Arrogant, Self-Absorbed Capitalists

Over at Instapundit: Glenn Reynolds notes the sentiments of Netflix CEO Reed Hastings: “Americans are self-absorbed.”

Reynolds puckishly concurs, and suggests that Americans stop sitting at home watching their Netflix videos and go out to join a tea party. Get some fresh air.

Laura Curtis at the Washington Examiner does a good job of putting Hastings quote into context and them hammering him for it in a must-read piece:

In a recent interview, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings responded to a question whether his American customers were likely to be disgruntled about the cheaper deal Netflix is offering Canadians:

“How much has it been your experience that Americans follow what happens in the world? It’s something we’ll monitor, but Americans are somewhat self-absorbed.”

Hastings is perfectly entitled to charge his customers whatever he pleases, and he owes no explanations for the disparity. But it seems unwise for him to literally add insult to injury. I find the low regard he has for paying customers like me a bit shocking, and I’ll keep it in mind as I investigate other streaming entertainment options, especially free ones like Hulu and Boxee.

For my money, Hastings only made things worse with his apology:

“My Big American Foot is in my mouth. Yesterday, I made an awkward joke with a reporter in Toronto about Americans (like me) being self-absorbed relative to Netflix pricing in Canada. I was wrong to have made the joke, and I do not believe that one of the most philanthropically-minded nations in the world (America) is self-absorbed or full of self-absorbed people.”

Ah, he’s just a clumsy American, like the rest of us! He didn’t mean anything by it! We’re all a little self-absorbed, aren’t we?

Well, yes, we all can be self-absorbed at times. But you have to be singularly self-absorbed to be so unaware of just how very aware Americans have become, or how ready they are to throw out politicians who disregard voters, and to walk away from capitalist entrepreneurs who are too ungenerous to show some respect to the millions of “little people” who made them the elitists they have become.

Capitalism and elitism have always shared a kinship, but once upon a time our arrogant capitalists were at least smart enough to keep their disdain for the Madison-Avenue-guided commoners safely behind the boardroom doors. Now, they want to sneer at you, even as you’re buying their wares. They say, “come, give me money while I tell you how dumb you are.”

This is a recurring theme in television commercials, too. Ads directed at breadwinners and income-earners routinely portray them–especially the “father” figures–as mouth-breathing clodpoles incapable of higher reason or mature behavior, and worthy of eye-rolling condescension both at home and on the job.

The nation by-and-large support free markets, social-entrepreneurship and capitalism, but Americans are beginning to look beyond “product,” and trends–and even beyond material desire–to try to find within those economic concepts a little regard for their humanity.

One could argue that there is a great irony, here: that reactions to Hastings remarks actually prove his point; Americans are, indeed, so self-absorbed that they insist on being apologized to for being called self-absorbed.

But the bigger irony is that the capitalism-loving American right expects business to think about how they treat people as they score their profits, while the “people, not the powerful” left has become rife with sniffing elitists who wonder why these agitated morons don’t just plunk down their hard-earned quarters for their goods and services, and go back to their mean little hovels to fry something.

Long-standing stereotypes are being flipped before our eyes, in the “remaking” of America.

Well, we did elect a president who promised change; he’s recommitting himself to it, even.

And, as Kathryn Jean Lopez notes, the president’s wife certainly spoke the truth when she said “Barack will never allow you to go back to your lives as usual, uninvolved, uninformed.”.

Oh, don’t worry, Mrs. Obama, we won’t go back, whether Barack “allows” us to, or not. In fact, Hastings–and much of Washington–may have preferred it when Americans were not paying such close attention to things. In which case he may ultimately blame Barack for his present woes.

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  • Jennifer

    Re the line about males portrayed as clods, there is one commercial out there, and I can’t remember if it to sell a car or auto insurance, but the dad is talking to this cute little girl, about 3, about driving safely, etc. The camera cuts to him, then back to the daughter, and she is actually a 16/17 year old girl about ready to drive on her own for the first time.

    It makes me tear up because it is showing the love a dad has for his daughter, and it is also NOT showing him as some blithering idiot.

  • Jeff

    Barry and Michelle simply cannot contain their contempt for Americans. That is the result of sitting in Jeremiah Wright’s “church” for 20 years.

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  • http://www.actsoftheapostasy.blogspot.com LarryD

    Chesterton was right – the individual is stuck between Hudge and Gudge.

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  • dustoffmom

    Funny though it is, and unaware as I may be, but that very day I cancelled my subscription with them. But I doubt any of them will notice the timing.

  • S Cary

    There is something galling about people that want our money, politicians or business owners, calling us names while their hands are in our pockets.

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  • http://www.noodlingonit.com Kris, in New England

    I am tired of people insisting that Americans don’t pay attention to the world around them. John Kerry did it recently as well.

    I pay attention Mr. Kerry and Mr. Hastings – probably too closely for my own good. But I will not sit idly by while people like you denigrate this great nation or her people.

    Especially you, Mr. Kerry. November is coming for your friends.

  • dry valleys

    Well, what about mutuals, cooperatives, etc? They are free associations of people which in fact fare perfectly well in market conditions.

    As you may have guessed I grew tired waiting for the government to restrain bankers. I paid attention to the constant drip of stories about people leaving bailed-out banks & taking their business to banks like the Co-Operative bank, a mutual, so I joined them. As I say, many Britons have been doing the same since the recession.

    I don’t know what happens in America but some of our leading companies are owned by employees, such as the John Lewis Partnership, from one of whose outlets I buy a lot of my food.

    Of course these setups have nothing to do with the government, & you can be sure none of them has ever had to be bailed out. There are actually fully-fledged libertarians (one called Kevin Carson) who think mutuals would prevail if it weren’t for the government setting regulatory conditions to favour large-scale incumbent businesses (corporatism, they call it).

    I personally think unchecked markets would lead to monopoly capitalism, not anything else, I certainly do think consumers should get active & organised.

    We now appreciate that political change happens through activists rather than expecting the government to follow policies we like just because. In the same way, businesses will react to consumer organisation & pressure, as with the firms who have imposed more exacting animal welfare standards.

    I don’t really think I thrive in social settings, or else I would be more directly involved myself. I will certainly direct my spending towards things I approve of & away from things I disapprove of, who wouldn’t?

    You yourself buy from these monks, I buy from (for example) local farms whose stories I know, or companies which behave in a civilised way towards their workers, or things that I know will last a long time.

    I might come back to this, I’ve been working a bit too hard so I can’t now be as in depth as I am capable of being on the subject but it is a theme of mine.

  • http://templeofmut.wordpress.com/ Mutnodjmet

    Anchoress: I have a piece today that ties into your wonderful post today. It seems that support for Proposition 23 (repealing CA’s version of Cap&Trade) is surging in the polls. This is directly the result of citizen activism.

    Our political class in unhappy with this new development, and is using the CA budget as a tool to inflict real pain on businesspeople who do not agree that global warming is so significant a problem that Californians need to be burdened with increased taxes and senseless regulations. The politicos are threatening our businesspeople with special taxes and punitive measures — which can’t be rapidly enacted if our budget is passed.

    CALIFORNIA POLITICOS ARE THREATENING BUSINESSES WITH SPECIAL TAXES AND DELAYING THE BUDGET TO DO IT, if these businesses support Proposition 23 (which delays implementing the state’s Cap&Trade law until CA gets better employment numbers).

  • Bill

    The middle-class standard of living has been going downhill for many years, no matter which party is in control in Washington.

  • Fu

    I don’t believe one is behaving childishly by cancelling his service to Netflix, which I just did. How many of us continue giving business to shops that treat us rudely or make us feel stupid? Anchoress, you’d be the first to point out that Netflix is not indispensible to life. I’ll rent from the local independent video shop and enjoy the evening walks it requires with loved ones. And read more. This man doesn’t have the right temperment to be chief executive of an admired company. But in a way, he did me a favor. Walks with loved ones to the local shop are spiritually more satisfying and we’ll enjoy our movies all the more knowing we earned them with a two-mile round-trip stroll. The indie shop offers unlimited rentals per month, two-at-a-time, with no due date, a couple dollars more than Netflix, but then the money stays local and we’re happily self-absorbed again!

  • http://vita-nostra-in-ecclesia.blogspot.com Bender

    Who is this Hastings guy and, more importantly, why should I give him the power to make me have an opinion one way or the other about what he says about things?

    Sorry, but I just can’t manufacture the outrage this time over something that some guy I’ve never heard of has said or even work up the effort to try to figure out exactly what he meant.

  • http://therosarytrail.com/ Margo

    Parts of this article are reminding me of the small resort town philosophy I experienced growing up: Bash the outsider tourist behind their backs but go ahead and take their money, just the same.

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  • Diane

    See what happens when our culture institutes policies that separate the generations?

    Both wisdom and humility are harder to come by.

    A boy who’d had his ears boxed a time or two by a loving grandmother would NEVER have uttered such insults against both this country and the customers who put the food on his plate by purchasing his little packaged amusements. What’s more, she’d have probably done it in front of the buddies he is so eager to impress with his self-important claims, thereby multiplying the impact of her lessons in humility.

  • AlmostChosen

    The capitalists are as bad as you describe and worse, yet…


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