August 27, 2008

Maureen Dowd picks up "a vibe so weird and jittery, so at odds with the early thrilling, fairy dust feel of the Obama revolution."

At the Democratic Convention.
There were a lot of bitter Clinton associates, fund-raisers and supporters wandering the halls, spewing vindictiveness, complaining of slights, scheming about Hillary’s roll call and plotting trouble, with some in the Clinton coterie dissing Obama by planning early departures, before the nominee even speaks....

At a press conference with New York reporters on Monday, Hillary looked as if she were straining at the bit to announce her 2012 exploratory committee.

“Remember, 18 million people voted for me, 18 million people, give or take, voted for Barack,” she said, while making a faux pro-Obama point. She keeps acting as if her delegates are out of her control, when she’s been privately egging on people to keep her dream alive as long as possible, no matter what the cost to Obama.

ADDED: Dowd ends her column with:
“I’m telling you, man,” said one top Democrat, “it’s something about our party, the shtetl mentality.”
Is the phrase "shtetl mentality" such common parlance that it can be used without explanation (and as the punchline of the whole column). A Google search for the term (in quotes, not just the two words) yields only 1,570 hits, and I clicked on a few without getting anything very useful. Perhaps it's more current chez NYT. I did a search on the NYT site. The top hit was today's Maureen Dowd column. So what else?

There's this, a 1988 letter from a rabbi criticizing something that had appeared in the newspaper:
[Do people fear] the image of Israeli soldiers defending themselves and their homeland threatens the security of Jews living in America? Indeed, if Jews abroad are cast as villains, Jews here become more vulnerable. The ''shtetl mentality'' is still part of the American Jew's psyche, timid and fearful of repercussions.
There's this, a recent article on Orthodox Jews and marriage:
“Matchmakers still have the idea that if you put two Jews together, it will work... But that’s a shtetl mentality. In the shtetl, what else did you know but your neighbor and your neighbor’s daughter? If you’re not sheltered, that’s not going to work. All we have are Marc Chagall paintings of that life. We’re not in the shtetl anymore.”
There's this:
''Bill Gates can't win,'' says Vartan Gregorian, president of the Carnegie Corporation and a longtime adviser to Gates on the subject of philanthropy. ''It's like 19th-century anti-Semitism. If the Jews didn't mix into German society, people said they had a parochial, shtetl mentality. If they did mix, people said they were trying to pass. More important than why he's doing this is what he's doing. The proof will be in the pudding."
There's this, from a 1995 about the assassination of Yitzak Rabin:
The Zionists of the period of Israel's founding in 1948 were largely secular, sometimes even anticlerical, rejecting what they saw as a submissive, segregated shtetl mentality that allowed Jews to be slaughtered in the Holocaust. In the bustle of the early state, the religious were often looked down on as primitive.
Notice how all those examples include what is essentially a definition of the term, which seems to vary in meaning. Does it mean narrow-minded and insular or fatally blind to the danger of self-segregation? What was Dowd's "top Democrat" trying to say: That the Democrats are hunkering down in Denver but ultimately doomed?

52 comments:

cokaygne said...

The conventions are BBBOOORRRIIINNNGGG!!! so the media are trying to gin up interest by playing up the slightest indications of controversy. Reminds me of the days when Kremlinologists used to judge the state of the USSR by analyzing who stood where on the podium at Moscow parades.

The Drill SGT said...

“What is that feeling in the air?” I asked him.

“Submerged hate,” he promptly replied.

Simon said...

Dowd said...
"she’s been privately egging on people to keep her dream alive as long as possible, no matter what the cost to Obama."

I somehow doubt that she's indifferent to the cost to Obama. Here's a young, unqualified, inexperienced whiz kid who steamed in and stole the promotion she'd worked and sacrificed for. She was passed over. How d'you think that makes her feel? And how d'you think she's going to feel when that whiz kid gets fired after a disastrous pitch meeting with a potential client leading to a contract being torn up?

Richard Fagin said...

That line about the "shtetl" mentality among Democrats said it all. The party really is a religious village that tolerates no deviation from accepted doctrine.

Grilled C. said...

The party really is a religious village that tolerates no deviation from accepted doctrine.

Ah, like this blog. But not rabidly conservative.

Pogo said...

"...will just add to the celebrity cachet that Democrats have somehow been shamed into seeing as a negative"

Somehow??
Because it just worked so well in 2004.

Yes, do keep playing the Godspell 2: American Prayer commercial. It's great.

Meade said...

Whoa, Grilled C, deviating comments like yours are so not tolerated around here.

You should probably run for your life.

The Drill SGT said...

Whoa, Grilled C, deviating comments like yours are so not tolerated around here.

Simon is already drafting a letter to DoJ asking for criminal investigation :)

ron st.amant said...

Funny, but I've always picked up a jittery vibe from Maureen Dowd...its a hair-dye and gin-soaked revolution feel.

ron st.amant said...

Don't worry Grilled C, remember these are Republicans, they don't believe in torture so you'll just be waterboarded.

Simon said...

Meade, the thing that I don't get is, if people think that this moderate blog is "rabidly conservative," what the hell do they think actually conservative blogs are? More ADS, I fear.

Meade said...

Waterboard? We don't waterboard here. We drown the little buggers.

And for you guys with MoDo Derangement Syndrome

Ann Althouse said...

Richard Fagin said..."That line about the "shtetl" mentality among Democrats said it all. The party really is a religious village that tolerates no deviation from accepted doctrine."

I don't think that is what "shtetl mentality" means. I've added an update to the post examining the term. From what I've seen it has to do with the group keeping to itself because it is afraid of what the majority of the country will do to them.

The Drill SGT said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
The Drill SGT said...

Thanks Meade.

When you see a columnist head shot in the paper you always think about how many decades ago it was taken.

apparently Mo's was this decade

Simon said...

Meade - nice! They say some people have a face best suited to radio, and I'm probably one of them, but Dowd has a face for any visual medium. I think she's very pretty, and she'd be attractive, too, if she'd drop that lazy, affected closed-throat style of speaking.

MadisonMan said...

So let's speculate who the 'top democrat' is that uses an odd idiom like 'shtetl'. I'd say Joe Lieberman.

rhhardin said...

It works if you take it as meaning putz.

Palladian said...

Where's Cedarford?

Paul said...

"shtetl mentality" . Was it Imus or someone who was at a party with some liberals in Manhatten after the 00' Bush win, and a women was wondering how he could win, because "no one I know voted for him"?

Zeb Quinn said...

I somehow doubt that she's indifferent to the cost to Obama. Here's a young, unqualified, inexperienced whiz kid who steamed in and stole the promotion she'd worked and sacrificed for. She was passed over

When you really think about it the funny part is, as bad as Obama is qualifications-wise, Hillary is pretty much an empty pantsuit herself. What really hurts for her I'd imagine is it was something she thought she had a lock on.

ron st.amant said...

"don't mind my book"...haha...don't worry.

she is pretty attractive though but she looked out of place without a cosmopolitan in hand and seething hatred for the Clintons...

I've always wondered the way she went after Bill Clinton if in some way he hadn't rejected her at some point...but then again we know that wouldn't have happened.

just sayin'

Peter V. Bella said...

I somehow doubt that she's indifferent to the cost to Obama. Here's a young, unqualified, inexperienced whiz kid who steamed in and stole the promotion she'd worked and sacrificed for. She was passed over

It is actually a wash. One unqualified inexperienced person taking the lead from another unqualified, inexperienced person.

former law student said...

When I think of shtetl mentality, I think of two things: small-town parochialism and self-segregation.

First of all, irrespective of the population's culture or religious background, a shetl is a small village, where small things loom large because there's not much else to think about. Small slights and injuries are cherished for a lifetime.

The other striking aspect of shtetl life was the conscious setting themselves apart from the Gentiles. Few or no towns were populated only by Jews. Yet many Jews never learned to speak Polish, finding their needs met in Yiddish. Jews could not accept a Gentile's hospitality, because their food was tainted. Jews could not even drink milk that had been milked by a Gentile. The points of interaction were solely economic. As a result, although many Holocaust survivors could remember the names of all the Jews in their village, few could remember the name of even one Gentile family.

Simon said...

former law student said...
"When I think of shtetl mentality, I think of two things: small-town parochialism and self-segregation."

What about big town parochialism? You don't think that New York City suffers from this in a political sense, almost as an avatar for liberalism more generally?

Richard said...

Damn, Ann! You need some web surfing lessons.

Shtetl? First hit out of the box on Google was to Wickipedia:

A shtetl (Yiddish: שטעטל, diminutive form of Yiddish shtot שטאָט, "town", pronounced very similarly to the South German diminutive "Städtle", "little town") was typically a small town with a large Jewish population in pre-Holocaust Central and Eastern Europe. Shtetls (Yiddish plural: שטעטלעך, shtetlekh) were mainly found in the areas which constituted the 19th century Pale of Settlement in the Russian Empire, the Congress Kingdom of Poland, Galicia, and Romania. A larger city, like Lemberg or Czernowitz, was called a shtot (Yiddish: שטאָט); a smaller village was called a dorf (Yiddish: דאָרף).

The concept of shtetl culture is used as a metaphor for the traditional way of life of 19th-century Eastern European Jews. Shtetls are portrayed as pious communities following Orthodox Judaism, socially stable and unchanging despite outside influence or attacks. The Holocaust resulted in the disappearance of the vast majority of shtetls, through both extermination and mass exodus to the United States and what became Israel.

Ann Althouse said...

Richard, I obviously knew what "shtetl" means and didn't have to Google that. I was searching for the restricted phrase "shtetl mentality" which my update shows is used in different ways and ordinarily accompanied by a clause directing us to a more particular meaning.

former law student said...

What about big town parochialism?

I don't know. Do New Yorkers nurse a grudge over some snub by a neighbor for thirty years? Big city folks have a lot more things, bigger things, to think about.

amba said...

Paul probably has it right: small horizons, blinders on, out of touch with the wider world. Steinberg's cartoon of the world seen from New York City is shtetl mentality.

A small world that thinks it's the whole world.

And to the extent that there's awareness of a larger world out there, it's seen as alien and inimical and inferior -- full of stupid, drunken Gentiles.

Meade said...

Trouble is, the larger world IS full of stupid drunken gentiles.

garage mahal said...

I've always wondered the way she went after Bill Clinton if in some way he hadn't rejected her at some point...but then again we know that wouldn't have happened.

Interesting post at the G Spot that offers a glimpse into sad wretched woman.

My Maureen Dowd Story
"Ultimately, though, I think this story is tragic. Here Maureen Dowd was, sitting across the table from this Totally. Fucking. Amazing. Person. Yet she could make no human connection with him. She did not get to know him at all. Because all she could talk about all night long was Bill Clinton's cock."

Hoosier Daddy said...

I've always wondered the way she went after Bill Clinton if in some way he hadn't rejected her at some point...but then again we know that wouldn't have happened.

Probably. MoDo is attractive and has class. Bill seems to have preferred chubby chicks and those that only required $100 to be dragged through a trailer park.

MadisonMan said...

garage, your link doesn't work. Here is the story.

garage mahal said...

MM
Ah, thanks. Should have checked it.

Mo MoDo said...

“What is that feeling in the air?” I asked him.

“Submerged hate,” he promptly replied.


In the dead trees edition (see my blog) she adds:

Ah, yes, now I recognize that sulfurous aroma.

The print version also has Dowd comparing Bill Clinton to Grendel

cokaygne said...

All this 'shtetl' talk is proof of subliminibal anti-semitism. It wasn't enough for right-wing attack dogs to accuse Obama of being a secret Muslim, now they are secretly accusing him of being a Jew. The DOJ should investigate.

hepzeeba said...

Ann,

First-time poster, longtime admirer of your blog.

The "shtetl mentality" (and the even more pointed term "ghetto Jew") refers to Jews who were unwilling or unable (but mostly unwilling) to fight back against the ostracism and persecution visited upon them (in the shtetls and, later, in the Nazis'---and their allies'---ghettos.

Many people don't realize this now, when Israelis are routinely demonized as being "warlike" and (absurdly) "genocidal," but after World War II, the fact that the Jews didn't fight back en masse against the Nazi slaughter was a terrible bone of contention among Western Jews.

Israel was founded explicitly on the rejection of the "shtetl mentality," wherein scholars pored and argued over the Talmud in their little villages rather than confront their persecutors.

See Ari Ben Canaan in Exodus as the prototypical not-shtetl Jew.


I hope that helps.

--Hepzeeba

AlphaLiberal said...

What Digby said:

"I know this will not come as news to any of you, but there is something truly wrong with Maureen Dowd. She obviously wrote most of today's column before she heard the speech --- or maybe she was just in her usual demented fugue state and couldn't separate fiction from reality again. Whatever the case, this column is far more indicative of her own obsessions and commitment to the little psychodrama playing inside her head than anything approaching relevance to actual humans.

The only question is whether she still has the juice to change the narrative of last night to reflect her Bizarroworld take on events. I would say that it's even money that by the end of the week we'll be hearing certain quarters of the media parrot her, if only because the "Dems are in disarray" theme is such a compelling nursery rhyme for puerile gasbags. (And others, like Dowd, have a twisted and unhealthy obsession with Clinton and will welcome any opportunity to nurse their delicious loathing.)"

More at link...

ricpic said...

I would say the shtetl mentality means viewing developments in the world from a position of great insecurity. But is it good for the Jews? or Is it good for the Jews? was a persistent phrase used by my parent's first generation American contemporaries.

Does this apprehensive stance apply to Democrats? Intermittently but surely not as a general rule.

vbspurs said...

Phrases That Will Not Be Heard At the Republican National Convention:

“I’m telling you, man, it’s something about our party, the shtetl mentality.”

"It's crazy out there man. There are stockbrokers protesting outside the arena!"

"McCain looked awesome in that orange pantsuit."

vbspurs said...

As for Maureen Dowd's weird and jittery vibe, unless she's referring to her last date, basically I've been mentioning this lack of sizzle, a sense of foreboding hanging over the DNC since Monday.

I heard a Fox News analyst (a Democratic one though) call it "anxiety".

That's it. It's high anxiety.

I see Hillary being played by Madeleine Kahn and Harvey Corman doing Joe Biden.

Cheers,
Victoria

jjv said...

The Schetle mentality is easily understood by the mass of readers of the New York Times, particularly for those of us from New York.

Do not forget the NYT mindset, if we wanted to be understood by Middle America we would publish in U.S.A. today.

vbspurs said...

Ah, I see Dowd called her byline today, "High Anxiety in the Mile High City".

But even she didn't mention that Mark Warner, who was scheduled to go after Montana Governor Schweitzer, refused to do so, because he didn't want to attack John McCain.

The shtetl mentality, apparently, has a very spidery reach.

Cheers,
Victoria

blake said...

So, we have "shtetl mentatlity" as a "not trusting the outside world" on the one hand and as an "insular, strictly dogmatic community" on the other.

Can you have one without the other?

holdfast said...

But who is it that keeps the Jews/Dems on the Shtetl? Why, it is the Daily raids by Kossacks.

Or was that comment beyond the Pale?

vbspurs said...

"not trusting the outside world"

Oh, I took shtetl mentality to mean that but also "fear of repurcussions".

That makes more sense, in that the Clintons are hardly down for the punch, and boy oh boy, do they know how to carry a grudge.

When Republicans get their hands tied, it's usually due to outside pressure. Vietnam, Iraq, etc.

But Democrats internalise their troubles, and self-destruct because of them.

vbspurs said...

Holdfast FTW!

MadisonMan said...

But Democrats internalise their troubles, and self-destruct because of them.

Who knew Mark Foley and Larry Craig were democrats!

Peter V. Bella said...

former law student said...
What about big town parochialism?

I don't know. Do New Yorkers nurse a grudge over some snub by a neighbor for thirty years? Big city folks have a lot more things, bigger things, to think about.



Big city folks don’t hold grudges. They get snubbed and the snubber gets snuffed out. Life goes on. :)

Peter V. Bella said...

And others, like Dowd, have a twisted and unhealthy obsession with Clinton and will welcome any opportunity to nurse their delicious loathing…

What about those who have an unhealthy and twisted obsession with Bush and McCain?

MadisonMan said...

What about those who have an unhealthy and twisted obsession with Bush and McCain?

He blogs!

Jeff with one 'f' said...

"Do New Yorkers nurse a grudge over some snub by a neighbor for thirty years?"

On an individual, neighborhood and (outer) borough level, hell yes!