Booing the Mac Weekly: A Critique of Everyday Elitism

By David Boehnke

In the previous edition of the Weekly, an article published under my name grossly misrepresented the research and sparse opinions I pulled together into what was submitted as a news story.
Unfortunately, and without my consent, the article was moved to the opinion page, and all the content focused on non-elites was erased, including any trace of that which mocked elites or subordinated their importance to those who resist.
This highlights serious problems in the current journalistic outlook.
Currently, news stories are written from a position of aloof ignorance, and cannot therefore contain any substantive analysis. Consequently, news, which is meant to inform people, both assumes an ignorant public and keeps them in ignorance. Consider last week’s news articles, however relevant, as a case in point. This is what happens when we decide to speak to the stupid, a category that doesn’t exist outside of mass-media mythology.
Equally important, the elimination of non-elites, and their impressive feats of struggle and creativity—a constant trend—creates a chasm between news and the reader. Instead of being agents of change, readers are reduced to consumers; ones implicitly too stupid to understand that they are being fed baby-food.
In any case, because I did enough research to put forward an analysis, to challenge my readers in my attempt to understand the state of higher education, the article was damned to the opinion section. Making any substantive analysis necessarily reveals one’s position, and apparently having a position is forbidden in news. As is well known, reporters are not people but objects like the television box itself, and they—like all objects—speak the truth.
The Mac Weekly’s treatment of my article, and the standards of journalism on which it was based, should be understood as elitist censorship, and our response should be swear words.
Once that is at least addressed, however, we should think about what this means and the consequences.
We should expect more, and different things from the Weekly, like substantive analysis, which, even if flawed, will deepen our understanding of events.
But we should also use this opportunity to notice how far ugly, elitist standards and approaches penetrate into everything we do at Macalester, our education, and our everyday lives. It is time to acknowledge this elitism and our responsibilities, and to hell with good intentions.
Education, it seems, is about learning to read those who, for whatever reason, prefer not to be read. This enshrining of literacy rather than learning is best witnessed in the giddy awareness—ever-present on a campus such as Macalester—that 1) we are completely useless and 2) we are predestined, excepting traitorous action, to die as members of the ruling class. As a result, many of us have been led to believe that things are very complicated.
Yet this sickening and even joyful astonishment requires me to parade some simple truths that, in the haze of WHATEVER, need to be re-established.

If we are a rich nation, things are plentiful regardless of our rank. If this is the case, and it is, sharing should be the most basic of core values. How this is best to work, through what medium, models and program—these should be the questions. But fundamentally our things (Macalester, etc.) should function as commons, and you should be my sisters and brothers or maybe something in between.
Similarly, if individuals of the species called homo are endowed with inalienable value, it becomes incontestable that the humanity of all people should be supported and celebrate—again we reach the question of doing.
In his autobiography, Gandhi tells a story. Each morning and each night he would take a long walk into town. Acquaintances and fellow organizers of his teased him for this, but mostly seemed aghast at such precocious waste of time. They offered to arrange him transportation by cart or car, but did not succeed in re-mapping the lifestyle of their friend. (Let me remind you that later, Gandhi developed this ritual into the march to the sea, and, with the hundreds of thousands that took part, he made salt that “shook the foundations of the British Empire”).

For me, this anecdote carries—like scripture for some—all the knowledge necessary for transforming our society and our selves. Here we see a concrete form of spiritual power, the making of space for one’s desire, and a promised land.
So though we are utterly untrained to find solutions to these problems—for these are problems of practice—and though our cynicism and apathy seems to preclude most of us from even trying (as did our parents before us), I find myself convinced, more strongly and surely, that the answers, my friends, are blowing in the wind, the answers are somewhere in the wind…
If you’d like to chat or see the original copy of last week’s article please email [email protected]