Entry from June 18, 2015

One sympathizes, naturally, with the incomprehension of Ella Whelan of Spiked Online when she writes of Hillary Clinton’s Roosevelt Island speech as follows:

She claimed she would be running ‘for all Americans’ and presented herself as having come from a history of hardship. Apparently, Clinton’s late mother, Dorothy Rodham, had a relatively tough start in life. . . Yet, in the context of the Great Depression, Clinton’s mother’s tale is not that startling. And, unlike a great many people of that period, Dorothy Rodham’s life turned out all right. In fact, Clinton’s own bid to join the oppressed club seems a bit of a stretch as, in her own words, her mother and father worked to ‘provide [her family] with a middle-class life’. Why then is Clinton so hell-bent on presenting her past as a misery memoir?

But what Ms Whelan fails to understand is that "middle-class" in America today doesn’t mean middle-class anymore. In the political and media codes of today, which have so largely displaced the rational discourse to which the English of our forefathers was so admirably adapted, to be middle class is ipso facto to be a victim — if nothing else, a victim of "the rich", "the one-percent" or the "millionaires and billionaires" whose good fortune is now routinely supposed to have been illegitimately won at the expense of everybody else.

That’s why the more aggressive or "fighting" side of Mrs Clinton’s appeal on the same occasion was so largely directed against those unnamed "billionaires and corporations" whose tax cuts, enacted by Republicans out of sheer greed, have supposedly impoverished those lower down the economic scale, and whose money is said to be corrupting the democratic process with the help of the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision.

No doubt on the principle that the best defense is an offense, this attack on the rich is designed at least in part to deflect Republican criticism of the Clinton family’s own riches — and the highly dubious means by which they have been acquired. But such transparent cynicism would hardly be possible without the groundwork done by the media over the past two decades and more in continually singing, not the "song called ‘Yesterday’" that Hillary says the Republicans are singing, but the middle-class blues.

Do you doubt me? Just look at this story from last weekend’s Washington Post. "How theme parks like Disney World left the middle class behind," the headline promises to tell us. It seems that, since the admission fees at Disney World etc. are up by more than the rate of inflation, it must follow that they have "priced middle-class families out." True, attendance is also said to be up, but somehow that never troubles the reporter, Drew Harwell, with the obvious question of who, if not the middle classes, are attending in such numbers?

If what is implicit in such reasoning had been made explicit in the headline — "Only the Rich now able to afford Disney World" — the absurdity of the proposition would have been apparent. But the Post, like the rest of the media — like Hillary Clinton — now expect the media audience to be willing to take it for granted that the mere mention of "middle class" carries with it — as does that of "women," gays and racial or ethnic minorities — the suggestion of victimization. They also know that these would-be victims do not need to be told who their alleged victimizers are.

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