October 4, 2011

SHIKHA DALMIA: Why Smart Presidents Do Stupid Things.

The most depressing spectacle on the political landscape right now (besides a potential second term for Barack Obama) is the party of Lincoln entertaining the presidential ambitions of Sarah Palin and Michele Bachmann—women with better hairdos than heads. One needn’t be a GOP-hater like Paul Krugman or Maureen Dowd to be dismayed by the growing anti-intellectualism of the party. Even David Brooks, a conservative commentator, has observed that Republican disdain for liberal intellectuals has morphed into a disdain for all intellectuals.

But modern intellectuals, having abandoned honest inquiry for unabashed activism, must themselves bear some blame for the backlash.

Two thoughts. First: Even David Brooks? Really? Second: Intellectualism, in today’s society, isn’t about intellect. It’s just a pose, like hipsterism or faux-redneckism. Most of those people who self-identify as intellectuals aren’t especially bright, they’ve just adopted a lifestyle that’s littered with what they think are markers of intelligence. But read the whole thing. And I think that this is right: “So why do intelligent people consistently make such a hash of things? Because they are smart enough to talk themselves into anything. Ordinary mortals don’t engage in fancy mental gymnastics to reach conclusions that defy common sense. But intellectuals are particularly prone to this.”

UPDATE: But who will defend David Brooks?

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