Whirled Musings

Across the Universe with Cosmic Connie, aka Connie L. Schmidt...or maybe just through the dung-filled streets and murky swamps of pop culture -- more specifically, the New-Age/New-Wage crowd, pop spirituality & religion, pop psychology, self(ish)-help, business babble, media silliness, & related (or occasionally unrelated) matters of consequence. Hope you're wearing boots. (By the way, the "Cosmic" bit in my moniker is IRONIC.)

Sunday, July 01, 2018

Elite and eliter... Part 2 of 2: Elitism in Scamworld

In yesterday's post I went on a bit about US populism and #NotMyPresident Donald Trump's populist shtick, which he has successfully weaponized to convince his base that he is truly a "man of the people" and that dissenters/resistors are The Enemy. One of his latest rhetorical ploys has been to declare his supporters to be the "elite" and "super elite." But since he does so in the context of simultaneously drawing upon the word "elite" as a populist insult, and defining "elite" as those like himself who own big houses, boats, and so forth, he has skewed the populist act almost beyond recognition. Not that it matters to his throngs of devoted redcaps.

In any case some of the themes I've been trying to tackle with this mini-series are not only the word "elite," but elitism itself. These are very much in keeping with this blog's traditional beat -- Scamworld -- as well as its sometimes-new-normal beat, politix. Now more than ever
the two intersect in many aspects of our daily lives.

Elitism, of course, is not merely a political phenomenon, and for that matter not just a right-wing phenomenon (a point we'll get to in a little more detail below). I've written before about
elitism in Scamworld, but it's worth a revisit now. Most of the selfish-help/New-Wage/McSpirituality/alt-health gurus who have peopled this blog over the years have practiced a form of elitism that involves boasting of their own lavish lifestyles (real or imaginary) -- their huge houses, their fancy cars, their dream vacations -- with the goal of fueling envy in countless wannabes, who are continually spurred on by the promise, "And you can too!" (That specious promise of easily attainable wealth and "success" has been a theme on my blogging colleague Salty Droid/Jason Jones' blog since its early days.)

Y'all probably know all of this stuff. You've seen it before, more incisively on Jason's blog and in a more rambling fashion on this one, and quite possibly lots of other places too. But it bears repeating that scammers of all stripes -- including
those who grow down to be president of the United States -- are only too happy to play on people's greed and on their envy of wealth. I've written previously about how imprisoned serial scammer Kevin Trudeau, a frequent topic on this blog since 2009, framed many of his own scams around greed and envy. He presented himself as the ultimate success story, promising that similar wealth and success were within easy reach, if only people bought his products and attended his events and, beginning in 2009, joined his stupid seekrit club, the Global Information Network (GIN). GIN was the apex of his scampire, and in the years between its launch and its being taken over by a court-appointed receiver, Trudeau managed to bilk thousands of people out of millions of dollars by appealing to their greed and envy.

But he also appealed to a higher form of, for lack of a better word, elitism, convincing many that by becoming part of GIN they would be joining an elite group of the smartest, most successful, and even the most altruistic folks on the planet, and that together they could change the world for the better for everyone. Yes, people actually bought that. Clearly they had not done their research on Trudeau's long and well-documented fraud career.

Again, y'all probably know all of this stuff, particularly if you've been following this blog for a while.

Left, right, left, right...
But I want to circle back to the point that elitism is not merely a right-wing thing. I was reminded of this truth again in early June when Salty/Jason published a post about
the cozy connection between former US President Bill Clinton and the king of Scamworld, Tony Robbins. It's worth a read, even if you're a Clinton fan and a Scamworld non-fan and it makes you somewhat uncomfortable, as it did me. And as you'll see if you read the comments, I'm stealing my own comment I posted there and putting it here too.

I freely admit to having given Bill Clinton a pass back in the day, regarding his personal behavior. Mea culpa. But overall I thought he was a good president, though some of his policies had less than favorable consequences (e.g. "workfare"), and I voted for him not once, but twice. Keep in mind that in 1992, the only viable alternatives were the incumbent, Bush the Elder (and for many good reasons I've long been a non-fan of the entire Bush dynasty, except for the late lovely Barbara). A less viable but certainly highly visible and audible alternative in '92 was that nut-cake Ross Perot, who provided much comic relief during the campaign. And in 1996 there was Bob Dole.

Is Bill Clinton a "lying sack of shit," as Jason describes him in the above-linked piece? That's a harsh if accurate description -- well, at least the "lying" part. While in office he did lie about getting illicit blow jobs, and that in a nutshell (so to speak) is why he was impeached, though this did not result in his removal from office. On the one hand it seems a trivial lie when compared to everything that Trump has lied about and continues to lie about. The fate of the nation and the world didn't hinge on whether or not Clinton had affairs and lied about them. On the other hand, Clinton did very definitely take advantage of his position of power, and even though the sex was presumably consensual (at least with Ms. Lewinsky)... well, if the #MeToo movement has put him in the hot seat again, it is probably nothing more nor less than he deserves. I'm sure it won't affect
book sales.

I didn't think then and I don't think now that any candidate is going to pass a purity test for personal behavior or even, for that matter, for ideology, and I think that one of several factors that led to Trump's election was that too many "purists" stayed home. If they couldn't have Bernie they weren't going to vote. Others did get out to vote but voted for Jill Stein. These factors certainly contributed to the triumph of the Orange Oaf of Office.

Years ago I spelled out the reasons that I thought self-help and pop-spirituality luminaries should be held to higher standards of personal behavior than, say Hollywood celebrities or even politicians, in some cases, providing the politician stuck to serving his or her constituents and wasn't on some "moralistic high horse." But events and conversations in more recent years have prompted me to entertain the notion that perhaps we should also hold our political leaders to higher (sexual) behavioral standards than we hold the average person. Certainly we should hold them to the highest ethical standards if they are making or influencing policies that affect all of our lives. In any case, I applaud Jason for staying on Clinton's case and making us more aware of his ties with the ubiquitous Tony Robbins.

Arguably Bill Clinton isn't a Scamworld ally who would ordinarily come to many people's minds, when it seems that most of the scammers and fans of scammers lean heavily towards the right these days (notwithstanding the hippie/liberal roots of the
New Age movement, which gave rise to many of the self-help and pop-spirituality scams of today). For instance, Kevin Trudeau and his minions are devoted Trumpians, and the stupidest and most evil man in Scamworld, Not-Doktor Leonard Coldwell, a former b.f.f. of Trudeau, is an adamant Trump supporter. Trump not only appeals to their xenophobia and bigotry (Trudeau has presented as quite the xenophobe in the past), but he is also creating an environment that is more friendly to dodgy business practices. That's a big plus for Kevin Trudeau wannabes.

But at some point alliances often come back down to elitism of the type that transcends politics. As much as the aforementioned Coldwell hates the Clintons, he wasn't above boasting about a (spurious) Clinton connection on an early iteration of the web site for his failed
IBMS Master's Society. He bragged about being "a highly active member of the Renaissance secret society founded by U.S. President Bill Clinton." (Here is a link to a screen shot of that blurb, which has long since been taken down.) In fact -- and I know I've mentioned this before, but I'm too lazy to look up my old link -- Coldwell was referring to Renaissance Weekend, hardly a "secret society" but still very much an elitist gathering. But it wasn't founded by Bill Clinton; Bill and Hillary (and Chelsea) merely attended a few times in the 1990s. Coldwell and one of his exes were apparently participants in RenWeekend for a short time -- it used to be held in the Charleston, South Carolina area, where they lived at the time -- but they were asked to leave, according to the ex, although she was invited to re-join later on. I'm sure there is an interesting story there.

At any rate, the Bill Clinton-Tony Robbins alliance is clear evidence that the right doesn't have a monopoly on the unhealthy infatuation with celebrity and name-dropping, nor with elitism as it suits them. When it comes right down to it, if you're in the circle jerk, politics don't really matter. Certainly principles don't seem to matter. I totally get that.

And bringing things back to a well-tread populist concept embraced by both liberals and conservatives as it suits them, I also get that there is in fact a "global elite" -- not in the Illuminutty sense but in the
1 percent of the population owning 50 percent of global wealth sense -- and that they are continuing to rape the planet and rob the rest of us blind. And Trump, with all of his populist posturing, isn't doing a damn thing to make it better for the millions of his fellow Americans who are suffering and will suffer as a result.

All of which brings me back to the point that for the moment, when it comes to US politics, I'm much more concerned about
the right-wing "elites" than the lefties.

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