Are You Too Busy for Davos?
Fight meritocratic preening at the World Economic Forum!
The World Economic Forum, familiarly known as "Davos," begins Jan. 31. This year it's in New York City, apparently because there are security concerns about holding it in its usual venue, the Swiss resort town of Davos. A year ago, Slate Editor Michael Kinsley published an amusing piece titled "Why I Don't Go to Davos." In it, he explained that while he'd been invited to Davos, he refused to go on the grounds that it was a forum for self-important people to show off and/or to experience status anxiety. Chatterbox agrees with Kinsley's analysis. On the other hand, Chatterbox has never been invited to Davos—even this year, when they seem to have invited everybody. As a result, Chatterbox must take a more aggressive tack in explaining why he won't be sharing his views on Restoring Global Confidence or Bridging Cultures and Civilizations (these are both real topics on the "official programme") with the likes of Colin Powell, Gerhard Schroder, Gerry Adams, Hamed Karzai, the archbishop of Canterbury, and, inevitably, Bill Clinton. (For a lengthier list of government leaders who will be in attendance, click here. For a list of "leading social entrepreneurs" who will be there, click here. For a list of religious leaders who will be there, click here. Strangely, Chatterbox can't seem to locate a list of economists who will be attending the World Economic Forum.)
After giving his snubbing considerable thought, Chatterbox decided to assume a stance that Kinsley considered in his Davos piece and then rejected—namely, that the press of affairs is too urgent to allow for such frivolities. Chatterbox had the artisans at Ritz Camera create a T-shirt that says, "Too Busy for Davos." He then posed for Slate "Explainer" columnist Chris Suellentrop, who snapped the photograph you see here.
Then Chatterbox got to thinking. Surely he wasn't the only person who would need to look very, very busy during the next few days. Bob Davis writes in the Jan. 29 Wall Street Journal that Yasser Arafat, a Davos groupie since 1993, is fit to be tied that he wasn't invited in 2002. So, apparently, is Lori Wallach, a leading advocate against globalization. Why not ask them, and others like them, to Don the Shirt, too? Chatterbox will spend the next few days playing roving photographer as he tries to persuade prominent thinkers and doers who will not be attending Davos to pose in Slate's "Too Busy for Davos" T-shirt. Those who blew off an invite will be eligible, and so will those who were never invited in the first place. As a practical matter, though, these eminences will have to be located in Washington, D.C., where Chatterbox and the T-shirt currently reside. If this venture proves a success, Chatterbox will take it on the road. We may have the start of an international movement here.
[Update, Jan. 31: Chatterbox learned this afternoon that Kinsley has snuck off to Davos. Click here to read his dispatch about it.]
Timothy Noah is a former Slate staffer. His book about income inequality is The Great Divergence.