Arrogant, Self-Absorbed Capitalists

Arrogant, Self-Absorbed Capitalists September 27, 2010

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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