Why I Hate Salon Commenters

Jessica at Jezebel wrote about the rude, reactionary responses a Salon writer recently got to her article on being an educated woman who can barely make ends meet for her children, even while working her ass off:

Salon published a a thoughtful essay yesterday by Heather Ryan about being “working poor” as part of a series about the recession called “pinched.” Last summer, Ryan found herself, despite her Masters in writing and self-proclaimed bougie affections, unable to feed her three kids on her secretary’s salary. You see, she had recently gotten divorced, and the cost of daycare during the summer wiped her out.

Though it scared her and pained her to admit it, she couldn’t afford enough food, and so one night she took her kids to a food kitchen. I’ve written screeds against self-indulgent personal essays before, and I must say that this wasn’t one of them.

It explored a very real issue: that the gap between rich and poor in this country is now a chasm, and that many educated, hard working people are struggling, whether you see it or not. Salon‘s commenters, however, felt otherwise, and said things like, “I have no sympathy for breeders, or for brie-eaters.”

Another commenter wrote:

“The fact that you make a good salary but whine that a certain job didn’t take proper account of your ( questionable ) intellect and talent only speaks to your solipsistic (sic) ennui, brought-on no doubt by your liberal sense of entitlement.”

Could anyone other than a whiner with a massive sense of entitlement write such an unsympathetic, ungenerous comment about an article in which a person admits to her sincere surprise that the wealth gap has removed even hard workers with educations from the pot?

Sadly, ugly threads like this are nothing new at Salon. So how is it commenters like this abound there? I mean, I know Salon publishes a lot of self-indulgent, bougie whining, but the writers usually display a fair amount of compassion for the privileged and the underprivileged. How is it a publication’s readers can be so different from the writers?

And beyond that, what sort of false consciousness does it take for a person to read this Heather Ryan essay and instead of getting incredibly pissed off about how devalued labor has become in our society and how far the wealth gap has grown, finding it more important to bitch about how she had it coming for being pretentious? Really, it boggles my mind.

More from the “wealthy people have more virtue” file

Now, it’s not like I find it shocking that David Brooks would write something completely ridiculous and stupid and out of touch, but this column plugging a book which says conservatives can win working-class Americans back by addressing their needs with a bias toward the traditional two-parent family is just completely ridiculous:

Liberals write about economic inequality and conservatives about social disruption, but Douthat and Salam write about the interplay between values and economics and the way virtue and economic security can reinforce each other.

In the 1950s, divorce rates were low and jobs were plentiful, but over the next few decades that broke down. The social revolutions of the 1960s and the economic revolution of the information age have emancipated the well-educated but left the Sam’s Club voters feeling insecure.

Gaps are opening between the educated and less educated. Working-class divorce rates remain high, while the mostly upper-middle-class parents of Ivy Leaguers have divorce rates of only 10 percent.

Um, tell me again how an approach which implies working-class Americans can’t pay their bills because they don’t value their families enough will get their votes?

NYT: College grads taking the big paycheck over service

The New York Times has an article today about a trend in which students at top universities (aka, Harvard and the other Ivies) seem to be taking default paths toward investment jobs after graduation. The piece contains interviews with a few professors and students who say they’re troubled that so many of the nation’s brightest go directly on to big paying, private-sector jobs instead of using their intelligence in public service.

First, I’ll say I don’t even fully believe that this is a real “default” choice. The mix of my friends who have gone onto high paying jobs vs. those who are going straight to grad school or taking service-type jobs (peace corps, non-profits) is pretty even. I realize this isn’t exactly a scientific poll, but it’s as scientific as the anecdotes the NYT shares to defend its position.

But let’s, just for a moment, assume there truly is a complete lack of imagination going into the post-college decisions of America’s brightest. Might there be a better explanation than the implied, “God, kids today are selfish”?

Since I’m on an Ani roll from last night, these lyrics came to mind right away (from Not a Pretty Girl):

and generally my generation
wouldn’t be caught dead working for the man
and generally I agree with them
trouble is you gotta have youself an alternate plan
and I have earned my disillusionment
I have been working all of my life
and I am a patriot
I have been fighting the good fight

Ok, so these lyrics don’t exactly say everything I want to say, but they seemed too perfect not to post. And I think there’s definitely an element of a possible explanation in these lyrics. With the wealth gap growing and unemployment rising, it’s difficult to imagine new college graduates wouldn’t be concerned about their personal financial stability in the future. And I know from personal experience just how difficult it is to find that “alternate plan.”

No, I can’t become a folk songstress like Ani has. No, I can’t find work at a non-profit with my complete lack of “significant” work experience. See, students have already done the low-paying work for years, and they, like everyone else, are looking for ways to get away from it. The fact is, it’s pretty difficult to manage to do so when “The Man” has your hands tied behind your back with the debt you face from student loans and the fact that there aren’t exactly people knocking on your doors to get you into public service (meanwhile, corporations are truly knocking on the doors of these Ivies to recruit the most intelligent students, and they’ve got a host of entry-level positions designed just to acclimate you).

And let’s face it, universities could be doing a little more to show students how they can make a living without selling out to work they don’t care about. Instead liberal arts colleges seem to present two possible paths for students immediately after graduation: 1-Take the careerist approach to finding the most lucrative offer or 2- Go into academia and continue to explore ideas like your professors do. Finding a third path requires a fair amount of originality, passion, and sticktoitiveness.

In an economy and super-competitive culture like this one, it just makes sense that we’re going to have trouble finding many people willing to find and then make those public service sacrifices before they’ve been able to secure their own well being. Selfish? Maybe. But that’s what this economy and universities tend to breed.