Just as I presume every culture on Earth has a euphemism for “(decency edit),” it seems as if they all have terms to describe what are known in America as “limousine liberals,” or as Tom Wolfe famously dubbed them, the purveyors of “radical chic.”
– Jim Goad (HT: Takimag.com)
The Guardian UK asked a question that seems to weigh on the public intellectuals in England. “Why don’t we love our intellectuals?” They plaintively asked. Being the lovable and helpful soul that I always am, I’m here to help these suffering people through their quandary. I offer up a three good reasons – they feign disinterested objectivity, they often seem to hold less brilliant people in contempt or antipathy, and they pretend to have the intrests of “the poor” at heart when they do not.
They lie from a position of heightened authority. They claim to speak from a level of higher objectivity, while blatantly talking their own book. I took up this argument yesterday. Brett Stevens describes this process below.
Yet then we come face to face with the fallibility of science because scientists are human beings, and for money or social prestige they’ll cherry-pick data, broadly interpret results, extrapolate to levels best reserved for religion and philosophy, and in short do anything to create the headlines and perceptions that the “educated” proles find desirable…
They often seem to not really have the average middle-class person’s interest at heart. Noam Chomsky offers us his reaction to Osama Bin Laden’s ticket to the 72 virgins and the heart-shaped bed below.
It’s increasingly clear that the operation was a planned assassination, multiply violating elementary norms of international law. There appears to have been no attempt to apprehend the unarmed victim, as presumably could have been done by 80 commandos facing virtually no opposition—except, they claim, from his wife, who lunged towards them. In societies that profess some respect for law, suspects are apprehended and brought to fair trial. I stress “suspects.”
Even the brilliant and talented Leonard Bernstein couldn’t resist the allure to be seen as intellectually daring. He hosted a famous birthday party cum fundraiser for The Black Panther Party. During which Huey Newton, Don Cox and numerous other members of The Black Panther Party stated their political aims. Tom Wolfe describes one rather comical exchange.
“Let me answer the question,” Cox says, and he says to Lenny: “We believe that the government is obligated to give every man employment or a guaranteed income . . . see . . . but if the white businessman will not give full employment, then the means of production should be taken from the businessman and placed in the community, with the people.”
Lenny (Bernstein) says: “How? I dig it! But how?”
Prominent Public Intellectuals often claim to speak for the downtrodden masses while living in mansions. They seek to represent “the poor” and “the little guy” with all the veiled contempt that always lies behind such expressions of pity. Jim Goad offers us examples of this behavior below.
George Soros plants countless media sock-puppets who preach about people power and soaking the rich with taxes, yet he offshores much of his tremendous wealth precisely to avoid such taxes. Noam Chomsky preaches that paying income tax is a moral obligation, yet he squirrels away his considerable receivables in tax shelters so his children can avoid having to pay inheritance tax. Katrina vanden Heuvel, publisher of The Nation, again and again and again condemns those who are not “paying their share,” yet she battled the IRS all the way to the Supreme Court to avoid paying her own inheritance taxes.
Thus, the modern intellectual class consists of people who have amassed larger share of America’s assets, privileges and perquisites than at any time in our great nation’s history. They live the Life of Reilly and assuage their guilt complexes by making false gestures towards the little guys. The most telling line from Peggy Noonan’s best column ever, A Separate Peace,reads “I got mine. Which is what the separate peace comes down to, ‘I got mine, you get yours.’”
People may not know this completely yet, but they intuitively feel it. They know something isn’t fair and they resent it. The Intellectual becomes an icon of that resentment. Like The Simpletons from the novel A Canticle for Leibowitz the people can figure out just enough to know who to take it out on.
Thus, every time a “Great Thinker” like Ward Churchill opens his soup cooler and calls people who were burned alive in The World Trade Center on 9-11 “Little Eichmanns”, resentment builds. It builds not just against Ward Churchill, but seemingly athwart anyone with an IQ greater than room temperature. The Thinking Man becomes a symbol of how everything in the Common American’s life just doesn’t seem to work as well as it did in some prior Golden Age. Thus, the loud and obnoxious “Café Left” feeds the birth of a new and more virulent anti-intellectualism – at a time when we need new ideas more than ever.