Issues & Insights

How Status Anxiety Is Wrecking America

TonyTheTiger (t/c/bio/en:WP:CHICAGO/en:WP:LOTM)

I&I Editorial

A recent Wall Street Journal op-ed suggested that Jill Biden drop the “Dr.” before her name. She’s not really a doctor, the opinion writer said, and to carry around the title “sounds and feels fraudulent.” What he might not have considered as he wrote is that the same sort of narcissism that compels Biden, who has a doctorate in education, to pretend she’s a doctor is having a ruinous effect on our nation.

Biden’s insistence that she be addressed as “Dr.,” critics have explained, is driven by “status anxiety,” defined by the author of a 2004 book of the same name as a disease whose victims worry about their standing in the world, whether they’re going up or down, whether they’re winners or losers.

“Our ‘ego’ or self-conception could be pictured as a leaking balloon, forever requiring external love to remain inflated and vulnerable to the smallest pinpricks of neglect: we rely on signs of respect from the world to feel acceptable to ourselves,” Alain de Botton told Psychology Today.

It’s this obsession with rank that provides today’s Democratic Party with a particularly combustible fuel. 

While many of us had our heads down working, minding our own business and caring for our families, America became a giant high school. About half of the country now clamors to be accepted into the clique of popular students dominated by the “cool” kids on campus.

College students, who should be beyond their high school insecurities, suffer disproportionately from status anxiety. They’re conditioned by their professors, swayed by a media that suffers from its own status anxieties, and pressured by peers to unthinkingly follow the orthodoxies of the woke. The leftist celebrities college kids idolize plant toxins in their heads.

The loudest and most active harass conservative and Republican students, go to extremes to silence those who disagree with them, demand that administrators send the non-woke to training sessions that will straighten them out, and at times insist that schools simply rid campuses of students and professors who won’t conform. Too often we see instances in which students yield to the primitive instincts of violence.

Their professors crave status, as well. Not all but far too many exercise their academic freedom by pressuring and threatening students and faculty members who don’t agree with them, stir up hatred toward America, call for speech codes, and incite violence (and call themselves doctors when they’re not physicians). Their extremes feed their status while creating an ugly division among students.

Corporations and even small businesses are not immune from coveting status. Look at how many have bowed before the Black Lives Matter rabble, and knelt before the god of green energy. In some cases the decisions to say “us, too” were driven by marketing – businesses figured their sales would grow if they appeared to stand for the “right” causes. But as James McElroy, writing last month in the American Mind, notes, “woke capitalism” “cannot be explained in terms of profit.” 

“In 2019,” he said, “corporations openly opposed democratic self-rule by refusing to work in Georgia when the state passed restrictions on abortion. This was despite Georgia’s pro-business policies. Who cares if that was a publicity stunt?”

McElroy continues:

It’s important to note where this radicalism is headed. When the company CoinBase asked its employees to keep politics out of the workplace, the former CEO of Twitter Dick Costolo stated that he would be happy when ‘me-first capitalists get lined up and shot in the ‘revolution.’ Now, The New York Times is writing hit pieces against CoinBase. Multi-millionaires LARP (live action role play) as Bolsheviks, while the GOP continues to confer sainthood on people who openly fantasize about their slaughter. 

The people who work at these companies do, in fact, hate you.

The press is lousy with status seekers, with more per capita than any other industry outside of entertainment. Rather than just report the news, today’s “journalists” craft their stories and “news analyses” to impress their colleagues as well as others in their business.

When not making in-kind contributions to the Democratic Party, which makes up the bulk of their work, they tend to make the story about themselves. There’s no better example of this than CNN reporter Jim Acosta, whose yearning for status is so transparent that he comes off much more like a desperate swellhead than a serious reporter.

The status-reaffirming support for leftist policies, woke activism, and identity politics is not only a threat to our individual liberties and the economy, the intensity we see from the virtue-signalers who are starving for the approval of the “hip” kids and ache to be connected with them has divided the country. Those who don’t think like them are “othered,” ostracized, socially persecuted, labeled racists and bigots, and threatened with, and sometimes visited by, violence. The corrosive nature of status anxiety has even pitted neighbors against each other and torn families apart.

No matter how much Joe Biden tries to pose as a healer who will unite the country, the nation’s festering fissure is exactly what Democrats want. If they can marginalize Republicans, conservatives, even libertarians; if they can foster an environment in which those who refuse to fall in line with the progressive agenda are deemed too deplorable to even associate with; if they create a modern-day scarlet letter for those holding dissenting views, they will consolidate their political power in a way never before seen in this country. And tens of millions of status-seekers will have their useful idiots.

— Written by the I&I Editorial Board

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