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The False Modesty of 'Nerds'
Townhall.com ^ | May 2, 2012 | Jonah Goldberg

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.


TOPICS: Culture/Society; Editorial
KEYWORDS: circlejerk; dnctalkingpoints; echochamber; mediabias; nerdprom; obamunism; presstitutes; zogbyism

1 posted on 05/02/2012 11:19:20 AM PDT by Kaslin
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To: Kaslin
We have never had a nerd president. All of them tend to have a mixture of resentment, admiration and contempt for the nerds.

I disagree.

His motto may have been keep "cool and keep Coolidge". But he was all nerd, all the time.
2 posted on 05/02/2012 11:28:33 AM PDT by GonzoGOP (There are millions of paranoid people in the world and they are all out to get me.)
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To: Kaslin
We have never had a nerd president.

Calvin Coolidge?

3 posted on 05/02/2012 11:31:12 AM PDT by Anitius Severinus Boethius
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To: Kaslin
Nerds???

Thats not what they call them


4 posted on 05/02/2012 11:32:01 AM PDT by mountn man (Happiness is not a destination, its a way of life.)
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To: Kaslin

The real nerd proms are Comic Con and DragonCon. True nerds/geeks/fanboys/fangirls know this.


5 posted on 05/02/2012 11:35:08 AM PDT by lazypadawan
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To: Kaslin

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.


6 posted on 05/02/2012 11:42:11 AM PDT by Berlin_Freeper
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To: GonzoGOP
I didn't post the picture, that was in the article in Townhall, but who looks like a bigger nerd, Coolidge or 0bama. Judge for yourself

Personally I think Not only does 0bama look like a nerd, He even looks like an arrogant nerd that he is

7 posted on 05/02/2012 11:43:40 AM PDT by Kaslin (Acronym for OBAMA: One Big Ass Mistake America)
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To: Kaslin

Sorry. If you can’t discuss all 214 episodes of “Stargate: SG-1,” you cannot be a real nerd. Nice try, though.


8 posted on 05/02/2012 11:46:37 AM PDT by pabianice (ame with)
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To: pabianice

Extra points for discussing it in Ancient.


9 posted on 05/02/2012 11:47:49 AM PDT by pabianice (ame with)
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To: Kaslin

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.


10 posted on 05/02/2012 11:48:40 AM PDT by Sirius Lee (Sofa King Mitt Odd Did Obamneycare)
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To: Kaslin

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.


11 posted on 05/02/2012 11:49:12 AM PDT by Tax-chick (Do you know why I love reptiles? It's because they don't play guitars or ukuleles.)
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To: pabianice

Whovians.


12 posted on 05/02/2012 11:50:58 AM PDT by SargeK
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To: Kaslin
A nerd would have his nose in a book, not in the air. Obama is a poser, that is completely different than a nerd.
13 posted on 05/02/2012 11:52:12 AM PDT by GonzoGOP (There are millions of paranoid people in the world and they are all out to get me.)
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To: Kaslin
My experience with Congressional staffers of both parties is that a plurality, perhaps the majority of them, are gay, not nerds (although the two are not mutually exclusive).

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.

14 posted on 05/02/2012 11:57:49 AM PDT by SargeK
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To: Kaslin
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.
15 posted on 05/02/2012 11:58:58 AM PDT by Rummyfan (Iraq: it's not about Iraq anymore, it's about the USA!)
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To: SargeK

Harumph! We've got to protect our phoney-baloney jobs!

16 posted on 05/02/2012 12:03:34 PM PDT by Rummyfan (Iraq: it's not about Iraq anymore, it's about the USA!)
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To: Tax-chick

You’re right about that. I didn’t think about it


17 posted on 05/02/2012 12:15:08 PM PDT by Kaslin (Acronym for OBAMA: One Big Ass Mistake America)
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To: Tax-chick

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.


18 posted on 05/02/2012 12:17:21 PM PDT by NietzschesJoker (Silence, exile, cunning--a few of my favorite things.)
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To: Kaslin

I live with a terrifying array of geeks and nerds. Classifying them is sort of a hobby ...


19 posted on 05/02/2012 12:17:36 PM PDT by Tax-chick (Do you know why I love reptiles? It's because they don't play guitars or ukuleles.)
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To: lazypadawan

cue the hot girls at comicon pics.


20 posted on 05/02/2012 12:18:12 PM PDT by longtermmemmory (VOTE! http://www.senate.gov and http://www.house.gov)
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To: Kaslin

"NERDS!"

21 posted on 05/02/2012 12:18:33 PM PDT by dfwgator (Don't wake up in a roadside ditch. Get rid of Romney.)
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To: Kaslin

Call it what it was, the douchebag prom celebrating our first douchebag president.


22 posted on 05/02/2012 12:25:29 PM PDT by a fool in paradise (Barack Obama has cut and run from what he called "the right war".)
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To: Kaslin

Geeks and nerds are distinct types. A geek is someone very focused on a particular hobby or activity, usually with considerable knowledge or ability in that area.

A nerd is someone lacking social skills who compensates by choosing activities that avoid social interaction with ‘normals’.

The two types can overlap but they are distinct. Steve Jobs was a computer geek; he wasn’t a nerd.


23 posted on 05/02/2012 12:26:00 PM PDT by Gideon7
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To: Kaslin
I wouldn't call Obama a nerd. He's the black version of the spoiled rich kid.

There aren't a lot of nerds in politics. Most nerds I know hate everything about politics.

24 posted on 05/02/2012 12:32:01 PM PDT by Darren McCarty (The Republican Party is bigger than the presidency.)
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To: Tax-chick
Dorks have no there, and cause discomfort to themselves and others as they try to pretend they do.

John Kerry is the poster-boy of the term dork.

25 posted on 05/02/2012 12:36:02 PM PDT by Darren McCarty (The Republican Party is bigger than the presidency.)
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To: Kaslin

Nerds can be semi-respectable.

I would use Fred Blassie’s expression for them, “Pencil-necked Geeks”.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JNM4atakanI


26 posted on 05/02/2012 12:46:30 PM PDT by yefragetuwrabrumuy
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To: GonzoGOP

We could do a lot worse than Calvin Coolidge. When it came to the U.S. economy, he pretty much just let it run itself. The stock market boomed and prosperity spread.

When asked why he never turned down an invitation to any function of any kind, Cal replied, “Well, a man’s got to eat.”

His White House staff was miniscule. Coolidge was a caretaker President and knew his limitations, including a second term, which he turned down in 1928.

We could do a lot worse than Silent Cal and we already have, IMO.


27 posted on 05/02/2012 12:51:01 PM PDT by elcid1970 (Nuke the Aswan High Dam, then nuke Mecca. Death to Islam means freedom for all mankind.")
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To: elcid1970
We could do a lot worse than Silent Cal

Actually it is hard to do better. Three times, perhaps four. But he is definitely in my top five.
28 posted on 05/02/2012 12:53:30 PM PDT by GonzoGOP (There are millions of paranoid people in the world and they are all out to get me.)
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To: GonzoGOP
My second favorite “Silent Cal” story...

A woman approached President Coolidge and said “My friends bet me I could get you to say more than two words.”

He looked at her and replied “You lose.”.

My FAVORITE “Silent Cal” story.....

He and the First Lady were touring a chicken farm separately - as they often did. When the farmer got embarrassed about a rooster making a big production out of mating a hen the First Lady asked him...

“How many times a day would you say that rooster has his way with a hen?”

“About twenty times a day.” the farmer replied.

“Be sure to tell the President that.” she remarked.

When the President was told, he replied “Every time the same hen?”

“No, every time a different hen.” the farmer answered.

“tell THAT to the First Lady!”.

In behavioral science this is called “the Coolidge effect” where a male will not sexually respond to a presenting female he has already inseminated - but will somehow muster up the gumption to mate with a new female.

29 posted on 05/02/2012 1:03:27 PM PDT by allmendream (Tea Party did not send GOP to DC to negotiate the terms of our surrender to socialism)
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To: Darren McCarty
John Kerry is the poster-boy of the term dork.

Excellent observation.

30 posted on 05/02/2012 2:26:57 PM PDT by Tax-chick (Do you know why I love reptiles? It's because they don't play guitars or ukuleles.)
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To: pabianice

How about discussing all 79 episodes of original Star Trek episodes LOL!


31 posted on 05/02/2012 2:28:04 PM PDT by SevenofNine (We are Freepers, all your media belong to us ,resistance is futile)
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To: pabianice

How about discussing all 79 episodes of original Star Trek episodes LOL!


32 posted on 05/02/2012 2:28:23 PM PDT by SevenofNine (We are Freepers, all your media belong to us ,resistance is futile)
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To: GonzoGOP

I think Coolidge is good, although he gets a lot of credit for what Harding did. Harding was corrupt, but in retrospect was a quite effective president.


33 posted on 05/02/2012 4:30:37 PM PDT by Darren McCarty (The Republican Party is bigger than the presidency.)
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To: SevenofNine

>>How about discussing all 79 episodes of original Star Trek episodes LOL!

Not a problem!

Some years ago there was a special on TV about science fiction. Some top sci fi writers were interviewed. One question: why, until recently, were devoted followers of sci fi almost exclusively young men? One writer replied: “Who sits around thinking a lot about a sci fi future? Teenage boys who can’t get dates!” LOL!


34 posted on 05/03/2012 7:12:54 AM PDT by pabianice (ame with)
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To: Tax-chick

A geek is a circus performer in a side-show “Wild Man” act ... he bites the heads off of small animals, for the amusement of the crowd.


35 posted on 05/03/2012 7:19:31 AM PDT by ArrogantBustard (Western Civilization is Aborting, Buggering, and Contracepting itself out of existence.)
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To: ArrogantBustard

Outdated definition!


36 posted on 05/03/2012 7:43:00 AM PDT by Tax-chick (Do you know why I love reptiles? It's because they don't play guitars or ukuleles.)
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To: Tax-chick
Stuff and nonsense!

BTW, do you know why I love reptiles?

Because they taste good.

37 posted on 05/03/2012 7:52:41 AM PDT by ArrogantBustard (Western Civilization is Aborting, Buggering, and Contracepting itself out of existence.)
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To: ArrogantBustard

I’ve never been hungry enough to eat a reptile.


38 posted on 05/03/2012 9:06:15 AM PDT by Tax-chick (Do you know why I love reptiles? It's because they don't play guitars or ukuleles.)
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To: pabianice

OH YEAH I do remember that ROFL


39 posted on 05/03/2012 9:18:23 AM PDT by SevenofNine (We are Freepers, all your media belong to us ,resistance is futile)
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To: pabianice

OH YEAH I do remember that ROFL


40 posted on 05/03/2012 9:18:42 AM PDT by SevenofNine (We are Freepers, all your media belong to us ,resistance is futile)
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