Elite != Elitist

Recently on Logic + Emotion, David Armano wrote an essay decrying the word and idea of elite. Too bad, as we shouldn't forget that there is such a thing as relative quality and that words have specific meanings.

David's comments were made in the context of having read David Sifry's observations of how the Technorati "Very High Authority Group" might be considered the blogging elite. But David A. makes a mistake by then arguing against an entirely different idea, creating a straw man to beat up, causing his arguments to become misdirected and his seemingly true intent perhaps accidentally revealed.

Now, I will not argue the merits of how the blogging elite and high quality might or might not be associated with one another as I tend to believe that popularity is not always associated with quality.

Unfortunately, equating elite with elitist is a common mistake. However, the two words and the two ideas are miles apart. We do ourselves, our world, and our grasp of reality a disservice by failing to note the differences between these two words and their respective ideals.

Let me depart from the context of previously mentioned Technorati/Blogosphere article and note that there is such a thing as high quality. There is such a thing as low quality. If we fail, for whatever reason, to distinguish between the two we pervert and harm our culture and our language.

It is worth nothing that idea of equating elite with elitist and failing to distinguish between high and low quality (the two go hand-in-hand) is one of the dangerous instruments of the Liberal and Socialist ideals. Perverting these distinctions is something that must first be accomplished for Liberalism and Socialism to take hold. I am loath to directly discuss political ideals here, but this fact is pertinent to this essay. Please forgive me for this today.

Elite is good. Elite is the shining example toward which to aspire. Lance Armstrong was an elite cyclist. Roger Federer is an elite tennis player. Barak Obama is an elite politician. Chris Wallace is an elite newscaster. These are obvious facts and the relevant qualities, skills, and abilities of these individuals are indisputable. No, there is nothing wrong with elite.

Now, I will not argue the merits of how the blogging elite and high quality might or might not be associated with one another as I tend to believe that popularity is not always associated with quality. I’m not implying any connection between my essay and the merits of David Sifry’s observations. I’m only pointing out that high and low quality, elite quality and other quality, exists. Elite is not something sinister or conceited. It is a level of quality and a distinction from poorer examples. That’s it.

Elitism, what David Armano was really arguing against, is indeed a contemptible ideal. But let’s not get into the habit of equating elitism or elitist qualities with elite quality. We need to understand and distinguish between these two ideals, lest we harm our culture, pervert our language, and generally look like fools.

what now?

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