Monday, January 05, 2004

Are You Listening Mother's of America?

  • Jeffrey Tucker article


  • on the anti-intellectualism en vogue...

    ...It [has] dawned on me just how popular and widely embraced stupid is. By stupid, I don't really intend insult. Stupid is a mental outlook that affirms the crude and base while eschewing the noble and thoughtful. It is an attitude of mind that can be adopted by both low lights and bright lights...

    That low lights be can be stupid is not a surprise...

    More puzzling is when stupid is adopted by the bright-light set after its members have come to the conviction that some modes of thought are more useful to achieving socio-political goals than others. Intellectual affectations, long deductive processes, self-control, and abstract ideals are fine in many cases, they conclude, but not as effective for some purposes as bad instinct, first thoughts, anger unleashed, and raw emotion.

    For intellectuals to believe in stupid means to embrace the attitude that sometimes society thrives best in the absence of serious thought, that stupid is more conducive to revolutionary change in society than carefully pondered ideology. It is about the conclusion that ideas and reflection do far less good for society that screaming insults, and that to live in our times and make a difference requires that we set aside our intellectual pretensions and appreciate anew the things that move the masses...

    The intellectuals sometimes admit that they have joined the parade. David Brooks writes: "In an age of conflict, bourgeois virtues like compassion, tolerance, and industriousness are valued less than the classical virtues of courage, steadfastness, and a ruthless desire for victory." That's another way of saying that much good can come from the most brutal (stupid) side of man. To unleash it requires not talk and debate but something, well, ruthless; something, well, stupid...

    Further reflection confirms the centrality of stupid in the whole of cultural, social, and political affairs. How many people came to the last professional meeting of academics you attended? A couple hundred at most. Most of them didn't even bother to attend the sessions. And who read your last three articles in scholarly journals? Five or six? These people and articles are irrelevant! Compare to the football games on TV, with the mass of fans paying a hundred or more per ticket, waving Styrofoam hands in the air, painting their chests, whooping it up on booze and team spirit. Whatever it is that makes football tick, that is the central stuff of history. It's stupid! Stupid is the key to life itself. Join the masses and embrace it as your own. Now is the time...

    Stupid Vogue represents the triumph of irrationalism, but it is more than that. It is the fulfillment of intellectual trends that have developed over many decades. It comes down to the rejection of the merit of logic and even the existence of truth itself and the culminating insight that nothingness can become meaning only through the working out of mass passion. The utilitarians began the process by showing us that natural law is a myth. The Marxists then demonstrated that history can take great leaps toward the radically implausible. The modern philosophers showed us that truth is a very slippery concept and so contingent as to be functionally useless...

    Stupid is also consistent with another dominant trend of our time: egalitarianism. The search for equality can conceptually mean raising everyone up, but that ambition fails to tap into envy which is one of the great social forces of our time or any time. It may seem really stupid to throw Martha in jail, sue and loot great investment firms, to lynch innocent CEOs or otherwise harass and regulate the rich and other benefactors of society. But the masses love this, and doing so does serve an important social function of redistributing wealth away from aristocrats to the common man and their representatives in government. Yes, it is stupid to do these things, but it is also the surest method known to make exciting things happen in history. Down with drudgery and up with Drudge. People want excitement. People want stupid. In the politicized society, stupidity reigns. This is why intellectuals have embraced it.

    In the stupid vogue of intellectuals, cynicism overrides their sense of responsibility, which they now find to be socially useless. To rally the masses behind a cause, no matter how dangerous or emotionally indulgent, is the best use of the intellect. The far left has always understood the need to draw stark lines between friends and enemies. The right is only now catching on, thanks to the leadership of the neoconservatives. They know the value of propaganda. Yes, Bush may be technically in violation of conservative principles to erect protectionist barriers, wage undeclared war, vastly increase spending, and regulate industry. But look! He's popular, and if we want to be popular too, we had better climb on board. We had better embrace the sentiment that makes him popular. We had better embrace stupid...

    Can the ideas of liberty and rights enjoy a sudden leap into mass appeal, as has Stupid Vogue, or must they always bear the burden that they require deliberation and thought before taking root? Mises counseled patience. He faced the problem of stupid vogue with the rise of socialism and then Nazism. He believed that we must never join in, that the only means we have for victory is the relentless demonstration and re-assertion of what is true.

    No sect and no political party has believed that it could afford to forgo advancing its cause by appealing to men's senses. Rhetorical bombast, music and song resound, banners wave, flowers and colors serve as symbols, and the leaders seek to attach their followers to their own person. Liberalism has nothing to do with all this. It has no party flower and no party color, no party song and no party idols, no symbols and no slogans. It has the substance and the arguments. These must lead it to victory...

  • Read the Whole Article at LewRockwell.com

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