Friday, June 2, 2017

The Left's Anti-Intellectualism Problem

Much is made of the anti-intellectualism on the Right. But I think there's a deeper story there and the recent campus "incidents" brings that deeper story to light. Conservatives aren't anti-intellectualism, they're anti-intellectual. And who can blame them? Those who proudly wear the banner of intellectual are often the same self-righteous and self-appointed guardians of of what can and cannot be said and who cheer when anyone who challenges liberal orthodoxy is chased off of a college campus. The real problem I see is that the Left, for all it's "I believe in Science" bumper sticker chanting, is pro-intellectual but anti-intellectualism. Intellectualism means that one is dedicated to study, reflection, and speculation - reflection and speculation.

But when it's decided that Charles Murray's words must not be heard or that a progressive professor cannot question the appropriateness of asking an entire class of people to leave a campus or that anyone less than a progressive must not be permitted to speak at a commencement there is no reflection going on. Speculation and reflection encourages free thinking and can result in people questioning established dogma. Too often now this is not tolerated. One must toe the line or be ostracized and declared an enemy.

It's like watching the Mountain Jacobins battle the Girondins - talk of moderation or inclusion are met with the guillotine of exclusion and condemnation. Don't get me wrong, there's plenty of ridiculous stuff going on with the Right. Their complete willingness to become cheerleaders and apologists for a man who has absolutely no commitment to conservative principles is but the tip of the iceberg. But watching the Left react to being powerless (they control no aspect of the federal government and very few state governments) has been illuminating. Those with the loudest voices are using those voices to reinforce the anger of like-minded souls. Efforts to empathize or to reach out and build the coalition are met with angry dismissals - "why should we talk to those people? why should we care what they think?" So instead, the energy is dedicated to actions that only reinforce the worst aspects of what "those people" think about the Left.

If their goal is to attract new adherents and win back power then the tactics are all wrong. If their goal is to commiserate with an insular group of dedicated followers... then job well done.

I encourage all of the true believers to read this excellent essay by Freddie DeBoer.