You’re a Sad Scab, Mr. Chait

Shaun Richman December 14, 2018

Jonathan Chait speaks during the Coming Republican Crack-Up Panel at New York Magazine's Election Issue event at the Morgan Library & Museum on October 18, 2012 in New York City. (Photo by Bryan Bedder/Getty Images for New York Magazine)

Is there a Ger­man word for when a pre­sump­tive scab con­firms your low­est expectations?

The writ­ers and edi­to­r­i­al staff at New York Mag­a­zine have formed a union, join­ing a ver­i­ta­ble orga­niz­ing wave in dig­i­tal and tra­di­tion­al news media. Near­ly 80 per­cent of the work­ers have signed union cards and are ask­ing man­age­ment to vol­un­tar­i­ly rec­og­nize their union.

Long­time colum­nist Jonathan Chait did not sign a union card, and rushed to Twit­ter this week to lick management’s boots, because of course he did. The lib­er­al-in-his-own-mind colum­nist has spent the last few years — before Fox News inevitably invites him to be one of its res­i­dent lib­er­als,” where he can ride out his sham­bles of a career — lazi­ly defend­ing neolib­er­al­ism and Nazis’ rights to free speech.

Less than 24 hours after throw­ing his col­leagues under the bus, Chait took again to Twit­ter to whine that only three scorch­ing hot takes had pub­lished about his pro­file in cow­ardice. Feels like the left is real­ly under­cov­er­ing this issue,” com­plained the cork-screw soul (to bor­row from Jack London’s poet­ic descrip­tion of the awful sub­stance” that makes a scab).

Patri­o­tism may be the last refuge of the scoundrel, but in the 21st cen­tu­ry, online trolling is the final cold com­fort for the mediocre white man.

Jonathan Chait is a small man in some ways, a small, pet­ty man. In March of 2016, Tyler Zim­mer took the colum­nist to task for a piece for In These Times titled, Why Jonathan Chait Is Wrong About Marx­ism, Lib­er­al­ism and Free Speech.” Chait lit­er­al­ly spent the night of its pub­li­ca­tion crank­ing out a bunch of tired Cold War base­ment noise in response, which was pub­lished the fol­low­ing day.

So, I have the rare plea­sure as a writer of know­ing that I have what the union-bust­ing con­sul­tants that Chait’s boss­es have like­ly hired call a cap­tive audi­ence.”

Hi, Jonathan Chait. You’re a scab.

I’m not real­ly going to both­er with the sub­stance of Chait’s der­pa der­p­ing about unions and prof­it-shar­ing or what­ev­er. The man doesn’t know what he’s talk­ing about and refus­es to actu­al­ly learn any­thing about what he’s talk­ing about. He’s the pla­ton­ic ide­al of a dip­shit colum­nist. Ping me when he gets some sort of woke” epiphany in a sand­wich shop.

Instead I’ll say this: In my expe­ri­ence as a union orga­niz­er — not just for blue-col­lar work­ers who hacks like Chait might con­de­scend­ing­ly acknowl­edge deserve” a union, like main­te­nance con­trac­tors and hotel room atten­dants, but large­ly for white col­lar pro­fes­sion­als like uni­ver­si­ty pro­fes­sors, post-docs and char­ter school teach­ers — I’ve found that those who are quick­est to car­ry water for man­age­ment are usu­al­ly afraid they will be out­ed for being over­paid for what lit­tle they con­tribute to the enterprise.

Hilarous­ly, Chait reveals his mis­un­der­stand­ing that pay equi­ty for low­er-earn­ing work­ers” would come at the cost of more estab­lished staffers like myself.” That’s almost cer­tain­ly not going to be the case. From pro­fes­sion­al sports to high­er edu­ca­tion, the high­er paid work­ers tend to make out like ban­dits in col­lec­tive bar­gain­ing, even if they sit on the side­lines dur­ing the real­ly tough fights.

But, as a part of the col­lec­tive bar­gain­ing process, Chait’s col­leagues are going to learn how much mon­ey he earns — and it’s going to be laugh­able com­pared to how lit­tle intel­lec­tu­al rig­or he puts in to inform­ing the opin­ions he’s paid to write about.

Jonathan Chait, I hope you don’t sign a union card. I hope your anachro­nis­tic anti-union stand destroys the last few shreds of your cred­i­bil­i­ty. I hope this is when we all col­lec­tive­ly agree to start ignor­ing you.

You demon­strate a remark­able lack of intel­lec­tu­al curios­i­ty for an opin­ion writer. As the polit­i­cal ground shifts beneath your feet, you stead­fast­ly refuse to engage with the nature of lib­er­al­ism and cap­i­tal­ism and the actu­al ideas of those of us who strug­gle for a 21st cen­tu­ry social­ist project. Instead you do the lazy mid­dle-aged man thing of believ­ing your opin­ion to be fact, and back­ing that up with stuff you half-remem­ber pre­tend­ing to read in col­lege. Your schtick has worn thin and you are on the wrong side of history.

Oh, what a writer with intel­lec­tu­al curios­i­ty and a deep Rolodex could do with the col­umn inch­es that are wast­ed on your left-punch­ing shad­ow-box­ing! The cam­paigns that could be high­light­ed! The game-chang­ing activists who could be lift­ed up!

To the edi­tors at New York mag­a­zine, let this serve as my dec­la­ra­tion of inter­est to take Jonathan Chait’s place. Of course, I would sign a union card, but you should just hur­ry up and rec­og­nize the union before Chait gets the chance to pub­lish anoth­er piece of crap. And if you don’t hire me that’s basi­cal­ly an unfair labor prac­tice charge that I’m already draft­ing in my mind.

Shaun Rich­man is an In These Times con­tribut­ing writer and the Pro­gram Direc­tor of the Har­ry Van Ars­dale Jr. School of Labor Stud­ies at SUNY Empire State Col­lege. His Twit­ter han­dle is @Ess_Dog.
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