by Ed West
Tuesday, 16
February 2021
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07:00

America’s radical young rich are out of control

This generation is lacking the restraints of past elites
by Ed West
British BLM protesters Photo: Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

There are few laughs to be had these days, and all the things that are funny are impermissible to laugh about anyway.

However, this should bring light to the saddest of hearts: an article about the expensive holidays organised by The New York Times for its insufferably privileged young readers:

The trips brought in some money, but were expensive to run and complicated to manage — particularly in the summer of 2019, after The Times began hosting teenagers. In Seoul, two were detained by the police at an arcade after they were accused of stealing, a Times spokeswoman said.

And then there was the trip to Peru that summer. The parents of adventurous young meritocrats paid $5,490 (plus airfare) for two weeks studying “Public Health and Development in the Andes.” On that trip, the reporter, Donald G. McNeil Jr., got into a series of heated arguments with students, none of them Black, on the charged question of race. Their complaints would ultimately end his career as a high-profile public health reporter for The Times.

- Ben Smith, New York Times

There is a danger of sounding like someone’s Dad when they first saw The Beatles, but there is something genuinely disturbing about the behaviour of America’s young radical rich. As a group they seem to be lacking any of the informal or formal restraints past elites have been saddled with, combining privilege and self-righteousness.

The protests of 2020 were sometimes compared to 1968, but it’s worth remembering that the Paris students who protested that year lived in utter squalor, which was the initial cause of the eruption; in the US they were getting drafted to fight in Vietnam. The Great Awokening college protests began in 2015 because staff at Yale, America’s second most prestigious university, had not taken seriously the danger that Halloween fancy dress costumes might offend people.

What was most shocking about that protest was the sight of Professor Nicholas Christakis being berated by a student who shouted at him: “Who the fuck hired you? You should step down…. You are disgusting!’

There was never any question that the student in question would be punished for her behaviour. Countless people in far less privileged positions regularly lose their jobs for posting unpopular opinions on social media, but for members of the elite it is almost as if a different law applies. They never get punished for acting out.

This is what is so characteristic of the radical rich, the belief – correct, it turns out – that the rules don’t really apply to them. Their politics give them righteous protection to behave more arrogantly than previous elites, doubly so if they’re from a minority background – even if it’s a minority heavily overrepresented among the wealthy.

You don’t have to be a dippy nostalgic to believe that Anglo-American elites of the late 19th century and 20th centuries at least pretended to behave better than this. They were aware that elites who’d acted too arrogantly in the past had ended with their heads on spikes, and it was drummed into them that they didn’t deserve to be where they are. Teaching your society’s richest and most powerful members a sense of Christian guilt certainly has its upsides.

But thanks in part to identity politics, the radical young rich really believe they deserve it. Indeed one of the less pleasant trends of recent years, and it’s really noticeable on Twitter, is how boasting is so normalised – under the cover of progressivism and beating the patriarchy or system of white privilege, *I* did it. “I deserve this,” as the saying goes.

Without restraints, and with self-righteousness as a replacement for religion (as the Prophet Christopher Lasch observed) young members of the elite have begun to act more like Regency thugs, or Renaissance princelings, beating up the lesser orders or entering public life as a means to ruin their enemies for politics for fun.

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Alexander Morrison
Alexander Morrison
1 year ago

Even Orwell, who was no friend to the British Imperial elite from which he sprang, wrote that:

‘One thing that has always shown that the English ruling class are morally fairly sound, is that in time of war they are ready enough to get themselves killed. Several dukes, earls and what-not were killed in the recent campaign in Flanders. That could not happen if these people were the cynical scoundrels they are sometimes declared to be.’

I wonder what he would have made of the modern American (and indeed some of the British) jeunesse dorée

fhealey1212
fhealey1212
1 year ago

The sixties upheavals were focused on two issues – race and the Vietnam War. The rich then were strictly establishment opposed to change or at least not vocal about it.
The present ill educated and ill informed generations are self imagined experts on a myriad of subjects. They are so dead certain of their pseudo knowledge that they refuse to even listen to opposing opinions. They “win” debates by not debating but by accusations across a never ending spectrum of perceived moral failings.They are the ultimate arbiters of truth and justice.
What they really are? Simple and closed minded, illogical children.

Elizabeth W
Elizabeth W
1 year ago
Reply to  fhealey1212

Let us thank these young people’s education systems for behaving the way they do now. They are taught what to think, not how to think – sadly.

fhealey1212
fhealey1212
1 year ago
Reply to  Elizabeth W

Very true.

David Rice
David Rice
1 year ago
Reply to  Elizabeth W

I suspect we are also witnessing at least two generations of parenting failure exacerbated by the corrosiveness of social media.

Alex Lekas
Alex Lekas
1 year ago
Reply to  fhealey1212

They are so dead certain of their pseudo knowledge that they refuse to even listen to opposing opinions. 
It often goes beyond that, to where they consider opposing opinions to be illegitimate. Why bother debating ideas when you can just dismiss the other person as a crank or conspiracy theorist.

Wilfred Davis
Wilfred Davis
1 year ago
Reply to  Alex Lekas

Or just plain stupid.
Or just plain evil.
Much easier than thinking.

Cheryl Jones
Cheryl Jones
1 year ago
Reply to  Wilfred Davis

That’s what bothers me. Not that they think other opinions are wrong – but that they are EVIL. There is more than a whiff of witch-burning religious fervour about the mindset that I find disturbing. At least in Christianity, there is also a concept of redemption and forgiveness – not so in the new Woke religion.

Wilfred Davis
Wilfred Davis
1 year ago
Reply to  Cheryl Jones

Yes, it’s essentially a ‘purity’ religious movement. And, as you say, focused on the damnation side of religion, rather than the redemption. A dualistic view of the cosmos: WE are good, pure, from above, children of light; YOU are evil, filthy, backward, children of darkness. Forever.

Jerry Jay Carroll
Jerry Jay Carroll
1 year ago
Reply to  Alex Lekas

Or racist.

Wilfred Davis
Wilfred Davis
1 year ago
Reply to  fhealey1212

I agree.

Apologies if you are already thinking of the following books, but for the benefit of other readers of UnHerd, could I reference these titles, both extremely relevant to your comment:

The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion (2012) by Jonathan Haidt

The Coddling of the American Mind: how good intentions and bad ideas are setting up a generation for failure (2018) by Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt.

Last edited 1 year ago by Wilfred Davis
Ralph Windsor
Ralph Windsor
1 year ago
Reply to  Wilfred Davis

Yes. And mind coddling isn’t limited to the US. It’s well advanced here in the UK too, and, indeed, throughout the Anglosphere and wider. It is an intellectual virus as potentially deadly as Covid 19.

Frances.msuya
Frances.msuya
1 year ago
Reply to  Wilfred Davis

Also Michael Sanders – The Tyranny of Meritocracy?

Stephen Follows
Stephen Follows
1 year ago
Reply to  fhealey1212

The sixties upheavals were focused on two issues – race and the Vietnam War.’
One of the main results of draft-dodging by the young white rich, of course, was the disproportionate number of young black men who served and died in Vietnam.
I’m quite sure that’s not what the young white radicals meant to happen, though.

Wulvis Perveravsson
Wulvis Perveravsson
1 year ago

As a student in the early noughties (although not a rich and privileged one), I can honestly say that after all the partying, there was no time left for any of this righteous indignation. The only self-loathing we felt was the ‘never again’ type the day after a particularly heavy night out. We didn’t necessarily behave well, but at least we didn’t judge others on their own behaviour!

Warren Alexander
Warren Alexander
1 year ago

What upsets me most is that as someone who grew up in the 60s and 70s, I see so much of what we fought for – racial integration, equality, gay rights, women’s rights, freedom of speech etc being trashed by people who, for some reason, have no idea how racist, anti-democratic, authoritarian and imperialist they are being.

Cheryl Jones
Cheryl Jones
1 year ago

Totally agree. The fact that they can’t see it is quite disturbing and I can’t help but feel that parents and the education system have grossly failed them.

Tobye Pierce
Tobye Pierce
1 year ago

Amen to that.

Fraser Bailey
Fraser Bailey
1 year ago

‘The protests of 2020 were sometimes compared to 1968 but the students of that period lived in utter squalor in Paris,..”
Well I’m not sure about that. All my reading suggests that they were just a bunch of middle class moaners living rather comfortable lives. They might have had a point about the nature of France’s political institutions etc, but many of them were only too happy to become part of those institutions in time. Anyway, they didn’t have too much success rousing the car workers et to insurrection.

Alex Lekas
Alex Lekas
1 year ago

Inmates running the asylum. What could possibly go wrong.

Susie Lawler
Susie Lawler
1 year ago
Reply to  Alex Lekas

“Inmates running the asylum.” An idiom that comes to my mind almost every day when reading the news.

Cathy Carron
Cathy Carron
1 year ago
Reply to  Susie Lawler

Exhibit A = The New York Times

Fraser Bailey
Fraser Bailey
1 year ago

Their latest trick, apparently, was to prevent the Seattle police from attending incidents by blocking their exit from the police precinct with snow. Seattle being very hilly there are, apparently, a number of incidents when it snows. That said, if the police can’t bust their way through a bit snow they must be a bit pathetic.

Cheryl Jones
Cheryl Jones
1 year ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

As far as I am concerned they should be arrested for impeding police officers, and if anyone comes to harm due to this they should also be charged with manslaughter. These brats need a darn good smacking, their parents ought to be ashamed of themselves. And the ones who are middle-aged liberal professors – well words fail me frankly.

Ralph Windsor
Ralph Windsor
1 year ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

Freezing water canon might be the answer.

Tobye Pierce
Tobye Pierce
1 year ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

Sadly, it seems that Seattle’s government supports the intruders more than the police.

Frances An
Frances An
1 year ago

Thank you for your article, Ed. 
I would like to add a couple of other astounding aspects about woke protestors on campus: they go on anti-authority protests, when it is only the (reasonably) liberal conditions (e.g., right to free speech) of their democratic governments that permit them to accuse their countries and ‘elites’ (i.e., intellectuals who are sceptical of woke ideals) of being authoritarian without punishment. Using references to identity politics, the woke Left love to be seen making moral proclamations (e.g., unconditional support for free immigration). Yet when someone (usually a conservative) asks ‘what are your plans to realise your ethical ideal?’ and/or ‘where will you receive the necessary resources/funding?’, they either cannot answer or assume their hated authorities will sort out logistics.
In truly totalitarian (especially Communist) societies, dissidents must operate underground, planning and picking their fights wisely. Woke people on campus do not have the restraint or intellectual training to do this. The result is lightweight-academics concerned more with virtue-signalling than making real differences.

Christopher Barclay
Christopher Barclay
1 year ago

Let’s see what happens when the US attacks Iran. My guess is that the identity politics will be taken to further extremes.

ml holton
ml holton
1 year ago

… Take a good hard look at TikTok for insight into the ‘privileged boys’ ~ of any race. The most popular&followed influencers enthusiastically show off their ‘boys club’ mansions ~ replete with juvenile jungle-gym interiors, big screens/tech toys, excessive drink, food & ‘mild drugs’ (always adjacent to a mammoth swimming pool), fast/novel cars abound and generally-complaint “beautiful” young women (and younger adoring men) ‘play along’. Adults, of any kind, are seldom, if ever, shown or even mentioned during the on-going one-upmanship ‘dare you/dare me’ antics. It’s really ‘Lord of the Rings’ writ large where ‘rich’ loud-mouths rule. These getting-richer ‘diverse’ idiots are seemingly ‘living the super-sized American dream’. ~ All of it is astonishingly self-indulgent, testosterone-driven and, as such, very very popular … The Young Self-Declared Princes of the Universe lead the way …

Last edited 1 year ago by ml holton
Joerg Beringer
Joerg Beringer
1 year ago

Gens Y and Z are our downfall.

Michael Richardson
Michael Richardson
1 year ago

Maybe with any luck some of their heads will end up on spikes (joking)

Cathy Carron
Cathy Carron
1 year ago

The prognosis for the future of these spoiled elites isn’t good. Bereft of discipline, manners and grace, they will eventually have their comeuppance. In the mean time, society must suffer their shallow thoughts and bad behavior.

Last edited 1 year ago by Cathy Carron
Diarmid Weir
Diarmid Weir
1 year ago

This piece makes little sense. Who is being identified as elite, other than students, or those with ‘radical views’ by definition? Megan Rapinoe (referenced by the ‘I deserve it’ link) does not appear to be from a privileged background. In any case – from self-interest – the rich are overwhelmingly supportive of ‘conservative’ parties and causes.

Karen Lindquist
Karen Lindquist
1 year ago
Reply to  Diarmid Weir

It actually does make sense if you are familiar with the elite liberal arts academics that have created and blown up this identity ideology and told the students at these schools that it is their job to end all white privilege and be the apostles of equality.
It’s apparently lost on them that THEY are the ones who hold the power and ultimately never do the dirty work.
So, even as they chant Black Lives Matter and Trans Women are Women, they still expect the lowly Hispanics to pick their fruit and veg, and to mow the lawn, and for some working class “pig” whom they most likely believe is a member of the proud boys because he is white and doesn’t have a degree from UC Berkeley or Amherst College to come unclog their toilet.
I, personally, as a proletariat who had to work so hard I’ve broken my body seven ways from Sunday to finally get to a place of some moderate comfort (not living penny to penny) cannot wait for them to get their come-uppance. Godspeed toward the return to reality. I’m counting the minutes.
and if you might judge me conservative, don’t. I grew up as far radical left as one gets, back when that meant working for labor rights and trying to stop corporate takeover of our sovereign nations. I am an actual leftist who is sick of these posh imposters. I want them to hit that brick wall of reality they don’t believe in at a speed that will solve this once and for all.

jim payne
jim payne
1 year ago

Jim Payne
Karen, I grew up about the same as you. Worked seven days a week to get a little business going. Never earn’t a fortune but am comfortable. Only difference, I am a Ghengis Khan socialist. If you graft you deserve a just wage. If you sponge then you should just about get by. The rest of your entry I heartily agree on.

Diarmid Weir
Diarmid Weir
1 year ago

If you are claiming that some people are hypocrites, or that some are using race equality as a cover for ignoring economic inequality, then say so – and back it up. But the assumption that everyone objecting to racial/gender/orientation inequality is guilty of these is itself likely to be a cover for bigotry.

Elaine Hunt
Elaine Hunt
1 year ago
Reply to  Diarmid Weir

That’s not what Karen said. The comment was quite specifically referring to the original subjects of the original article: the pamper young of the very affluent, who can afford to ‘protest’ without any personal sacrifice.

No one, but no one commenting has expressed the concept that racial /gender/ orientation inequality (not sure what the last one is, is it sexual preference?) should be condoned by the wider society, just that these kids are enjoying, as so often, power without responsibility.

Your comments smack of someone who is trying to shut down debate or criticism by accusing the critic of one or many of the current deadly sins (ooo, a bigot, that’s the eleventh circle of hell, right there).

Last edited 1 year ago by Elaine Hunt