Skip to comments.The False Modesty of 'Nerds'
Posted on 05/02/2012 11:19:18 AM PDT by Kaslin
Washington is full of nerds. I know. I speak nerd, not fluently mind you, at least not anymore. But I certainly know more than a few phrases memorized from a Berlitz nerd-to-English phrase book. I can talk Dungeons & Dragons (both D&D and AD&D). I know about the Golden Age of Comics (as in comic books -- if you thought that was a reference to Bob Newhart's heyday, subtract 20 nerd points right there).
Anyway, if you spend any time in Washington you'll find nerds. What happens is most of them sublimate their fixations with comics, or baseball cards, or 1960s British comedies to policy minutiae and political arcana. But, like Christians in ancient Rome, you can still spot them if you know the signals.
Some are quite successful. I once spent a half-hour with one of the most respected (liberal) political analysts in Washington talking about "Buffy the Vampire Slayer." It was like discovering he was from my homeland. Or consider Paul Krugman; I strongly suspect that the Nobel Prize winner and New York Times columnist is a nerd. He says he was inspired to become an economist, by the "psychohistorians" in Isaac Asimov's "Foundation" novels. Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) is a Batman fanatic.
But these and other examples notwithstanding, nerds tend not to be "front of the store" types. In "The 40-Year-Old Virgin," Steve Carell spent most of his career working the back room because it's understood that's where people like him belong.
The same goes in Washington. The vast majority of the nerds crunch the numbers for the politicians and news anchors. They explain why the stats are important to people like, say, NBC's David Gregory, who seems to be biding his time until he can achieve his real dream of hosting "Entertainment Tonight."
Many of the beautiful women you see on TV aren't nerds. That doesn't mean they're not smart. But even if they were study geeks in high school, that doesn't mean they were nerds. In the movie "Election," Reese Witherspoon plays an earnest, dorky, driven young woman, but she's not a nerd. Holly Hunter in "Broadcast News" isn't one either -- she's a maniacally self-serious bore. Tina Fey in "30 Rock"? All nerd, baby.
So why am I telling you this? Because, suddenly, we're supposed to call the White House Correspondents' Association Dinner the "nerd prom." Hundreds of media outlets have recycled that description.
And, frankly, I find it offensive. George Clooney doesn't go to "nerd proms." Nor do Kim Kardashian and Lindsay Lohan. I've been to a half-dozen correspondents' dinners, and nerds were far less well-represented than rent-seeking K-street sleazeballs, social-climbing poseurs and power-hungry pols of all parties.
Look, everything is relative, and social distinctions tend to matter only at your own level and above. If you're the prom queen or the captain of the football team, everyone outside your clique is a nerd. And if you're the czar, everyone outside the royal court is a peasant. For good reasons and bad, Washington is a magnet for sports stars, war heroes and businessmen. That doesn't make them nerds.
We have never had a nerd president. All of them tend to have a mixture of resentment, admiration and contempt for the nerds. And that goes especially for Barack Obama, who, more than most, seems to care deeply about seeming cool.
The elite D.C. press corps calls its annual gala the "nerd prom" because it sounds self-deprecating around the Hollywood stars and New York bigwigs (while actually playing on their insecurities) and the politicians. They admire the former for being more famous than them, and resent the latter for being more famous than them.
It's vanity-as-branding. What they're really trying to say is: "The only difference between this and the Oscars is we're really smart." It's of a piece with the seemingly self-deprecating, but really self-serving, slogan "Washington is Hollywood for ugly people." No, it's really not.
Now don't get me wrong. I also have contempt for the people who flock to the dinner in order to cozy up to power for the sake of bragging about cozying up to power. In his mixed performance at this year's "nerd prom," late-night host Jimmy Kimmel said, "Everything that is wrong with America is here in this room." He was right. He wasn't talking about the nerds.
Thats not what they call them
The real nerd proms are Comic Con and DragonCon. True nerds/geeks/fanboys/fangirls know this.
I think it is less than that. The Left doesn’t develop mentally and emotionally beyond prom night.
In this way they can relate, while also hoping not to end up sitting lonely at the bar (as usual).
The big problem they have is knowing how much each of them suck, so every year is a big disappointment (just like their real prom was). But at least they get to fake laugh for a few hours.
Personally I think Not only does 0bama look like a nerd, He even looks like an arrogant nerd that he is
Sorry. If you can’t discuss all 214 episodes of “Stargate: SG-1,” you cannot be a real nerd. Nice try, though.
Extra points for discussing it in Ancient.
Seriously, who does that? Every picture of the kenyan has his nose up in the air like he’s smelling his own farts and liking it. It’s that whole Il Duce and Stalin thing. In fact he probably learned it from two of his biggest heroes.
There’s a difference between “nerd” and “dork.” Nerds have some there, there, even if it’s not as useful as being a geek. Dorks have no there, and cause discomfort to themselves and others as they try to pretend they do.
That revelation helped me to understand the outsized influence they have on law and policy. Most congresscritters resemble no one more than Mel Brook's Governor William J. Le Petomane from Blazing Saddles. This is how crap like Obeymecare gets made into law.
Harumph! We've got to protect our phoney-baloney jobs!
You’re right about that. I didn’t think about it
Exactly. It is important to distinguish between the three designations. Characteristics often overlap, but generally:
Dorks are awkward and tend not to fit in anywhere;
Geeks get really into a hobby or activity that has limited appeal and utility; and
Nerds are smart people who tend to become experts in a useful (or broadly interesting) field of study.
This is why typically you don’t hear people calling themselves geeks or especially dorks. Whenever people self-refer as nerds they are complimenting themselves.
I live with a terrifying array of geeks and nerds. Classifying them is sort of a hobby ...
cue the hot girls at comicon pics.