Who is Christian Lander? He is the the reason for the rant, the hero of American d-baggery in 2008, a beacon to those feeling lost in a sea of Obamamania.
Most commentators in the press incorrectly tag Lander (or as I affectionately call him, Chandler) as a satirist. Satire (as opposed to, say, polemic) seeks to correct people’s vices and follies by getting them to laugh at themselves. You might think that Lander’s send-up of “white people” practices like worrying whether or not a couple is compatible based on shared literary tastes, or gathering socially to play “kids games” is proof that he is writing satires of people who have more money than sense. Making fun of rich people who are socially awkward has a long and venerable tradition reaching back to ancient times. From Mennipius to Juvenal, to Dryden and Swift, to The Onion, making fun of people who confuse their wealth with their personal worth has an honored place in our culture. If he were a satirist it would make him a traditional moral conservative, someone who believes that foudational values like modesty, charity, honesty, justice, temperance, patience, courage and fortitude are being corrupted by selfishness, laziness, smug complacency, and a falsely inflated sense of self-worth (also known as pride).
But is Lander a moral conservative? No. He is a movement conservative. What’s the difference?
Where true social conservatives decry deteriorating morals, movement conservatives in the past half century have reconceptualized values (making them “values”) in an attempt to fuse free-market ideology with more traditional d-bag philosophy. Then they give it ideological cover by claiming their greed, fear, and pride is really thrift, prudence, and pluck. By making greed a virtue and power an end in itself they reject traditional conservatism for a revolutionary critique of traditional morals. Being modest, kind, honest, just and temperate becomes a sign of weakness. Being skeptical is spun as indecision and lack of spine. They gave up dispassionate critical thinking for revolutionary zeal. When moral conservatives became movement conservatives they morphed into the very thing they used to hate.
Lander himself is a paradigm of this kind of d-baggery. Leaving the sangfroid of his native Canada for greener ideological pastures in the United States, Lander found himself in a graduate program in English at Indiana University. There he realized his intellectual gifts were modest at best, and being a movement conservative he considered this someone else’s fault. (Conservatives are big on self-reliance — in others.) Having more sense than some other disaffected d-bags (VA Tech, etc.) he decided not to invest in AKs and Glocks, but rather to invest in a menial, low-paying job in Southern California, one that gave him enough free time to pursue his interests: fantasy football, getting turned down by girls, eating Taco Bell, blogging, and being a complete douche. The anti-intellectualism of his writing is covered with the emotional scars of being too dumb to compete with smart people.
It was easy for Lander to find a voice for his d-baggery: It was developed for him by his spiritual forebears from Irving Kristol to David Brooks. And it didn’t hurt that his sullen, resentful temperament and self-loathing alienation resonate with d-bags all over the English speaking world, who think they are twice as smart as they are and three times smarter than everyone else. Being vicious, voyeuristic and smugly superior to the culture that produced you is de rigueur for d-bags, so Lander only had to speak from the heart to express the Britney/Paris, reality TV, fake-tits-and-porn, post-racial, globalized worldview and its critique of “inauthentic” (i.e. European high) culture.
But the key to his success with Stuff White People Like is the fact that Chandler does not identify as “white” — though his skin tone appears to say otherwise. Being a fan of power for its own sake and worshipping in the Cult of Masculinity (that is, loving anything corporate no matter how bad it is, thinking war is fun, and idolizing sports figures as heroes though they may be the biggest sociopaths on earth) is a trait common to all d-bags from all races and nations. But it’s the hypocrisy of pride endemic to people who believe they come from an ancient and venerable people but who have in fact been colonized and treated as outsiders for so long that they are self-loathing that separates the movement conservative from your average knuckle-dragging jerk. Who are these people? In the United States, these are off-white d-bags: Asians (Chinese especially, but also Filipinos, Koreans), Jews, Indians (from India — not “Native Americans”) — basically anyone who comes from a place where England planted a colony.
Racist discourse (like fascist discourse) relies on myths of purity, authenticity, and priority. “White” Americans are not just rich and foolish, their culture isn’t as old or pure as the cultures of off-white d-bags. “White” Americans don’t know if they come from a colonizing people (didn’t the Germans rape the Congo?) and therefore they repudiate their past, which makes them posterior and inauthentic. And worst of all in the eyes of a d-bag, they still have the power — the skin privileges — their colonizing forebears worked so hard to bequeath them, but they just don’t seem to appreciate it. And this, in a d-bag’s eyes, is the greatest sin imaginable, because a d-bag wants that power so badly they can taste it, but they still don’t feel like they have it. And so a d-bag like Chandler will do everything in his power to belittle those more powerful than himself, but not from a noble impulse to correct human vices. Chandler is really just a hater.
Why is Chandler’s racism particularly dangerous in 2008? As Charles Blow points out, racism is very much alive in the minds of voters this year. Stuff White People Like tells us if you are non-white you have the right to be as racist, intolerant, and supremacist as any conservative WASP redneck shooting up churches in Tennessee. It’s time to call a shvartser a shvartser. Chandler is telling you it’s OK to hate your enemies based on the color of their skin — especially if they’re “white”.