Elitism in any form is a bad thing

Originally I was preparing to write a number on how much I hate music snobs.  You know, the people who glance at your iTunes playlist and make a mocking comment about something you have in there, and then you kinda joke back about “how’d that get in there” but deep down you really like Tiffany’s rendition of “I Think We’re Alone Now” or even “MmmBop”.  Snobs suck. Snobs ruin the day. Wine snobs, food snobs, car snobs, clothes snobs.  All snobs suck.  Period.  But there’s something bugging me more than snobbery, it’s elitism.

I define elitism as people who think that some other people, for some particular reason, are better people than others.  Let’s not confuse this with liking people more – we can most certainly choose who we want to spend our time with and not have it be questioned.  Elitism is putting the velvet rope outside a venue, and putting someone in charge of determining who gets to go in.  And elitism is bad.

Elitism causes jealousy. It causes anger. It causes frustration.  It causes self-doubt.  And by the way, this is not just to those who can’t get in, it applies to those who did get in as well.  And the upside of elitism?  Not much.  It makes just fa ew people feel temporarily better about themselves, but over the course of time, probably less about themselves (as they wonder it they’ll make it to the next must-attend thing).

There’s a little brouhaha going on about the TED conference, an event that many techie folk consider drool-worthy (myself included).  In the past, it was easy to hold an “elite” conference and people sat on the sidelines lamenting about their not-so-coolness.  Today with the combination of bloggers and the permanence of the Internet, that’s no longer the case.  Valleywag blogged the TED conference list, then quickly got asked to take the list down, an utterly irrelevant act due to instant caching across the Internet.  Today, the elitism of the event has turned the goodwill into ill-will, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see changes next year, possibly as drastic as canceling the conference (which would be the absolutely worst outcome of all this).

Does this mean that anyone and everyone should be allowed across the velvet rope just because they want in?  No, that doesn’t solve a problem either.  But in this age of openness, I think organizers of events and “list-makers” are going to need to disclose their processes.  They’ll need to create more open applications for others to join.  And criteria must be disclosed.  People like Sarah Lacy (and heck, even myself!) are unlikely to feel sour grapes if there’s a clearly explained event selection process and she can logically deduce why she didn’t “make the cut”, even as her friends (and their boyfriends or relatives) did.

At least at the clubs you know why you didn’t get let in before those 14 ripped dudes with perfect hair.  It’s because you are ugly.

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