Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Fran Lebowitz Talking

I'm a big fan of Fran Lebowitz. But while I was searching for videos that might teach the students at Middlebury College something I stumbled on one that, in retrospect, doesn't put her in the best light. (Granted, after Trump got elected, the light changed somewhat radically.) I hadn't paid attention to her views on Hillary at the time, but when Trump won the nomination, it seems Lebowitz took the conventional, establishment view that "everyone has to love her now".

This glibness about what "stands in the way" of Trump actually becoming president is, of course, one of the things that got him elected. The problem with that quip about hiring someone who is not a plumber to fix your pipes, leaving aside the little matter of the "plumbers" that Nixon hired, is the metaphorical fact that we've been calling plumbers to fix the pipes since 1913 and, while they never fail to send us a bill (and take us to court if we fail to pay them), the pipes also never really stop leaking.

But it turns out that long before this, and completely separate from the prospect of a Trump (or even a Clinton) presidency, Lebowitz articulated precisely the elite, liberal policy consensus that Trump's voters rejected. In the following clip, Vanity Fair had the excellent idea of putting together Lebowitz's views on homelessness, immigration and tourism (which really are related problems). I will focus on her immigration policy, which starts at 2:08.

After expressing complete despair about the prospect of peace in the middle east, Lebowitz proposes to let (literally!) everyone there move to the United States. She'll go on to say that they are not welcome in New York as tourists, but have to come as permanent residents. (As an aside, I agree with her in broad outline on this point. Immigration is a perfectly respectable activity in my book; tourism is not.)

Here's the thing that might have created a Trump voter or two: the image of Fran Lebowitz sitting high atop the (I presume) Manhattan offices of Vanity Fair announcing to the citizens of middle eastern countries: "The whole middle of [America] is empty ... Come here!" She goes on to say that, unlike Italy, America doesn't have a culture. I looked it up. She is talking about Kansas.

She is talking about this guy:

She is talking about this emptiness:


Jonathan said...

It looks like she knows nothing about either the mid east or the mid west. Knowing nothing about either place, or about the people who live in either place, she comes up with an idiotic solution: move vast numbers of people from one place to another.

Thomas said...

Yes, it's actually funny how much her policy seems to come out of that same combination of ignorance and confidence that shapes Trump's. I guess it's a New York thing?