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Not Being There

Commenting on the Paul Waldman takedown of Tim Russert that Jon noted yesterday, Daniel Larison makes a few typically sharp (in both senses of the word) observations. Citing Howie Kurtz's compliment that "Tim Russert, media superstar, hasn't forgotten where he came from," Larison explains:

Naturally, the implication in the phrase is that you still feel some attachment or loyalty to the place where you grew up, that you haven’t "sold out" and forgotten your "roots."  But this entire vocabulary of selling out and the roots of the unrooted has evolved to describe people who very definitely have sold out, or bought in, traded up, or however you would like to describe it, and then moved on.  You don’t need to "remember where you came from" if you actually still come from there....

Take Russert as a perfect example: he may not have forgotten where he came from, but he certainly isn’t going to go back there and enjoys his life after having "escaped" from his hometown.  This brings us to the nebulous idea of settled authenticity in a hyper-mobile society and the epidemic of frequent mobility and the routine abandonment of one’s hometown, particularly by professionals.  Obviously, if you settle somewhere and make that place your home (which is what, failing a return to your hometown, seems the best way), that’s rather different, but to live in one place for a long period of time while maintaining that you aren’t really from there creates this strange need to find deracinated people who are good at making gestures of rootedness rather than actually being rooted somewhere.  

It might be worth noting here that Wolf Blitzer is also from Buffalo, as is the Post's (tremendous) cartoonist Tom Toles, and that Kurtz himself graduated from SUNY Buffalo. Perhaps it's time we stopped taking Russert's claims of rustic authenticity at face value and named him for what he is: a member of the post-Buffalo media superelite.

--Christopher Orr