Intro: Class Treason
Self-publishing a subversive outlet was far from my aim as activist and policy major at Brown, or coming to New York to be a public interest journalist. But I never anticipated how much of my career would consist of telling people what they wanted to hear—on PBS under my idol, Bill Moyers, and throughout Columbia as reporter, promoter, editor and historian.
However painful to admit, progressive discourse has long since curdled into petty clickbait, big business of scapegoating and self-congratulation over empathy or intellectual honesty. Self-anointed wonks contrive niche-pleasing infotainment at the incestuous nexus of elite journalism, academia, nonprofits and government, competing for funding and status.
Alas, crafting workable policy for a vast, diverse nation is hard—ground out only excruciatingly to correct for unintended consequences and inconvenient truths. We’re attempting to uplift hundreds of millions of human beings, after all, daunting even before considering the corruption of Washington, Wall Street, Beijing, et al.
Yet few bother with real questions or argument anymore; blaming the other is more fun and profitable. Attention spans shrunken from pandering and algorithms, progressives have sunk to slogans and platitudes. The nuance once at the heart of our work, and indispensable for making programs actually operate, is all but gone.
The right’s deteriorated too, but that’s meager consolation. The left’s crippled its capacity for adult conversations to craft practical policy for the country—let alone fulfill fantasies of global governance.
That said, how to be constructive? Step one is reviving the Studs Terkel/Bill Moyers approach, hearing an array of perspectives instead of telling people what to think. For all our rhetoric about diversity, the range of upscale opinion has narrowed into oblivion.
Thus The Ivy Exile, applying what I’ve learned selling the system to sharing my experience of it—that our elite institutions no longer deserve their historic prestige. Whatever journalism, academia, and progressivism once meant is ancient history now, superseded by a glib authoritarianism. Only by popping that balloon can we proceed in the real public interest, more likely by building new institutions than salvaging ruins of the old.
Next: The View From The Top
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