It's an open but dirty secret in liberal circles that their disdain for the Tea Party movement is tinged with jealousy.
People often note, sometimes with disdain, that celebrities bring their fame to bear on issues of importance to society.
Franzen is making a larger point about that, and our media-saturated culture, and the disdain he has for the state of things.
mid-14c., desdegne "scorn, contempt," earlier dedeyne "offended dignity" (c.1300), from Old French desdeigne, from desdeignier (see disdain (v.)). Sometimes in early Modern English shortened to sdain, sdainful. Related: disdainful; disdainfully.