William Safire first penned that phrase, "Nattering nabobs of negativity," for a speech given by Spiro Agnew. It referred to members of the press, especially the liberal, anti-war media of the time.
Technically it means chattering by persons of great wealth or prominence that is marked by features of hostility, withdrawal, or pessimism that hinder or oppose constructive treatment or development.
I encountered -- again -- one such example the other night during a meeting of arts advocates. It wasn't anyone present; rather it is someone in the community who has decided to attack and belittle rather than to partner and build. We'll refer to that person as 3N -- Nattering Nabab of Negativity.
3N doesn't really fit the "nabob" category -- more like a 'wannabe' nabob, who because of the individual's approach to problem-solving, will likely fail in endeavors to be either wealthy or prominent. (Perhaps we could refer to this individual as a 'nattering nincompoop of negativity.')
But it sure made my blood boil briefly -- probably a result that was desired by 3N, actually, as I believe s/he rather enjoys stirring the pot and watching others hop.
When people partner to achieve common goals, everyone benefits and programs are strengthened. Especially in a small town, negativism divides, rumors fly, and nothing -- NOTHING -- is accomplished that actually has long-term benefits.
There is no hugely divisive issue at stake here, no radical philosophical differences that would preclude rapprochement. Far as I can tell, 3N is relishing the mean-spirited roadblocks s/he is throwing up, enjoying the discomfiture of those who would rather try to partner for causes that benefit everyone.
There are actually a couple of 3Ns around these parts. And it's a pity. Their superior attitude and contempt for the arts in Tehama County ultimately will hurt themselves most by alienating people who might otherwise support them. I don't want to nurture elitist and negative attitudes with my money and attendance and patronage. Bet you don't either.