Did Senator Kennedy Fall For a Satire?

A reader writes in and provides the link to the now-notorious article "In Defense of Elitism" from The Prospect, the publication of the Concerned Alumni of Princeton. He argues that the article that provoked such outrage was actually intended as a poorly-executed satire:

I don't know if you have read the article Ted Kennedy has been reading from, but I find it highly amusing that he was reading from an obvious satire.... [It] can be accessed on the Senator's website, [here].

The article is not funny, and is over-the-top in the way I recall some College Republicans at UVA were in the 1980s. But it is clearly intended as parody. By the end the author comments that elitism is culturally relative, and that "Princeton men" eat the lean part of steaks, and "Yale men" eat the fat. It is a joke that Kennedy failed to note the intended humor in this stupid farce.

I have not seen any reports on whether the author (supposedly one H.W. Crocker III) intended the article as a farce. But given the over-the-top nature of the language quoted during the hearings and the larger context of the article, it at least raises some question about whether this was intended as a satire. In addition, the goofy pictures and the one-page "back of the book" nature of the article (rather than a serious in-depth article) seems to add further credence to the suggestion that this was intended as a satire. The article seems to be intended as a tongue-in-cheeck defense of the Princeton eating clubs that were under attack by litigation by Sally Frank at this time.

The circumstantial evidence also suggest satire. The use of the term "philistines" in the subtitle. And the disquisition in the middle of the article on the "inverse elitism" of Sally Frank and the distinction between punk rockers who "condier themselves elitists" when in reality "they're merely proletarian snobs. They'll beat, mock and spit upon anyone who doesn't know that 'Dead Children Eat Vomit' by Joe Trash and the Mucuous Membranes is a parody of 'Dead Cats on the Freeway" which itself is a parody of 'There's Blood in My Soup.'" Not to mention the Yale v. Princeton steak wars cited by my correspondent.

In addition, the author's bio notes that at the time of the article, he was an "Intern at the National Journalism Center" in Washington, DC, and was the founder of the California Review at UC San Diego. In short, this all suggests that the author was a college undergraduate, and the article itself reads like the satirical efforts of a college undergraduate. Does anyone know if "H.W. Crocker III" is even a real name? It seems to be extravagantly pretentious, in keeping with the rest of the tone of the article. At the very least, it is hard to imagine that CAP would have entrusted a UC-San Diego undergrad to provide an authoritative statement of the group's position on coeducation.

Was Senator Kennedy "had"? Reading the full article, it certainly seems that a strong case can be made that "In Defense of Elitism" was actually a poorly-executed satire by a college undergraduate, and Senator Kennedy took it seriously.

As they say, read the whole thing for yourself. But I think there is a real possibility here that Senator Kennedy was "had" by a satire and actually took it seriously. One may still find the satire tasteless, offensive, and inappropriate, but a poorly-executed satire sure seems different from the sort of charges that Senator Kennedy was hurling at Judge Alito the other day.


Several Commenters pointed me to this interview with Dinesh D'Souza at the end of last week that I missed where D'Souza states that the article was a satire. And this article which covers some of the same ground.

And, as Orin and several commenters have observed, apparently the author is real. I have struck the relevant sentences from the post.


Through one of the Trackbacks I discover that Sally Frank is now a Professor at Drake Law School.

carl s (mail):
Sorry to not have the link, but I believe that on the NRO blog they mentioned an interview with Dinesh D'Souza, who was editor of the magazine at the time, and he said that the article was intended as satire.
1.16.2006 6:31pm
Carl s is right. Here's a link.
1.16.2006 6:34pm
Thorley Winston (mail) (www):
It's a terrible article but obviously intended as a farce.
1.16.2006 6:37pm
juris imprudent (mail):
Considering that Kennedy is a satire of a senator, perhaps it shouldn't be so surprising that he was suckered.
1.16.2006 6:38pm
(The link to the ABC News item in which D'Souza says it's a satire is in my above post - I promise - the software just put the link in the word "a" rather than the word "link"...)

Anyway, I think the name "H.W. Crocker III" gives it away too. "Crocker" seems awfully similar to "crock". And if the person was real, wouldn't somebody have found him and asked him about it?
1.16.2006 6:42pm
A simple Google search shows that there is indeed a writer named H W Crocker III who has written for The American Spectator, Crisis Magazine, Lew Rockwell and a couple of fiction and non-fiction books. Don't know if it's the same guy, but it certainly is an uncommon name.
1.16.2006 6:42pm
Andrew J. Lazarus (mail):
I'm inclined to believe that it's satirical, but as in a Stepin Fetchit "comedy", the genuine authorial view was not so far from the "joke".
1.16.2006 6:44pm
I wonder if a look at Mr. Crocker's other work would confirm the notion that this stuff is satire.

Looks satirical to me.

Perhaps it's another evil Republican conspiracy like Rathergate.... plant some evidence that's really juicy (if accurate) but is false in a way that can be made conclusively clear to the man on the street.

Then watch the liberals latch onto it, parade it around as unimpeachable truth.... only to be shown the error later and have their dishonest reactionary tendencies exposed to the world.

If TK is this gullible, Ali G should try to schedule him for an interview asap.
1.16.2006 6:50pm
What's the over/under on how long it will take before TK removes it from his website?
1.16.2006 6:51pm
ChrisAllan (mail):
I'm not going to hold Senator Kennedy accountable if is satire because I seriously doubt that the Honorable Senator from Massachusetts ever had a chance to thoroughly read the piece after it was handed to him by an over zealous staffer. However, I think the over zealous staffer, or the Republican Mole, who convinced the Honorable Senator to use the material should be identified so that he/she can be publicly humiliated and then allowed to write a tell all book.
1.16.2006 6:55pm
Bruce Hayden (mail) (www):
Either Princetonians (or whever this guy was really from) are some of the most pompus asses ever to exist, or this is an attempt at satire. My vote is the later. This is precisely the sort of thing that you see college kids doing, and, getting in trouble for doing.
1.16.2006 7:14pm
SomeJarhead (mail):
Kennedy wasn't had.

Massachusetts was.
1.16.2006 7:25pm
Tim Waligore (mail):
This was written by real person. The by-line says it is written by H.W. Crocker III, an intern at the National Journalism Center. This Center lists Crocker as a former intern (1983) on this page:
1.16.2006 7:41pm
smc78 (mail):
H.W. Crocker III (also Harry) is an author who wrote a book Lee on Leadership, which I have heard of before. This is from
Educated in England and California, H. W. Crocker III has worked as a journalist, book editor, speechwriter for the Governor of California, and is the author of Robert E. Lee on Leadership, which was a business bestseller for Prima Publishing. He lives in Northern Virginia, midway between the California and English coasts. He is currently at work on a one-volume swashbuckling history of the Catholic Church, tentatively slated for release in the fall of 2001.

The California seems to fall into the UC San Diego. The reviews on his books aren't bad on (The Old Limey is fiction). He's apparently an editor for a publishing company now and his works have seen plugs from and NRO contributors in the last few years. If this guy is one and the same, it seems that someone in the Republican establishment ought to be able to trot him out to say "you guys missed the joke."

I agree, it reads like bad satire. I hope it is. Interesting we haven't heard from him though if that's the case. Surely he would remember this and have heard about it given all the press its been getting.
1.16.2006 7:44pm
Chico's Bail Bonds (mail):
While this article is filled with sarcasm, I don't find any satire in it at all. I'm with Andrew J: the "joke" and the author's view aren't very different.
1.16.2006 7:45pm
smc78 (mail):
This article specifically mentions UC-San Diego.

1.16.2006 7:49pm
Tim Waligore (mail):
Dartmouth Reviewers have used the same type of excuses for the disgusting stuff published in the Dartmouth Review around the time D'Souza was there in the 1980s. Thinking this is satire is wishful thinking on Zywicki's part. It reminds me of David Horowitz saying he thought that Ann Coulter's claim that we should invade their countries and convert them to christianity was Swiftian satire. Just because something is over the top doesn't turn it into non-repugnant satire.
1.16.2006 7:51pm
ChrisAllan (mail):
So has anyone called Mr. Croker and asked him if it was satire?
1.16.2006 7:53pm
Justin (mail):
The argument that it is satire is rediculous. If it were satire, this article would appear in the Nation... but the author's views are clearly in line with the article's. The argument that it is hyperbole is somewhat more plausible.
1.16.2006 7:54pm
Tim Waligore (mail):
Is Bruce Hayden being satiric? He doesn't find the idea that Princeton alums are pompous plausible?
1.16.2006 7:57pm
Christopher M. (mail):
Please. It's obviously over-the-top and, in some sense meant as "satire"--that is, an effort at showing the follies of the view with which it disagrees; but so what?

The object of its "satire" is the notion that there's anything wrong with preserving elitism in the form of male-only eating clubs. Crocker compares this uppity notion to the similarly uppity notions of blacks, hispanics, physically handicapped people, and homosexuals. How does the fact that this is "satire" make that any better?

Imagine, for example, that a liberal wrote a "satire" of the idea that fetuses are moral persons. Would the fact that it was "satire" obligate committed pro-lifers to laugh it off? Of course not. Satire is a rhetorical form. The morality of its use depends on what the satire is aimed at.
1.16.2006 8:08pm
Christopher M. (mail):

AThe author is certainly a real person. He has written, among other things, a history of the Catholic Church entitled Triumph: The Power and the Glory of the Catholic Church." I say "history" with some reluctance, because I read about the first half and I can't say it deserves the name. Crocker makes no pretense at historical accuracy; rather, he begins from a very strong premise that the Catholic Church's claims of its own divinity are all true, and proceeds to retell its history as if the Church were inerrant not only in spiritual matters, but in every conceivable aspect of its existence. More Catholic than the Pope, so to speak. I suppose this is a relevant data point, as it shows that the author seems to revel in outlandish and extreme rhetoricizing.
1.16.2006 8:10pm
Tim Waligore (mail):
Justin seems to be basically right. So why are people so happy to accept it and excuse it here as mere satire?

Dartmouth Reviewers wrote in a similar pompous manner. I have no trouble believing that Princeton alums are as bad or worse. Actually, if this was edited by Dartmouth alum Dinesh D'Souza, he made have added some of that special Review flair.

By the way, this cuts both ways for Alito. He joined presumably before Review type expressions eminated from the organization. Of course, D'Souza and company did what they were hired to do by CAP. The organization Alito felt comfortable making that shift (I assume it was a shift in tone) and Alito claimed membership in it on a job application in it after such articles were published. But I don't know what conservative organizations at Princeton were like when Alito joined CAP, but I think we should keep in mind that the Dartmouth Review is known for setting a new tone for (some) conservatives in the 1980s.
1.16.2006 8:10pm
Tim Waligore (mail):
Sorry, that should have been: "The organization Alito JOINED felt comfortable LATER making that shift..."
1.16.2006 8:12pm
Frank Drackmann (mail):
What magazine had the "Senator Kennedy would be president today if he drove a Volkswagen" Ad with the photo of a VW floating in a pond? I know I saw it somewhere.
1.16.2006 8:43pm
Jim Hu:
Frank Drackmann. I believe it was National Lampoon
1.16.2006 8:51pm
Jim Hu:
Should have been a comma or a colon after Frank Drackmann...Googling gives this link to the ad:
1.16.2006 8:53pm
Brooks Lyman (mail):
Yes, H.W. Crocker III is a real person, as some other people have noted. His book Robert E. Lee on Leadership is quite good, and The Old Limey is a humorous adventure story, so Crocker apparently has some experience and interest in humor.

Brooks Lyman
1.16.2006 9:26pm
Charlie (Colorado) (mail):
Just because something is over the top doesn't turn it into non-repugnant satire.

Just because something is repugnant, that doesn't mean it isn't satire. (Cf the Swiftian example.)

Similarly, I'm pretty confident that my old top-sergeants' offers to decapitate a miscreant before defecating in what previously had been its connection to the torso wasn't really intended as a specific physical threat.

I've begun to suspect that there's a special course in law school in being a damn fool.
1.16.2006 9:42pm
If this is satire, what is the object of the satire?

My understanding is that Jonathan Swift disagreed with the surface message of "A Modest Proposal." In fact, his disagreement was what makes it a famous piece of satire.

A much better comparison would be to the Coulter statement about invading their countries, killing their leaders, and converting them to Christianity. An over-the-top statement to be sure, but one in line with Coulter's actual beliefs. Coulter is certainly not mocking those who would think such things.
1.16.2006 10:31pm
honeybadger (mail):
Sheesh, this is even more desperate than trying to impeach Douglas for publishing "Points of Rebellion" in "Evergreen".

Time to give it up.
1.16.2006 10:57pm
Justin (mail):
The word some of you are looking for is hyperbole.
1.16.2006 11:16pm
I don't think that the propositions are mutually exclusive that (1) Princetonians are some of the most pompous asses ever to exist, and (2) that the piece was satire.
1.16.2006 11:25pm
I don't think Waligore's in law school. Dartmouth has an undergraduate club for "damn fools" called the Dartmouth Free Press. They may have a course too, but it's probably called something else.
1.16.2006 11:29pm
Mark Eckenwiler:
Satire? The only satirical element -- and an unintentional one at that -- is the illiterate gaffe "greasy steak grizzle" in an over-inflated, arrogant hymn to high standards.

Crocker's vomitus isn't satire. It's a petard with which Crocker witlessly hoists himself, one that reminds us of the word's etymology.
1.16.2006 11:34pm
Buck Turgidson (mail):
The article is satire in the same way that Alito is satire on Supreme Court nominees.

How is it possible that no Senator asked Alito why they should believe him since he had already stated repeatedly that he would say anything to get a job? Princeton education does not guarantee intelligence, but, apparently, it guarantees snottiness. I am glad I rejected their offer to attend.
1.16.2006 11:57pm
Charlie (Colorado) (mail):
Buck, I'm sure there are plenty of Princeton grads who share your pleasure.
1.17.2006 12:34am
Paulg (mail):
Whatever the author's personal thoughts and personality, and the quality of the attempt it is obviously hyperbolic satire of the freshman variety.

It is totally inappropriate for Senator Kennedy to use this article as a representation of what CAP genuinely stood for.
1.17.2006 1:16am
Jeremy Nimmo (mail):
I don't know. I thought that if anything shows through, it's that the author appreciates mudwrestling and Maxim magazine. And what's wrong with that?
1.17.2006 2:50am
Jeremy Nimmo (mail):
My apologies. Clearly Maxim did not exist then.
1.17.2006 2:51am
Duncan Frissell (mail):
I'm sure that Anne Coulter's suggestion of "Conversion by the Sword" was merely an attempt to demonstrate that she was able to learn something useful from other Faiths.

It will hardly come as a surprise that commies don't like conservatives' prose and vice-versa. They aren't supposed to. Different target demographic.

It would seem to me that commies who have spent 160+ years writing over-the-top prose (arise ye prisoners of starvation) can hardly object when their opponents choose to do the same.

Since the co-religioninsts of the commies commenting on this issue spent the '60s, 70's, &80's blowing up campus buildings and committing a host of other torts from false imprisonment to theft to assault; one might suggest that over-the top prose is an insignificant matter.
1.17.2006 12:10pm
Duncan Frissell (mail):

Through one of the Trackbacks I discover that Sally Frank is now a Professor at Drake Law School.

Her photograph provides another datapoint for theories of the link between appearance and feminism. Of course, we still haven't established causality vs effect.

I can see why the eating clubs didn't want her there for dinner.


Please note the above is an example of satire. One need not disagree with the point explicated by satire for it to be satire. Satire swings both ways.

As to substantive matters: it is apparent that the members of affinity groups self-select based on their own and other group members personal characteristics. Thus lefties tend to share certain vocal styles which can be picked out even when they are speaking non-politically and appearance tends to merge in affinity groups see here or here.
1.17.2006 12:30pm
dick thompson (mail):
I find it surprising that this group is so against all male eating clubs at Princeton when the lovable Sen Kennedy is a current member (renewed in Sept 2005) of an all male eating club from Harvard. Pot kettle etc.
1.17.2006 3:36pm
amn (mail):
If Crocker's article was pure hyperbole (and I agree that it was), it was Alito who was "had" not Kennedy. Instead of pointing out the nature of the article, Alito rather implausibly claimed to have convienently forgotten his membership.
1.17.2006 3:53pm
Bruce Hayden (mail) (www):
Tim Waligore

As to some Princetonians being pompous, of course they are. But it is my understanding that Mr. Crocker is not a Princetonian. Rather, I see him speaking pompously as he expects that some of the more pompous Princetonians would sound.

I suppose that there are some people who, even today, sound like that. But, IMHO, it was so overdone, that it sure looked like college aged humor to me. I also want to refer you to his article titled "The Case for an American Empire" in the October 6, 2004 issue of Crisis. In that article he seems to be arguing in favor of imperialism, and suggests that a lot of our problems today are a result of turning away from imperialism. I have an excerpt from it in the thread for the next article on this subject on this blog. Notice the same sort of exageration in this, somewhat more serious, article.
1.17.2006 8:28pm
Louise (mail):
The Alito confirmation hearing was hypocracy run-a-muck. This obviously more-than-qualified Judge sat before a committee of senators (who shall remain nameless) clearly on a witch hunt. I wish they would just stick to the facts...Alito did!
1.19.2006 11:36am