Dan Kennedy of Media Nation has a post praising Mark Lilla’s anti Palin Screed at WSJ. La Palin must be the most powerful person in Dan’s world as he seems obsessed by her. I’m not above schadenfreude so I take a certain pleasure in your man’s discomfiture. Dan’s called Mr. Lilla’s column “brilliant.” Moi, I found it shallow.
Lilla posits a lumpen Republican America that hates “intellectuals.” He sees it as a problem that they don’t look to their betters. He has no problem that a lot of Republicans stayed home on John because they saw him as betraying the tradition of small government while Black Americans voted in vast numbers for his opponent and wherever they could, voted against same sex marriage. Now voting against ssm is considered fundamentalist yahooism. The spin in Cali is that it was the Mormons that deep sixed it. It is not the done thing to accuse our African American citizenry of being anything but enlightened.
So just what is it that makes someone an intellectual. True to my deficient character, I took the easy way out and went to dictionary.com for a definition:
a person of superior intellect.
a person who places a high value on or pursues things of interest to the intellect or the more complex forms and fields of knowledge, as aesthetic or philosophical matters, esp. on an abstract and general level.
an extremely rational person; a person who relies on intellect rather than on emotions or feelings.
a person professionally engaged in mental labor, as a writer or teacher.
Gee, doesn’t say anything about attending the Kennedy School or being a professor at Columbia or a journalism teacher at a middling school in the Athens of America.
Anyway, Dan quoted this paragraph,
They mock the advice of Nobel Prize-winning economists and praise the financial acumen of plumbers and builders. They ridicule ambassadors and diplomats while promoting jingoistic journalists who have never lived abroad and speak no foreign languages. And with the rise of shock radio and television, they have found a large, popular audience that eagerly absorbs their contempt for intellectual elites. They hoped to shape that audience, but the truth is that their audience has now shaped them.
Maybe Dan nodded his head as he read it as he closely reads the advice of Nobel Prize winners in economics, but it has not been uniformly good. If his personal economic gurus had been the two that had guided LTCM he would have looked horribly foolish.
As to that praise of plumbers and builders, well I don’t think anyone was suggesting Joe be Treasury Secretary, but he did have his folk hero minute and he did not do so badly in his brief fame when he was confronted by Obama.
I’m not a Republican so I don’t know who Lilla is talking about for the journalists. He does not give instances of the exact ridicule that was dished out to diplomats so we can’t tell if it is warranted. I hope ambassadors are not above critique unless the critic speaks another dialect.
He embarrasses himself with the shock jock stuff. Imus is a shock jock but no Repub and ditto Stern. I’m not a Limbaugh or Hannity fan, but to call them shock jocks is buffoonery.
He mentions Buckley with reverence, but does not mention WFB’s judgement of the better government. Bill preferred the unwashed out of the phone book to the Harvard Faculty.
Moi, I kinda like the judgment of an intellectual, Camille Paglia,
How dare Palin not embrace abortion as the ultimate civilized ideal of modern culture? How tacky that she speaks in a vivacious regional accent indistinguishable from that of Western Canada! How risible that she graduated from the University of Idaho and not one of those plush, pampered commodes of received opinion whose graduates, in their rush to believe the worst about her, have demonstrated that, when it comes to sifting evidence, they don't know their asses from their elbows.
Liberal Democrats are going to wake up from their sadomasochistic, anti-Palin orgy with a very big hangover. The evil genie released during this sorry episode will not so easily go back into its bottle. A shocking level of irrational emotionalism and at times infantile rage was exposed at the heart of current Democratic ideology -- contradicting Democratic core principles of compassion, tolerance and independent thought. One would have to look back to the Eisenhower 1950s for parallels to this grotesque lock-step parade of bourgeois provincialism, shallow groupthink and blind prejudice.
C’est vous, Dan.
If the cool people don’t want to accept Camille, maybe they would be okay with George Orwell’s take on intellectuals of his time,
These people look towards the U.S.S.R. and see in it, or think they see, a system which eliminates the upper class, keeps the working class in its place, and hands unlimited power to people very similar to themselves. It was only after the Soviet régime became unmistakably totalitarian that English intellectuals, in large numbers, began to show an interest in it.*
The situation is different now, but not so different that the bullying of Sarah is not despicable.
Maybe not all intellectuals, but there is no lack of shoddy practitioners. As a class they are not due homage. Only so far as he profers something of real value is a professor’s opinion of worth.
All in all Mr. Lilla gave us a faux intellectual rant. When you have fundamentalism of the left, it oft comes with a Ph.D. attached.
*Orwell, The Dollected Essays, Journalism and Letters of George Orwell Volume 4, In Front of Your Nose 1945-1950. Page 212, James Burnham and the Managerial Revolution.