The mandarins of Qing China claimed the Mandate of Heaven. The French noblesse d’épée tied their privileges to a thousand years of military service to the kings of France. The nobles of Spain touted their cleanliness of blood, untainted by Jewish or Moorish ancestry.
In America, no such backwards justifications are needed. Our elites claim their supremacy on intellectual merit, the power of their brains and the breadth of their knowledge. And to everyone’s misfortune, they really believe it.
But how do you prove intellectual superiority past the age of 22, when it can no longer be measured with letter grades and test scores? Warren Buffett and Bill Gates can at least point to their enormous piles of wealth as evidence of intellectual horsepower. But what can journalists do? In the past, they might write brilliant critiques of those in power. But NBC’s Andrea Mitchell has no criticisms to offer for America’s rulers, so instead her best option is making ‘ackshually’ posts on Twitter.
On Wednesday night, Sen. Ted Cruz referred to the impeachment drama as ‘full of sound and fury, signifying nothing,’ and attributed the line to that well-known dead white male William Shakespeare. For Mitchell, this was a golden opportunity to score smart-person points. She quickly tut-tutted him by properly attributing the phrase to William Faulkner.
— Andrea Mitchell (@mitchellreports) February 10, 2021
The Washington Post’s Jennifer Rubin (Motto: ‘108,000 tweets can’t all be wrong’) joined her, adding her own spin about how Cruz’s blunder showed not just intellectual poverty, but deep moral rot.
and it says volumes about his lack of soul. That’s Any Thinking Person.
— Jennifer ‘America is Back’ Rubin (@JRubinBlogger) February 10, 2021
Just one problem: Cruz was correct. The line is from Shakespeare, and Faulkner just borrowed it for his weird stream-of-consciousness book about mentally ill Southern aristocrats with incest kinks. Mitchell at least confused Cruz’s reference with another respected work. Had a younger pundit made a similar mistake, the result would have been even more wince-inducing:
‘Sen. Hawley says Hamlet described death as “the undiscovered country.” Nice try, senator, but that was one of the better Star Trek movies!’
‘Trump’s attorneys warn that “the evil that men do lives after them”; wish they wouldn’t misquote one of my favorite Iron Maiden songs!’
To save face, Mitchell credited her blunder to studying ‘too much American literature and not enough Macbeth.’ Were the Bard’s Weird Sisters at hand, no doubt they would dub Mitchell the Thane of Cringe.
Mitchell has probably never read Faulkner, and being unfamiliar with the most famous speech from one of the most famous plays by the English language’s most famous writer isn’t a good look for a woman who nominally bears a Bachelor of Arts in English literature from an Ivy League school.
Then again, this is the media class that named WAP song of the year. Maybe Cockburn should be happy to have them talking about books at all.
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