Trending Topics:

Anti-WASP tropes in the ‘NYT’

US Politics
on 52 Comments

From the New York Times, David Brooks on Jeb Bush:

That doesn’t mean the party will snap back to its old establishmentarian tendencies. Bush had several moments [in last week’s debate] to deliver a devastating blow — like challenging Trump for going after his wife — but he couldn’t quite turn them into hot-blooded signature moments. Three hundred and fifty years of WASP reticence have left habits of gentility and emotional guardedness that inhibit him, just as they inhibited his father.

And Marissa Rothkopf on a new restaurant that is

small and understatedly elegant. It befits a chef [Christine Nunn] who also wrote “The Preppy Cookbook,” a set of recipes inspired by and catered toward the Locust Valley lockjaw set.

She linked that phrase to William Safire, back in the 80s; and her brother David Rothkopf, the editor of Foreign Policy, reveled in it on twitter:

The latest from my sis, @marissarothkopf: Getting well beyond lunch for the lockjaw set at Picnic on the Square

(This is prejudice justified in the speakers’ minds by the belief that they are Jewish outsiders. Says a friend: “Imagine if somebody wrote, ‘Three hundred and fifty years of Jewish insularity had left Chuck Schumer with habits of tribal loyalty and paranoia that inhibit him, just as they inhibit others.’” My Protestant wife says no one speaks lockjaw except Katherine Hepburn in Philadelphia Story. When she came into my family 25 years ago, my father called her Brenda Frazier, a reference to a debutante in the 1940s who was on the cover of Life Magazine– because my wife has perfect manners. She politely pointed out to my father, Did he really think that was a compliment? Brenda Frazier was an airhead who repeatedly tried to kill herself and drank herself to death. Riding back to NY, she said without inhibition, “I saw all the Woody Allen movies, I know about anti-Semitism. I never heard about anti-anti-Semitism.”)

About Philip Weiss

Philip Weiss is Founder and Co-Editor of Mondoweiss.net.

Other posts by .


Posted In:

52 Responses

  1. Krauss
    September 29, 2015, 3:03 pm

    Bigotry dies out with time. I’ll admit I had no clue what “lockjaw” even was up until now. Also, nobody under the age of 50 would ever link to Safire, which of course reinforces my first point.

    Yeah, anti-WASP prejudice is socially accepted in America although I’d say I’ve only really seen Jews engage in it specifically. The rest of America tend to attack the hegemonic whiteness, which includes Jews of course, but that isn’t necessarily bigotry(although it can be in some instances).

    I think part of the unease on the debate of Jewish privilege – that we are now part of white America full-stop and have been so for a long, long time – is that you can’t really identify yourself as an outsider anymore and thus these attacks on WASPs reinforce a mythical notion of marginalisation which simply is laughable today. And when that option is no longer possible, your own privilege has to be examined. And people really don’t like that. Witness the hysterical attacks in the Jewish press on the concept of Jewish privilege to see what I mean(Tablet has really been out there in particular).

    So maybe these slurs on WASPs, casual and “harmless” as they may be, are at root a sign of anxiety over your own group’s status.

    I still look back to the 2010 ‘Girls controversy’ on the issue of race for reference point. When Dunham got criticised for the monolithic whiteness on her show, she countered by saying she’s “Half-Jewish, Half-WASP” and going on saying that 50% of her cast are Jewish.

    Lena played by old rules, the same Rothkopf and Brooks does. But the problem for Lena was that America had moved on. It was simply not possible anymore to pretend being Jewish on TV or in the mainstream of our culture was somehow a victory in and of itself.

    And as a result of that miscalculation, Lena got crushed. So that was 5 years ago. Lena had to adjust because she is still quite young. Rothkopf and Brooks are not young, so their outdated social compass will probably never be corrected, but then again their readership isn’t anyone under 50 either.

    (Sorry).

    • lysias
      September 29, 2015, 3:50 pm

      One of the indications that Gordon Gekko in Wall Street is Jewish is his comment on WASP’s: “That’s the one thing you have to remember about WASPs: they love animals and hate people. ” Another is another comment: “Yeah, not bad for a City College boy. I bought my way in, now all these Ivy league schmucks are sucking my kneecaps. “

      • DaBakr
        September 29, 2015, 7:53 pm

        @ly

        A) comment one could very easily mean that he is referring to himself or his own people. I certainly don’t remember any scenes focused on GG playing with puppies and

        b) the 2nd of your brilliant “Jewish” ideas quote could very easily imply that he bought his way in like so many of the US, Saudi, EU , Chinese and other wealthy family do to get their kids in when the test scores are lacking as are the essays. Al Gore, G.W.Bush, and a number of other mediocre minded movers and shakers in the US fields of business and politics got into their ivy league schools due to the influence of their family names going back into the mid 19th cent and further.

        c)you should probably go back to your sources to find out how so many Jews, Catholics , Koreans and other minority groups got into the top ivy’s besides “buying their way in”

      • lysias
        September 30, 2015, 10:24 am

        Gordon Gekko:

        Co-written by Stone and screenwriter Stanley Weiser, Gekko is claimed to be based loosely on several actual stockbrokers, including Stone’s own father Louis Stone.[4] According to Edward R. Pressman, producer of the film, “Originally, there was no one individual who Gekko was modeled on,” he adds. “But Gekko was partly Milken”, who was the “Junk Bond King” of the 1980s, and indicted on 98 counts of racketeering and fraud in 1989.[5]

        Both Louis Stone (whom his son Oliver greatly admired) and Michael Milken were, of course, Jewish. Maybe you need to be a native New Yorker to catch the hints. (By the way, even though I am a native New Yorker — Irish-American — I have never used the word “schmuck”. I’m not sure I’ve ever heard it coming from the mouth of anyone but a Jew.)

        Oliver Stone was of course writing about an Ivy League (and a Wall Street) of a few decades ago. I was in Princeton’s Class of 1968. There were far fewer Jewish students there than a couple of decades later. And Asian students were few and far between.

    • lysias
      September 29, 2015, 3:56 pm

      First time I’ve heard of a Catholic wedding at a private club in New York. Did they choose that venue because of the participation of the rabbi in the wedding?

      Funny the New York Times would call it “Cambridge University” instead of the official title of “University of Cambridge”.

    • John Douglas
      September 29, 2015, 10:13 pm

      It loses a bit of its irony with the correction.

    • John Douglas
      September 29, 2015, 10:48 pm

      This is an amusing discussion. Growing up Catholic on the North Shore of Boston, my girl cousins had Catholic coming-out parties (at which I was an “escort”, we raced sailboats in Marblehead from an alternative yacht club (the Jews had one too.) My Catholic college, Chris Matthews’ beloved Holy Cross, was deemed by Time magazine as “wall-to-wall” Irish in a cover story about the “Catholic Ivy League” and I had a Catholic acquaintance from my Catholic prep school who claimed to be, unlike me with my immigrant Scotch father, a Catholic Blue Blood. I sprayed trees during the Summer wandering freely through Beverly Farms where the Lowells spoke only to the Cabots and the Cabots (originally the Caboti family from, I think, Bologna) spoke only to god (that divinity remains without caps since it couldn’t possibly have been the “Supreme Being” of which I learned in the Baltimore Catechism.)

      • Kate
        September 30, 2015, 4:40 am

        Nope, not the Massachusetts Cabots. They came from Jersey, one of the Channel Islands off Normandy, to Salem — rather late, in 1700, not 1620, something they’re occasionally needled about.

      • John Douglas
        September 30, 2015, 11:21 am

        Thanks, Kate. You corrected a long-held misconception of mine. A gift.

        From wiki:

        Family origin[edit]
        The Boston Brahmin Cabot family descended from John Cabot (b. 1680 in English Channel Isle of Jersey), who immigrated from his birthplace to Salem, Massachusetts in 1700.[1] Though other individuals with the last name Cabot may descend from Giovanni Caboto (John Cabot, the Italian explorer who came from England to North America in the 1490s), the prominent Boston Brahmin Cabot family descend from the former.[1][2][3][4]

  2. Scott
    September 29, 2015, 3:15 pm

    I remember back in the 80’s, Russell Baker described Trump as a “pushy WASP” –(which I guess he is, I think German Americans qualify).

    • lysias
      September 29, 2015, 3:51 pm

      Back in the day, the newspaper for New York City WASP’s was the late lamented Herald Tribune.

  3. pabelmont
    September 29, 2015, 3:55 pm

    The richest WASPs are perhaps laughable for ultra good manners, emotional restraint (emotional frozenness) but also enviable for running America as they used to do and probably still do (more than these materials suggest). The richest Jews are laughable for (in some cases) having no discernable manners at all, for running over other people like ten-ton trucks, and enviable for running America as they, to a large extent, also do.

    Perhaps the nexus between WASPs and AIPACeteers is the military-industrial-complex which, after 1967, cemented the alliance between American imperialism and Israeli imperialism. remember when Jews who used to be known as human-rights champions started cheering for Central American dictators in line with cheering for Israel.

    Guess that it is a bit of a sign-of-the-Times that WASPs are taking it on the chin in public in an out-and-out display of Jewish, what?, arrogance? Wonder if the WASPs will figure out how to fight back? Perhaps not, because they will be so protected inside the walls of their gated-communities and their high-priced country clubs that they will not even notice what the upstarts are saying about them.

    • lysias
      September 29, 2015, 3:59 pm

      For WASP’s to allow themselves to be criticized and mocked so much serves as a protective mechanism. People will think they can’t be all that powerful any longer.

      Plus, good sports are a lot more popular than people overly sensitive to criticism.

    • RoHa
      September 29, 2015, 6:55 pm

      “The richest WASPs are perhaps laughable for ultra good manners, emotional restraint”

      I have to say that I don’t see anything particularly amusing about those characteristics. They are simply positive qualities which should be emulated generally.

      And why do you call emotional restraint “emotional frozenness”?

      • Ellen
        September 30, 2015, 11:27 pm

        Good manners, restraint is control, self control. And that is not a bad thing.

        Highly valued in Asian and Arabic cultures, for example.

  4. DoubleStandard
    September 29, 2015, 4:21 pm

    Probably the only time I have found myself agreeing with Philip Weiss.

    WASPs are the only group it is socially acceptable to be prejudiced against or mock. WASPs are much more vulnerable than Jews in this respect.

    • hophmi
      September 30, 2015, 7:02 pm

      Lol, brother, please. This is more nonsense; Phil saw a Jewish name in the byline and drew aa ridiculous conclusion for which he provide zero evidence.

  5. Chu
    September 29, 2015, 4:27 pm

    I thought it was Larchmont Lockjaw…

    Even though I understand what Brooks is aiming to do, he wouldn’t do the same to his own tribe. But WASPs are fair game for the Jewish media establishment. They love kicking them so they can take their place – all the while telling themselves how righteous they are.

    But It takes one to know one as Brooks, who is much like Jeb Bush in his reserved and even shy boy mannerisms. Who made him a republican anyway? He’s a Rino type.

    Once he said why he shifted from being on the left to the right. He said one person caused him to shift his core beliefs, but I never knew who he referred to. No matter, the Times needed a safe guy for liberals to spar with and they got actor Brooks to fill the stage. Him and Ruth Marcus on PBS were absolutely nauseating to listen to.

    • lysias
      September 29, 2015, 4:47 pm

      One person? Brooks graduated from the University of Chicago in 1983, at which time Allan Bloom was teaching there. A couple of years later, Brooks, then serving as book editor of the Wall Street Journal, enlisted William Kristol to review Bloom’s book The Closing of the American Mind, which, according to Brooks’s Wikipedia entry, catapulted that book to national prominence.

      • Chu
        September 30, 2015, 9:59 am

        It could be Allan Bloom. Brooks never said whom it was at the time, as he was probably selling new a book. thanks.

      • lysias
        September 30, 2015, 10:14 am

        When I read Saul Bellow’s last novel Ravelstein (which is a roman a clef about Bellow’s friend Allan Bloom), I was shocked by how closed-mindedly Zionist a work it was.

        In 1983, Bellow was also teaching at the University of Chicago. In fact, they taught together on the University of Chicago’s Committee on Social Thought.

    • Rusty Pipes
      September 29, 2015, 7:24 pm

      I heard it referred to as the Lower Shore Lockjaw in college. At least that’s what it sounded like when someone pronounced it through clenched teeth.

      • Kate
        September 30, 2015, 5:04 am

        The East Coast upper-class accent (which is NOT extinct) has other characteristics, not just a clenched jaw. Some of the vowels are different too. I used to pick up some semblance of it temporarily (and largely unconsciously) when I was a scholarship student at a Seven Sisters college – my mother, who exaggerated a lot, used to say that when I called her from there she couldn’t understand a word I said. I’m sure my imitation wasn’t good enough for me to pass as upper class – it’s not an easy accent to copy.
        There’s a pretty good example of it in the 1958 film Auntie Mame – the character Gloria Upson, Patrick’s girlfriend, played by Joanna Barnes, who in real life went to Milton Academy and Smith College.

      • Rusty Pipes
        September 30, 2015, 3:20 pm

        Ghastly! That’s exactly the character I thought of when someone mentioned the lockjaw. While the accent may not be entirely extinct, it certainly is more prevalent among North East elites born before the mid-20th century than today. One of my husband’s elderly aunts had it.

  6. surewin
    September 29, 2015, 4:30 pm

    David Rockefeller’s jaw is securely locked.

  7. JLewisDickerson
    September 29, 2015, 4:39 pm

    RE: “My Protestant wife says no one speaks lockjaw except Katherine Hepburn in Philadelphia Story. “ ~ Weiss

    I BEG TO DIFFER: William F. Buckley, Jr. spoke lockjaw like (i.e., as if/though) there was no tomorrow! ! !

    • JLewisDickerson
      September 29, 2015, 5:10 pm

      P.S. A RELEVANT QUOTATION:

      “What could be worse than war with the Anglo-Saxons? Only friendship.” – General of the Russian Imperial General staff A E Adrian, 1912

      SOURCE – https://niqnaq.wordpress.com/2015/09/29/quote-of-the-day-if-not-the-decade/

    • JLewisDickerson
      September 29, 2015, 10:14 pm

      P.P.S. SOME EXCITING WASP NEWS: What the Dickens? Apparently I’m really a Dickinson! (Not that there’s anything necessarily wrong with that, I guess. Except that apparently I come from a long line of poor spellers.)

      1. • RICHARD DICKINSON was born 1564 in London, England.
      2. JOHN DICKINSON (RICHARD1) was born January 1592/93 in London, England.
      3. GRIFFITH DICKINSON (JOHN2, RICHARD1) was born 1629 in London, England, and died Abt. 1687 in New Kent Co, Virginia.
      4. • WILLIAM DICKENSON (GRIFFITH3 DICKINSON, JOHN2, RICHARD1) was born 1652 in Charles City Co. Virginia, and died 1734 in King William Co..
      5. NATHANIEL DICKENSON (WILLIAM4, GRIFFITH3 DICKINSON, JOHN2, RICHARD1) was born Abt. 1678 in Virginia, and died 1738 in New Kent Co, Virginia.
      6. GRIFFITH DICKENSON (NATHANIEL5, WILLIAM4, GRIFFITH3 DICKINSON, JOHN2, RICHARD1) was born 1713 in Virginia, and died December 12, 1785.
      7. • ROBERT DICKERSON (GRIFFITH6 DICKENSON, NATHANIEL5, WILLIAM4, GRIFFITH3 DICKINSON, JOHN2, RICHARD1) was born 1737 in Hanover County Va, and died 1819 in Louisa Co. Va.

    • Ellen
      September 30, 2015, 11:40 pm

      Watch Buckley’s eyes when answering. He was already addicted to Percodan at that time.

      Also of note is the question at 5:50 when Buckley is asked if Israel should give back the land they took from Palestine. Allen jokes, no….they should sell it back to the Palestinians. ……

    • JLewisDickerson
      October 5, 2015, 8:05 pm

      P.P.P.S. ■ Noam Chomsky Teaches William F. Buckley a Thing or Two.

  8. PeaceThroughJustice
    September 29, 2015, 5:04 pm

    “I saw all the Woody Allen movies, I know about anti-Semitism. I never heard about anti-anti-Semitism.”

    I’m guessing the Phil Weiss we know today would not exist if he had married in. (In fact it’s a little frightening to imagine to what different ends that mix of intelligence and tribal solidarity might easily have been applied.)

    • Mooser
      September 30, 2015, 10:32 am

      “I’m guessing the Phil Weiss we know today would not exist if he had married in.”

      My parents displayed no prejudice at all when I introduced them to my non-Jewish girlfriend. My Mom took one look at the lovely, intelligent girl and said : “Oh no, honey, this won’t do. You are much too good for him!”
      She was right, of course.

    • Keith
      September 30, 2015, 1:57 pm

      PEACETHROUGHJUSTICE- “I’m guessing the Phil Weiss we know today would not exist if he had married in.”

      Most likely he would still be writing under the pseudonym “Alexander Portnoy.”

  9. Ted621
    September 29, 2015, 6:25 pm

    This Jewish obsession with WASPs is particularly startling when looking at a number of issues. Look at the rapturous reception received by the Pope on his visit to NY, DC, and Philadelphia. Catholics are still a sizable block – both in politics and culture. Granted, the Italian & Irish Catholics of the Northeast and Midwest are declining, being replaced by Latinos. Protestants may find the Pope admirable, but they were not the one packing the streets.

    As this page noted – the recent Iran Deal survived in Congress, in no small part due to a black president and the unity demonstrated by the Congressional Black Caucus. Trying to persuade them to abandon the first black president at the behest of an Israeli gov’t that has a poor track record on treating African migrants did not strike anyone as hopeless?

    In academic competitions, Jews have been edged out in many areas by Asian students – Chinese, Indian, Korean, etc. NY’s Stuyvesant school is now regarded by some as “too Asian” – incidentally, I don’t recall this as a problem when the school was “too Jewish.” My relatives in Syosset, who sent their kids to the public schools, noted the difference in how families deal with kids who bring home disappointing report cards. The Jewish parents will often raise the issue with the school, while the Asian parents will trust the teacher’s judgment and tell their kids to try harder next time.

    With all these other groups exercising their clout, and elite Jews are still worried about how WASPs view them?

    • Mooser
      September 30, 2015, 2:29 pm

      “My relatives in Syosset, who sent their kids to the public schools, “

      There is really a place called “Syosset”? I thought it was a fictional town invented by MAD Magazine.

  10. DaBakr
    September 29, 2015, 8:02 pm

    Poor suffering ‘wasps’. Digby Baltzall would be spinning in his grave. They loved the up and coming Jews too good and now the indignity of it all. Poor PW too. His exclusive entrance to the ‘most-coveted-club-a-NYC-jewboy-could-imagine’ needs defending by his scrappy Jewish upstart nature they can’t manage on their own.

  11. Dan
    September 29, 2015, 8:19 pm

    “My Protestant wife says no one speaks lockjaw except Katherine Hepburn in Philadelphia Story – See more at: http://mondoweiss.net/2015/09/anti-wasp-tropes#comment

    I think your wife is mistaken. It was a real accent representing a real group – mostly gone now. William Buckley(as noted by others), Louis Auchincloss, George Plimpton to name a few.

    “This is prejudice justified in the speakers’ minds by the belief that they are Jewish outsider”

    I don’t know what the Jewish reference has to do with this. I’ve know a few catholic guys who would stereotype “Boston Brahmins” the same way. And no doubt there are Jews and Catholics who wouldn’t. To suggest there is something “Jewish’ about this is weird.

    I don’t think it has to do with feeling like an outsider either. I’d be surprised if Brooks does. (I assume you mean outside of power). We are talking about a stereotype of someone from another group, not an admirable trait, but not driven by insider or outsider status, just difference – you are reading way too much into this.

    • Annie Robbins
      September 29, 2015, 9:22 pm

      dan, maybe phil’s wife meant that in 1990 nobody spoke it anymore, and the woody allen clip is even 20 years older. i didn’t hear people talking like that where i was raised, maybe it’s more of an east coast thing.

      I don’t know what the Jewish reference has to do with this. I’ve know a few catholic guys who would stereotype “Boston Brahmins” the same way.

      that’s not the same thing as seeing it as fit to print, flaunting the insult so to speak. can you find something similar published somewhere as an example?

    • Robert Brooks
      October 1, 2015, 9:31 pm

      Don’t forget Gore Vidal

  12. yonah fredman
    September 29, 2015, 9:14 pm

    Why don’t WASPs go to orgies? Too many thank you cards.

    • just
      September 29, 2015, 10:57 pm

      That’s disgusting on so many levels.

    • Annie Robbins
      September 29, 2015, 11:45 pm

      i’ve heard jewish american princess (jap) jokes about them having sex. something about filing their nails. are you sure you want to go there yonah? after all, like yours it is sort of demeaning to the male. unless you think it’s males/husbands writing those thank you notes.

    • Qualtrough
      September 30, 2015, 2:17 am

      I seldom agree with Yonah but I laughed out loud when I read his joke. I am a WASP and it does not offend me in the least. I don’t want to live in a humorless world in which we cannot laugh at ourselves or even others from time to time.

      • Mooser
        September 30, 2015, 10:25 am

        Qualtrough, I haven’t laughed at any joke concerning sex since the funniest sex joke of all, that two-word slogan “Safe sex”.
        Sex is never safe, and I can’t think of a single good reason why we should think it is.

    • Mooser
      September 30, 2015, 10:53 am

      Oh look, “Yonah” is getting lascivious. “Yonah”, take it from a lantzman, on you it doesn’t look good.
      But, I must say, I am a little in awe of your familiarity with orgies, “Yonah”! Do you go to many orgies? Does an ‘inclusive community’ organize them for you?

      • talknic
        October 1, 2015, 12:41 am

        @ Mooser “Yonah”! Do you go to many orgies?

        Not without his dachshund

    • Kris
      September 30, 2015, 12:14 pm
      • Jon66
        September 30, 2015, 1:10 pm

        @Kris
        I think for most of us sex is a more pleasant thought. I don’t think the first word that comes to mind for most of us would be “abuse”.

      • Kris
        September 30, 2015, 8:38 pm

        @Jon66: “I think for most of us sex is a more pleasant thought.”

        Maybe in a different context. In the present context, we are discussing Israel/Palestine, and therefore sex is not a pleasant thought, since sexual abuse is used as a weapon by Israeli Jews against Palestinian children and their families.

      • oldgeezer
        September 30, 2015, 11:29 pm

        @jon66

        I just dont get the joke. As a WASp I didnt mind getting all those thank you cards although I never did understand why sending them is a custom amongst the Jewish ladies.

  13. PilgrimSoul
    September 30, 2015, 8:47 pm

    This takes us into complex and extremely interesting areas of personality, power and unconscious attitudes. But I don’t think you can ever compare antisemitic jokes to jokes about WASPs. Antisemitism is never trivial, because it is about the dark and sadistic side of Christianity that went unchecked for a millennium, culminating in the Holocaust. Anti-WASP jokes are simply an entertainment, greatly enjoyed by many WASPs themselves, myself included.

    That doesn’t mean that people can’t make jokes about Jews, Jewishness and Judaism, in their own circle of close friends. But the difference all comes down to the aggression at the core of the joke. All jokes are about aggression, in one way or another. A joke about Jews that is filled with loathing or self-loathing is probably going to be antisemitic. A joke about Jews that gently pokes fun at some perceived characteristic probably won’t be.

    What makes such jokes extremely edgy is that in real life there is no “they,” not really–there are only individuals with feelings, aspirations and reactions of their own. It is when we create a “they” to attack an entire group that the whole thing starts to feel dangerous, and can quickly become extremely negative.

    But even generalized jokes can also be extremely helpful. I lived for twenty years with a German Jew who made one joke after another about WASPs, and I simply loved the dynamism of it, and the hilarity. (Because, folks, WASPs really ARE funny, and the nicer they are the funnier they can be.) The other great partner in my life was a Muslim woman who constantly made jokes about white Americans…again, I loved it, for the very same reason that I loved the Jewish worldview–because it was being lived out in a very real place, as a response to attitudes that weren’t even completely understood by the people who acted them out.

    Say what you will about them, jokes about ethnicity and religion are real, at least for the people who are to some extent involved in them. Can we see such jokes as narratives that illuminate our lives without hurting, and being hurt?

Leave a Reply