Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Where stand the intellectuals?

About 2,500 years ago, an aphorism, translated from the Greek, said something to the effect "There is no idea so stupid that some philosopher won't support it."
Only a few decades ago, George Orwell said to some argumentative Communist, "You must be an intellectual. Only an intellectual could say something so stupid."
The term "intellectual," obviously used very loosely, today includes people in education, politics, and, most loosely, journalism.
It should include only people of intellect, people who deal with ideas.
Unfortunately it means, more often, people who can be and are called "elitists."
In the Sunday, 10 January, edition of the Perspective section is a perfect example of what I mean above: New York Times (and hence Chattanooga Times) columnist David Brooks pontificates that the real divide in the United States body politic is between the educated and the uneducated.
Naturally Mr. Brooks and other Times adherents are the educated (despite the poor quality of their respective papers). Those of us who oppose the various forms of involuntary servitude proposed by those intellectuals are, by definition, uneducated:
"Every single idea associated with the educated class has grown more unpopular over the past year.
"The educated class believes in global warming ..." despite record low temperatures, especially the last couple weeks but actually during the last three years.
Brooks, the educated, doesn't mention real weather but goes on to say "... so public skepticism about global warming is on the rise."
Yeah, us uneducated people ought not to pay attention to thermometers, shouldn't look out the window, should, instead, just listen to our betters, such as Mr. Brooks.
He goes on, mostly attempting to trash the Tea Party movement, but by serendipitous coincidence giving a nice lead-in to a column on the other side of the paper by Thomas Sowell titled "Intellectuals vs. society."
The once-again-great doctor says, "There has probably never been an era in history when intellectuals have played a larger role in society. When intellectuals who generate ideas are surrounded by a wide range of others who disseminate those ideas -- whether as journalists, teachers, staffers to legislators or clerks to judges -- the influence of intellectuals on the way a society evolved can be huge."
Intellectuals include, for example, Karl Marx, whose ideas led to the murders of hundreds of millions of people all across the world.
Non-intellectuals, as Dr. Sowell points out, include the Wright Brothers, who gave a lot more to people and the world than the Marxes and Brookses and the Mussolinis -- all of whom, interestingly, were in one way or another journalists.
Dr. Sowell also said this: "Intellectuals generate ideas and ideas matter, far beyond the small segment of society who are intellectuals. Ideas affect the fate of whole civilizations."
Then, next day, Dr. Sowell goes on, in a column titled "Good ideas vs. practical ones." In it he says, "If there is any lesson in the history of ideas, it is that good intentions tell you nothing about actual consequences."
Among the other sins of journalism is that those consequences are not reported as they should be.
We can still point out The New York Times and its adulation of Josef Stalin. That kind of miserable reporting was a good antecedent for its reporting of the most recent presidential election. The Times was just one of the "news" media slobbering (to use the very apt word of Bernard Goldberg) over Barack Obama.
Ideas most certainly do matter, and one of the problems in this modern day is that one idea, that of liberty, seems to have no place in "news" reporting or, apparently, in the minds of intellectuals generally.

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous8:19 PM

    Last night, on the Glenn Beck show on Fox, Dr. Sowell was the guest speaking on this very topic.
    "Intellectuals vs. Society" is the perfect title to describe the situation.
    Mary Jane Grass