Heroes and Anti-Heroes of the ‘Working Class’

by Jay Nordlinger

Last Friday, a Fox Sports personality went on CNN and made the following statement: “I’m a First Amendment absolutist. I believe in only two things completely: the First Amendment and boobs.” He went on to affirm what he had said, proudly. CNN’s anchorwoman then cut short the segment.

Judging from Twitter, a lot of people on the right thought that the sports guy was pretty cool. He had struck a blow for conservatism and against political correctness — and on CNN, the hated network!

This is what I begin my Impromptus with today: conservatism versus crudity. (Here.)

On Friday, I jotted a little tweet (as one does). I said, “For decades, some of us have been campaigning against political correctness. We don’t mean, ‘Behave like a jackass instead.’ You know?”

I got many responses, one of which I’d like to reprint and comment on here. A man said, “Not amazed that a foppish neo-con and @CNN shares the notion that working class talk is verboten. Neither are heroes of the working class.”

This tweet is an interesting specimen. It is not especially Right and not especially Left. It is certainly populist. And it speaks to a mindset that is very old. You find it on both right and left.

First, there is the assumption, or assertion, that “workers” would talk about “boobs” while speaking on television to a female anchor. This expresses a very low opinion of “workers,” and an unjust one, too.

Second, there is the very phrase “working class.” When I was growing up, I used to hear it from the Left — from the Marxists — all the time. When they said “working class,” they mainly meant workers they liked. They did not mean all workers. These days, I tend to hear “working class” from the Right, more than from the Left. Regardless, the class card is played from either hand, so to speak.

Does “working class” have a legitimate meaning in America? What workers belong to the “working class” and what workers are excluded from it? Is there any distinction between the speech of Marxist professors and the speech of right-wing populists? Where do the Bernie bros leave off and the Trump bros begin?

Third, the tweeter says that neither I (the “foppish neo-con”) nor CNN is a “hero of the working class.” The Soviet Union, remember, bestowed a title: “Hero of Socialist Labor.” You can hear the same kind of rhetoric in America today, and not from the Left, exclusively.

Such interesting times, these are.

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