A case of pseudo self defense?

Regular readers to this blog know how much I hate labels and ad hominem attacks. Of course, no matter how much I hate them, the nation's leading labelmakers will never stop cranking them out.

Still, I have to draw the line somewhere -- in this case it comes down to misusing or redefining words. A recent piece by Ann Coulter (at one of my favorite of the no-holds-barred websites) will serve as an example.

Here's the offending excerpt:

...[I]f we're going to determine fitness for office based on life experience, Kerry clearly has no experience dealing with problems of typical Americans since he is a cad and a gigolo living in the lap of other men's money.

Kerry is like some character in a Balzac novel, an adventurer twirling the end of his mustache and preying on rich women. This low-born poseur with his threadbare pseudo-Brahmin family bought a political career with one rich woman's money, dumped her, and made off with another heiress to enable him to run for president.

[Let me assure my readers that defending Kerry is the last thing I want to do. And, while I wish that in general political critics could stick with attacking the substance of what candidates say, rather than attacking them for accidents of birth, or whether they married into money, I really have to object when the labels are just plain misuse of langauge.]

What, pray tell, is a "pseudo-Brahmin"? And what is a "gigolo"?

Let's start with "pseudo-Brahmin."

The prefix "pseudo" means that someone is being at least fake (and most likely lying) about something. A "pseudo-intellectual" is not a real intellectual. A pseudonym is a fictitious name. The Greek word "pseudos" means, simply, "falsehood."

A lie.

OK, so Kerry is apparently lying about his "Brahmin" background. He either says he is a Brahmin, or else somehow has duped the world into thinking he's one.

But that name -- "Kerry." Sounds to me about as "Brahmin" as "Kennedy."

Did Kennedy pass himself himself off as a Brahmin? Is that the impled aroma here? A Boston JFK wannabe?


The following colloquy is from an interview with a biographer of Patriarch Joe Kennedy:

4) JLeB: What drove Joe Kennedy? What was he trying to overcome? Was it class warfare with him, an Irish immigrant, versus the Boston Brahmin Establishment?

Ed Klein: Joe Kennedy harbored deep feelings of worthlessness. In The Kennedy Curse, I trace these feelings back to the Kennedys' early history, which left an indelible scar on their psyche. Among America's immigrant groups in the nineteenth century, the Irish were the only people who suffered the soul-searing experience of colonialism. Before coming to this country, they lived under the heel of cruel English oppressors for several centuries. Although the Kennedys achieved financial security early in their American sojourn, they were denied social acceptance and status by the Protestant Establishment. Joe and his sons never forgot this slight and they sought revenge all of their lives.


I guess we need to go to the dictionary to discover the meaning of "Brahmin." Bear with me if you can bear it.

Brahmin: a highly cultured person; an intellectual, esp. one who is supercilious or exclusive; -- used satirically. Webster's New International (Second Ed., 1958)

Here's Kerry's real background (what he's accused of trying to hide):

Divorced in 1982, he is now married to Teresa Heinz Kerry. While some of his constituents had assumed that he had Irish roots, the Kerry side of the family in fact came from Austria. A genealogist hired by The Globe confirmed that Kerry's grandfather was originally Fritz Kohn, of Jewish descent, a discovery that surprised Kerry, who had suspected only that his grandmother might have been Jewish. Kohn and his wife, the former Ida Lowe, changed their name to Kerry, converted to Catholicism, and immigrated to the United States in 1905. Kerry's Brahmin roots come from his maternal side, the Winthrops and Forbeses. A Winthrop great-aunt helped pay for much of his education at St. Paul's School in Concord, N.H. Even now, some of Kerry's fondest memories are of skating on the pond that rings St. Paul's. Now he campaigns in the state where he spent his formative years, hoping a strong showing in the primary there will give him a speedy start as he seeks to fulfill his lifelong ambition of becoming president.
Whoa! Kerry is half Jewish immigrant -- and half elite Boston aristocrat!

Now, where does the "pseudo" part come in? Is that schweinhund Kerry passing himself off as cultured because he is half converted Jew? Or does the "pseudo" appellation refer to his mother's family, hidden behind the more cultured Jewish side?

I ask that as a rhetorical question only to demonstrate that Ms. Coulter is trading on certain assumptions here. Assumptions I don't think most people would catch. Might a more subtle smear be at work via the play on words? Brahmin blood is superior; something to brag about. Jewish blood is something to hide. Is the implication that he's been hiding his Jewish blood? Why would Senator Kerry do that? I find it hard to believe.

Is he being tarred for the alleged sins of his Jewish ancestors?

(Ah! Those clever half Jews strike again! -- trying to pass themselves off as good Aryans!)

How else am I to make sense of the word "pseudo"? Kerry is a phony what?

I guess she couldn't have dared call him a "pseudo-Jew."

"Pseudo-American" perhaps.

I think this whole thing of smearing people because of accidents of birth isn't even pseudo-American.

It's un-American.

(But I don't even like Kerry! Why do I feel compelled to get into this?)

Let's give Ms. Coulter the benefit of the doubt here. Might she not care about the Jewish ancestry of Senator Kerry? Rather, might she merely be annoyed that his forbears hid it?

In 1905?

To my mind, that only makes the smear worse. European anti-Semitism, as well as American anti-Semitism, were in full swing back then. Is it fair to sit in judgment on immigrants who might have taken advantage of a move to a new country to convert, assimilate, and hope no one would notice? Hell, I'd be willing to bet that the condescending liberals of the time would have lauded this as the essence of the American "melting pot."

But that's the thing about purists. They won't really let you melt. Instead, dirt in your pedigree will always lurk in the background, just waiting for someone to come along and call you a "pseudo" something-or-other. (Reminds me of the attacks on homosexuals. If they come out, they're part of the hated "gay agenda"! If they are discreet, then they ought to be ashamed for hiding it! The classic no-win.)

I know these deals firsthand. My mom was a Philadelphia blueblood, whose ancestry in America dates back to before the Revolution. My father was of Norwegian immigant stock and grew up on a farm. I don't think of myself as either a "blueblood" or a "Norwegian-American." But just to get my tainted past out of the way, right now, I plead guilty to being a "pseudo-Blueblood".

(At the rate this is going, I'm gonna end up liking Kerry! Nah; I won't, because I don't like socialism -- but that's not the point.)

Now, onto the "Gigolo" business. Once again, definitions. A "gigolo" is defined as follows:

...fr. giguer to hop, dance. See JIG.] 1. a man who lives upon the earnings of a professional prostitute. 2. A paid dancing partner or male escort, as at a cabaret. Webster's New International (Second Ed., 1958)
The accusation here is that Kerry married rich women, and lived off them. According to my dictionary, unless one of them was a prostitute, then Kerry is not a gigolo. Surely, he does not have time to work as a male escort. Even if his wife never gave him a dime, his salary as United States Senator ought to furnish him with enough money that he shouldn't have to hang out with old ladies or dance for money.

However, if evidence that Kerry did these things turns up, well, I'll just have to retract my charge that the word "gigolo" is being misused.

Even then, I still might not like Kerry. But the fact is, I don't see facts supporting the charge that he's a gigolo.

But let's take a broader, more general view of the term. Might Ms. Coulter be suggesting that Kerry is a gigolo for living off his wife?

What is his senatorial salary, anyway? A paltry $154,000, more or less. Chump change for Kerry's wife. But considering all the perks, including full health care, office expenses, parking, etc., the man is hardly forced to live off his wife.

No matter how I look at it, Kerry is not a gigolo. If men who marry rich women are henceforth "gigolos", that changes the meaning of the word.

I am a little sensitive about this insult too. I run around with some elderly female friends, and I have been snidely called a "male escort" for it.

I am therefore far closer to the dictionary definition of "gigolo" than Kerry. He's just not in my league.

But again, I don't like to brag.

Can I just be a pseudo-gigolo?

UPDATE: The almighty AgendaBender offers a post which damn near corners the market (if I may say that) on the pseudo topic. A story in the Corner reveals that 90% of homosexuals are only pseudo!

"Of all those who call themselves lesbian or gay, a maximum of five to 10 percent are effectively lesbian or gay . . . All the rest are just sexual perverts."
Adds AgendaBender:
The raspberry bereted, canary suited flaneurs (90%) are just perverts--Chromosexuals. The black and white wallflower shut-ins(10%) are the real homos. Because, uhm, well, the ones who stay at home and favor grayscale outfits are somberly (and tastefully) gay, I guess. Sounds like the Cardinal is gunning for the clothes-guy slot on Queer Eye. He's got my vote there.
Makes sense to me! We've all heard of lipstick lesbians. Why not pseudo homo? (Will the NIH discover whether it's possible to fake a gay orgasm?)

And following AgendaBender's lead, I also attempted to Mixmasterize this blog with one of my faves -- and I got the following error message:

You b0rked the MixMaster :(

Reason: http://classicalvalues.com too large

Too large?

Do I have to pseudo-downsize?

2-05-04 UPDATE (IN AN ATTEMPT AT HONESTY): I am not sure that Ann Coulter deserves the credit for activating the pseudo-meme which I began on this blog after reading her diatribe against Kerry.

I now suspect the pseudo-seed had been planted in my pseudo-brain earlier!

A couple of days before the Coulter post, Glenn Reynolds reported a putdown of him and other nanotechnology advocates by a guy with a name almost as unpronounceable as "Enver Hoxha":

Mark Modzelewski of the NanoBusiness Alliance, responding to an earlier post on this topic here at InstaPundit, puts down "bloggers, Drexlerians, pseudo-pundits, panderers and other denizens of their momís basements."
In a burst of reflexive creativity, I grabbed the name "pseudopundit.com" -- which I later found appears to be taken by another blogger. I believe in being fair, but I notice his blog has been "dead" (no posts) for a year, and that there were only seven posts in the entire life of the blog. Still, I know what it's like to die, as well as to lose interest in a blog, and so if that blogger is reading this and wants the dot-com, I would be all too happy to sell it to him at my cost.

Until then, I am officially "pseudo" -- through and through, dyed in the pseudo-wool!

Enough! I'm all pseudoed out.

posted by Eric on 02.01.04 at 09:54 PM


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When Kevin Aylward started this feature to highlight the worst posts of the blogosphere, he clearly had no idea how much lousy material is out... [Read More]
Tracked on February 3, 2004 7:56 AM



Ann Coulter.


What a relief to know that I'm just pseudo-gay. Does that mean I don't have to make sure my boots and belt match any more?


David Strain   ·  February 2, 2004 6:17 PM

Ann Coulter is ceasing to be even amusing. The first paragraph was somewhat witty, but the rest was just a smear against a front-running Democrat. Would have been any Democrat, she'd have found a way to dig up some dirt on anybody and make whoever was ahead look bad. That's all she ever does. She's just a knee-jerk partisan hack, no better than the hate-Bush crowd, hardly even funny any more, hardly even to laugh _at_*.
What kind of "pseudo" am I, I wonder? I hope not only a Pseudo-Deviated Prevert! I want to be a real Deviated Prevert!

(*which, I must confess, is what my sense of humor consists of. Steven Malcolm Anderson has no sense of humor except sadistic and/or sardonic, sarcastic.)

Steven Malcolm Anderson   ·  February 3, 2004 12:27 AM

That MixMaster is a lot of fun! I did it with my own and a number of other sites, with, uh, mixed results. ha! ha! I made Fred Phelps become a Lesbian.

Steven Malcolm Anderson   ·  February 3, 2004 5:37 PM

I forgot to mention that, of course, Kerry's not a Brahmin. He's a Kshatriya!

Steven Malcolm Anderson   ·  February 3, 2004 5:39 PM

Don't ever downsize. In your case, bigger really is better.

Dave   ·  February 4, 2004 8:47 AM

David, welcome! I didn't know you were such a fan of Ann Coulter!


Steven, you didn't supply the URL of your Mixmaster mockery of Phelps!

And Dave, welcome! (It's not every day that I get compliments about size....)

Eric Scheie   ·  February 5, 2004 8:47 AM

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