Astroturf

Tim Soutphommasan nails the increasingly prevalent misuse of the term “elite” to describe anyone with progressive views (“Some poppies are taller than others”, The Australian, 4/6). Delivered with an anti-intellectual hostility worthy of Chairman Mao, the term is usually prefixed by “inner-city” or “tertiary-educated” (apparently bad things), and may even include coffee preferences; but we are rarely told exactly how this supposed elite holds the exclusivity and power required to justify the name.

Given his employer, Soutphommasan can only discreetly hint at what drives this abuse by referring to the “apparent furore” over Cate Blanchett’s carbon advertisement spot. But what is at play here are real elites – big money working to influence the media and government – hiding behind phoney grass-roots (“astroturf”) movements which cynically pervert egalitarian impulses, ironically using the class-war language of the old Left.

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