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.