Sunday, September 26, 2021

Rules For The 'Elites' vs Rules For Everyone Else: Return To Rulers And Serfs

Pinkerton: The Mask Comes Off in a Two-Tier Society Where There’s One Rule for Elites and Another for the Rest of Us

Which side of the velvet rope are you on? Are you one of the cool kids? Were you born on the right side of the tracks?  Are you on the Forbes 400 list of the richest Americans? And now another question to test your social standing: Do you have a high enough status so that you don’t have to wear a face mask?  

That last question comes to mind as we think about last weekend’s Emmy Awards in Los Angeles, which were staged on a strictly two-tier basis: The Hollywood glitterati performers and guests did not wear masks, while the help did. 

This tableau was apparently too much for comedian Seth Rogen. He blasted the Emmy operators, saying, “They said this was outdoors. It’s not. They lied to us.”

Needless to say, CNN, always eager to help the elite wriggle out of an optical jam, rushed out this report:

LA County Department of Public Health tells me that the mask-less Emmys were not in violation of the county’s mask mandate because “exceptions are made for film, television, and music productions.”

And so we learn that those involved in film, television, and music production are immunefrom the virus, nor evidently can they be carriers. Any questions?  

The Emmys, of course, were part of a pattern: One rule for me, and one rule for ye. 

The maskless cast of “Stephen Colbert’s Election Night 2020” poses at the 73rd Primetime Emmy Awards in Los Angeles, CA, on September 19, 2021. (AP Photo/Chris Pizzello)

Maskless actress Jean Smart receives a hand-personalized bottle of wine from masked workers at the 73rd Emmy Awards in Los Angeles, CA, on September 19, 2021. (Vince Bucci/Invision for the Television Academy/AP Images)

Maskless actress Hannah Waddingham with a masked worker backstage at the 73rd Primetime Emmy Awards in Los Angeles, CA, on September 19, 2021. (Willy Sanjuan/Invision for the Television Academy/AP Images)

A month earlier, an unauthorized photo showed Barack Obama dancing, maskless, at his lavish 60th birthday party at his $30 million manse on Martha’s Vineyard; the archetypal citadel of elite liberalism. 

Then, in September, we saw a similar delineation of class status at the Metropolitan Museum of Art Gala in Manhattan: Those who paid $30,000 for a ticket didn’t wear masks, while those serving the drinks and the hors d’ouevres were masked.  In the snarky words of gimlet-eyed comedian Bill Maher, “Let’s just make the help wear the masks, that’s the liberal approach.”

Plus, in her own Marie Antoinette-esque category, is San Francisco Mayor London Breed. Breed exempted herself from her own city’s mask-wearing rules at a night club because, well, she was enjoying the music so much. Making no apologies and making it clear she would do it again, she declared to reporters, “I got up and started dancing because I was feeling the spirit, and I wasn’t thinking about a mask.” 

Meanwhile, the rules get tougher for the rest of us. For instance, the University of Southern California demands that its law students—almost all of whom are young and healthy—wear masks indoors at all times. If they wish to eat or drink, they must do so outdoors 

All this was too much for iconoclastic leftist Glenn Greenwald, who tweeted:

Imagine being a USC student and just watched everyone maskless at Obama’s party, the Emmys, the SF Mayor at her nightclub, the California Gov. at his lobbyist dinner, AOC at the Met, and then being told you must remain masked at all times indoors, not even allowed to eat or drink.

If it’s any comfort, it’s always been like this — with the rich and powerful exalting themselves in every possible way. In ancient Rome, for instance, the senatorial order wore one purple stripe on their togas; this was the latus clavus. At the same time, the equestrian order wore two purple stripes; this was the clavus angustus.  Needless to say, the plebeians were not allowed to wear such attire, let alone slaves. So there you have it: The hierarchy made itself visible at a glance, using bits of fabric. 

As they say about history, The more things change the more they stay the same. 

In more recent times, the foremost observer of status gradations was the American economist Thorstein Veblen. His 1899 book, The Theory of the Leisure Class, lays out his observations on “conspicuous consumption.” That is, the rich aren’t happy just being rich, they often feel the need to flaunt their riches. As Veblen put it, “The consumption of luxuries is . . . a mark of the master.” 


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