In this article discussed in the last post, the author criticizes the Tea Party as having a worldview that is "anti-intellectual, anti-establishment, anti-elite."  It is interesting that liberals and progressives now suddenly consider being anti-establishment and anti-elite as bad things.  It just goes to show that the progressive movement is a long, long way from its roots, and is more about exercising power than the mythology it developed for itself in the 1960s.  I would gladly accept either of these labels for myself, even when I don't always agree with the Tea Party.

Moreover, when I was thirty years old and holding two Ivy League degrees, I would have jumped in with the author in attacking folks that were anti-intellectual.  But over the years, I have seen too many people exercising naked power in the name of being smarter and better able to make decisions for the rest of us.  I am exhausted with the technocratic governing urge, and while I still would not describe myself as anti-intellectual, I can sympathize with those who might.


  1. Retardo:

    I'm not anti-intellectual, but I'm not fond of people who've redefined "intellectual" to mean something more like "Orthodox Groupthink Fan Club Member". (Insert standard disclaimers about overgeneralization and my own side doing it too).

    In a lot of public discourse these days, "intellectual" (or "science", à propos of your next post) is a lot like "for the children", or "family values": Whatever crap you happen to be selling, slap a sacred cow on the label and go all outraged if anybody complains about what's actually in the tin when they get it home.

  2. Don:

    The curious thing that I find about questioning climate "science" dogma is that, a large proportion of the questioners actually have demonstrably high IQs and can add a fair number of letters after their names.

    So, if intellectuals question "intellectuals", it's anti-intellectual?

    I think I'm confused ;^).

  3. TJIC:

    I left a comment over at Jefferey Ellis' blog on this very topic a few hours ago:

    I’m not a huge fan of Palin, and have never seen Beck, but I think it’s a bit unfair to label large swaths of the Right with the label ” raving, anti-intellectual”.

    We have to remember that the Left has agressively marketed itself and all of its positions as “intellectual” for the last 80 years. Organic food? It’s intellectual. Divorce? Sophisticated and intellectual. Separate tracks for Spanish speaking kids? Intellectual. The board game Go? Intellectual. Anti-nuclear power? Intellectual. Anti-anti-communism? Intellectual.

    Many on the right are neither pro- or anti- intellectual, they are just against the arrogance of the left, and if the left wants to label X,Y, and Z as intellectual, then rightists will be happy to be against X,Y, and Z, and will use whatever label the left has handed them.

    My biases: I identify a bit more with the right than with the left on cultural matters, but I still fundamentally disagree with both as political parties trying to enforce their prejudices with legislation.

  4. Ted Rado:

    The urge to be "Napoleon" is strong in the human breast. This has been a growing menace in the US for decades. The government has steadily been growing in power and scope. Anyone who speaks out against some government program is a labelled a horrible person who (take your pick) wants Grandma, kids, sick, veterans, the arts, etc. to starve. In addition to slowly strangling our individual liberties, these people want to stifle discussion. The AGW thing is a great example.

    If we continue in this direction, we will wind up with an elected dictatorship, where the great gurus in DC make all the decisions, pick winners and losers, reward their supporters, and otherwise destroy our nation and culture. While I don't agree with everything the Tea Party folks say, it is certainly a step in the right direction. Free discussion of public (and scientific) issues without demonizing those with other points of view is a must if we are to remain a free people.

  5. Chris K.:

    I find "intellectual" to be synonymous with "credentialed" and I look to who issues the credentials. What I find is they are often people in academia who have never done anything in real life. Never started a company, never made a payroll, never put themselves out there in any way to fail in a meaningful way. They read other's papers and make commentary, they grade others commitment to the academic cause.

    So a sheepskin from a place where this kind of thought is not only ingrained but is the only thought rewarded makes me think less of the skin, the bearer, and the people that say "but he went to (insert Ivy here)"!

  6. spiro:

    During my 2 decades in academia I found that more I furthered and broadened my education, the further to the right (see: pro civil liberties and self-sufficiency) my reasoning developed.
    I left academia because intellectual discourse was dead. Even in the sciences (my field) very few academics retained the ability to engage in intelligent debate without basing arguments on entirely emotional and anecdotal evidence.
    It seemed to me that the Age of Reason was dead. (thank God for websites like this)
    As several of you have already stated, the connotation of "intellectual" has changed during the past 4 decades, and I have no problem being excluded from the current definition.

  7. Evil Red Scandi:

    Chris K beat me to it, although I generally avoid "credentialed" for the less-warm-and-cuddly-but-more-apt description "ivory-tower bullshit artist." People who have no idea or understanding of the concept that the difference between theory and practice is that in theory there's no difference. People who expect the world to behave according to their incompletely- and/or ill-considered machinations, just because they have a lot of letters after their name or (worst of all) because there is consensus (verifiable truth being so much of a hassle to determine and often inconveniently misaligned with one's politics).

  8. caseyboy:

    I know intellectuals who cannot balance their check book and wouldn't know how to complete a job application if their career depended on it. Intellectual, perhaps. Possessing knowledge and wisdom, not so much.

  9. Rick Caird:

    I am in the camp with Chris K. and TJIC. It turns out that intellectuals seem to make crappy decisions. It doesn't matter how smart they are, their plans and decision don't seem to work anywhere near as well as their "smartness" would lead us to believe. I don't remember which administration staffer noted they were happy to listen to the intellectuals, but would not let them into the room when an actual decision was being made. That is not being anti-intellectual. That is being smarter than an intellectual.

  10. Chris K.:

    An anecdote:
    My Dad's youngest brother was a month ago diagnosed with having a very large tumor in his brain.
    My dad found out everything he could about the doctor. To the degree that my dad looked into any malpractice issues and the like I find to be smart. The fact that my dad was telling me that the surgeon was valedictorian of his medical school 15 years ago does nothing for me.

    Why should I care where he went to school or what his grades were 15 years ago?
    Tell me how many of his patients survived the surgery. Tell me what continuing education he has. Tell me the frequency he does these surgeries. But for gods sakes, WHO CARES what a guys grades were 15 years ago???

  11. ruralcounsel:

    There is a difference between "anti-intellectual" and "anti-intelligence".

    I'm all for smart folks, but the ones who go around calling themselves intellectuals usually aren't as smart as they think they are, and have a whole dungcart-load of hubris and narcissism that are part of the package.

  12. ben:

    Reading Thomas Sowell could make anyone anti-intellectual. Intellectuals And Society was a view quake for me.

  13. Ted Rado:

    A factor in the loss of quality in academe is the US government. By putting up money for R&D for kookie schemes, they are corrupting the researchers. If you pay a professor a million dollars to study nonsense, many (hopefully not all) will become intellectual prostitutes. If DOE wants me to say that making large quantities of fuel out of small quantities of chicken fat is a good idea, and pays me a million dollars to do so, I can write a wonderful report showing it is a marvelous idea. This crap goes on all the time. The USG officials should be ashamed!!

  14. Don:

    For those curious where all this comes from, get a copy of this book. The parallels are frightening...

  15. TomD:

    There's a fundamental bit of question-begging embedded in the left's constant emphasis on "intellectualism." Implicit in the demand for intellectualism is the assumption that a technocracy is the appropriate sort of state. But in fact, of course, "technocracy or no?" is the very argument at hand.

    Yeah: If we're going to have a big, complex government running countless aspects of humans' lives, then smarts have to be intrinsic to the whole deal. That's when intellectualism necessarily becomes a political value. But libertarians (and tea partiers to whatever extent) haven't ceded that whole "big, complex government" part yet. They're sitting here, "Whoa, hold up a sec. We have a problem with this whole 'big government' thing in the first place. Before anything else, that's the argument we want to have." It's not that they see intellectualism as "bad" -- it's merely irrelevant to the actual debate they're seeking.

    It's as if the left just plows past that altogether. In decrying their opponents' lack of emphasis on intellectualism, the left is assuming its own conclusion: that a big, complex government is good. And so rather than accurately describing their opponents as anti-big-government, they wind up describing them as anti-one-of-the-traits-that-happens-to-be-part-of-big-government.

  16. Sam L.:

    I recall the end of a Dragnet episode--janitor was scraping the name off a door of a guy that Jo Friday had just sent downtown. Lots of letters behind his name. Janitor said something about how could a guy with that many degrees go so wrong after all the time it took him to get them. Joe: "He got them the easy way--he painted them on."

    Seems appropriate here.