--."  In December 2019, he had called a retired farmer a "damn liar" and "fat" after the old man accused him of having his son hired by a gas company in Ukraine.

In an attempt to defend Biden after he insulted Doocy, CNN published an article entitled "Why Biden's 'son of a b----' moment is nothing like Trump's attacks on reporters."  According to the author, Chris Cillizza, this is a "tempest in the teapot."  He compares Biden to his predecessor, who berated the media and did not apologize, while Biden called Doocy.

Certainly, many presidents have used insulting language, and Biden's words might have left it at that, if not for his propensity to insult citizens and those who inform them.  Trump's language could be deplored at times; however, instead of showing class contempt, the Republican president went after journalists who commented on false stories like Russiagate and whose goal was to get him out of office, according to the confession of Charlie Chester, a CNN technical director whom Project Veritas recorded without his knowledge.

Jean Degert is an ethicist, columnist, and legal translator.

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