Only elitists care about pronunciation

ONLY ELITISTS CARE ABOUT PRONUNCIATION…. Barack Obama pronounces “Pakistan” correctly, with a soft “a,” just like a lot of people who know what they’re talking about, including Gen. David Petraeus. Apparently, having completely run out of compelling policy arguments to make, some high-profile conservatives have decided to make this their latest campaign hobbyhorse.

The National Review’s Mark Stein, for example, said that Obama prefers the “exotic pronunciation.” He added, “[O]ne thing I like about Sarah Palin is the way she says ‘Eye-raq’.”

This came after the National Review’s Kathryn Jean Lopez posted an email that argued, “[N]o one in flyover country says Pock-i-stahn. It’s annoying.”

The inanity of what the right decides to whine about never ceases to amaze me. That Obama’s pronunciation is accurate is irrelevant. Mispronunciation apparently makes some conservatives feel better about themselves, and raises doubts about candidates who care to get this right. “Elites” care about country names; real Americans don’t.

My friend Adam Serwer’s take was spot-on:

To pronounce something correctly is to be “ostentatiously exotic,” while pronouncing something incorrectly is raised to the level of something like a presidential qualification. Meanwhile, there are thousands of Americans of Pakistani descent who are themselves “ostentatiously exotic” by virtue of their names (and it would be elitist of them to expect anyone to pronounce them correctly) and ancestry.

Keep in mind that these are the same people who insist that a culture of ignorance that hold black people back while lauding Sarah Palin’s vast ignorance of public policy as some kind of tremendous virtue. They demand merit from others and only mediocrity from themselves, because said mediocrity is touted as proof of authenticity.

The right’s anti-intellectualism seems to be getting worse, doesn’t it?

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Steve Benen

Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.