Stanley Fish Sticks it to the Man

Stanley Fish

Given that the New York Times has long found itself consumed by a compulsive need to scrutinize upper middle-class leisure to a point of complete and total exhaustion (see House and Home, Thursday Styles, Sunday Styles, the rest of the paper), it can come as little surprise that its comparatively recent penetration of the “blogosphere” would drag this dark obsession into the full light of…broadband, or whatever. Their dilemma is understandable — how could hundreds and hundreds of 10-point pages per week suffice to track the vicissitudes of yoga, Blackberry accessories, and daring vacation-home refinancing? And who better to blog the rigors of unbounded disposable income than renowned academic Stanley Fish? This week’s senescent outburst, “Getting Coffee is Hard to Do” runs through a dizzying litany of irritations and overstimulations that confront the cane-wielding sophist at Starbucks. Fish gazes awestruck at the “staggering array” of creams and sugars, boggles at drinks containing “more parts than an internal combustion engine,” and furrows a scholarly brow at unreasonable prices: “it costs a lot, $3 and up.” The man longs for the coffee shops of yore, places where

when you wanted a cup of coffee you went into a nondescript place fitted out largely in linoleum, Formica and neon, sat down at a counter, and, in response to a brisk ‘What’ll you have, dear?’ said, ‘Coffee and a cheese Danish.’ Twenty seconds later, tops, they arrived, just as you were settling into the sports page.Alas, this post-Edward Hopper utopia has given way to the concentration-camp conditions of the mass-market luxury coffee shop:

[W]orst of all, what you’re paying for is the privilege of doing the work that should be done by those who take your money. The coffee shop experience is just one instance of the growing practice of shifting the burden of labor to the consumer — gas stations, grocery and drug stores, bagel shops (why should I put on my own cream cheese?), airline check-ins, parking lots. It’s insert this, swipe that, choose credit or debit, enter your PIN, push the red button, error, start again.


Yeah, why the fuck should he put on his own cream cheese? I think we all know what Professor Fish is talking about here. When I waltz down to the Starbucks around the corner from campus I am ALWAYS getting blindfolded, gagged, forced into a plane and flown to the coffee fields of Ecuador, where I toil–bombarded by the heartless rays of the equatorial sun–until my hands gleam scarlet with sunburn, blood and the mocking pigment of the mature coffee berry. Somebody get this man another honorary Ph.D! The American consumer of luxury products has hitherto struggled unsung under the crippling burden of exploitative labor conditions. Fuck the man! Shoppers of the Whole Foods UNITE! I mean, where does big business get off not providing liveried servants to carry me from the leathern throne of my BMW M5 to the order counter. And how about a congressionally-sanctioned army of enslaved telepathic baristas? Why should I be forced to utter a verbal command? I have rights!


  1. thos spence

    thy wrath explodeth from the page! is the greated ‘irony’ that fish is a milton scholar? may the hogs never cease grunting until they have got their rights!

  2. Julie Marie

    oh dear, i love this hehehe

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