What conclusions should be drawn? Readers will judge for themselves. But I think I detect today a certain public scepticism when intellectuals stand up to preach to us, a growing tendency among ordinary people to dispute the rights of academics, writers and philosophers, eminent though they may be, to tell us how to behave and conduct our affairs. The belief seems to be spreading that intellectuals are no wiser as mentors, or worthier as exemplars, than the witch doctors or priests of old. I share the scepticism. A dozen people picked at random on the street are as likely to offer sensible views on moral and political matters as a cross-section of the intelligentsia. But I would go further. One of the principal lessons of our tragic century, which has seen so many millions of innocent lives sacrificed in schemes to improve the lot of humanity, is--beware intellectuals. Not merely should they be kept well away from the levers of power, they should also be objects of particular suspicion when they seek to offer collective advice. Beware committees, conferences and leagues of intellectuals. Distrust public statements from their serried ranks. Discount their verdicts on political leaders and important events. For intellectuals, for from being highly individualistic and non-conformist people, follow certain regular patterns of behaviour. Taken as a group, they are often ultra-conformist within the circles formed by those whose approval they seek and value. that is what makes them, en masse, so dangerous, for it enables them to create climates of opinion and prevailing orthodoxies, which themselves often generate irrational and destructive courses of action. Above all, we must at all times remember what intellectuals habitually forget: that people matter more than concepts and must come first. The worst of all despotisms is the heartless tyranny of ideas.Alas, Johnson's prediction about intellectuals' influence appears to have been way too sanguine. An intellectual sits in the Oval Office, and will for the next two years. The influence of intellectuals and their crappy ideas has grown and become even more problemmatic as they have aligned themselves with Islam, the UN and all the multiculti/"human rights"/"anti-racism" madness. Academe is a nightmarish bastion of Zionhass, anti-Americanism, eco-mania and other execrable examples of p.c. dogma. And, yes, the regular people are still likely to manifest a lot more common sense than the smart people, but they (we) are constantly demonized as "racists" and "bigots" whose voices must be silenced lest they rock the Utopian boat (a dead-ringer for the S.S. Titanic).
Saturday, December 11, 2010
In the final paragraph of his book Intellectuals, published in 1988, Paul Johnson expressed optimism that the influence of these not-so wise guys and gals was on the wane. He also issued a warning that seems even timelier today than when it was written: