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click opera - The intellectual is not one of us
February 2010
 
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Mon, Feb. 18th, 2008 10:10 am
The intellectual is not one of us

The intellectual is not one of us. We are ordinary folks, he is a member of an elite. We gravitate around right wing ideas, he's left-leaning. We're family people, he screws men, women and children. We farm, he stays in the city, with his intellectual elite, or on campus, corrupting the minds of our youth. We're religious, but the intellectual is an unbeliever. We run to fat, he stays thin. We're patriots, he's a cosmopolitan, equally at home with foreigners as with his own kind. He puts loyalty to ideas before loyalty to his people. We have the church, he has the liberal media.



The intellectual is not one of us. We are struggling revolutionaries, he's a technocrat. He's a Marie Antoinette, completely ignorant of the daily life of the poor. He's never been to Appalachia, though he has been to Tokyo. He's the one who helps the powerful build their atom bombs, their death camps, their spy satellites, their coercive media organisations. He's obviously closer to the Israelis than the Palestinians. He hates rap music and the values behind it. To be an intellectual, you have to think like a white person. And intellectuals are as out of touch with their bodies as they are with the people. All those theories, but they'll never understand art. All theory, no praxis. If you can't do, teach.



Those stereotypes of right and left wing anti-intellectualism are reductive sketches of the Wikipedia entry on the subject. (Ah, reductive, there's a word only an intellectual would use! Things are always more complex, aren't they? Potentially? If we really want to talk about this.) The subject is in the air at the moment because Susan Jacoby has published a book called The Age of American Unreason which says that the fact that nearly two-thirds of Americans believe creationism should be taught in schools alongside Darwinian evolution is "an intellectual disaster as grave as the human and natural disaster unfolding in New Orleans". Meanwhile, in another disaster metaphor, Eric G. Wilson (whose Against Happiness is also just published) warns that the American obsession with happiness could "well lead to a sudden extinction of the creative impulse, that could result in an extermination as horrible as those foreshadowed by global warming and environmental crisis and nuclear proliferation". Wow, even I didn't go that far in my Down With Fun! lecture!



America closes the book on intelligence was Salon's title for their Susan Jacoby feature. The New York Times entitled their profile Dumb and Dumber: Are Americans Hostile to Knowledge? New book confirms Americans are stupid, trumpeted Monsters and Critics. Conservatives' rants share blame for intellectualism's decline, said the Arizona Republic. A poor educational system and religious fundamentalism’s hatred of reason have helped turn many of us into isolationist dummies, declared travel blog World Hum. Meanwhile, for misanthropic bulletin board I Love Everything Jacoby's book elicited a shrug: "Most people just don't care about a lot of the stuff that people who say "people are stupid" care about".

The New York Observer has perhaps the most thoughtful article, headlined A Nation of Uncommitted, Distracted Dilettantes. "The contours of a peculiarly American disenlightenment have been traced again and again in recent haute-pop titles as disparate as Morris Berman’s Dark Ages America and Sam Harris’ Letter to a Christian Nation and Al Gore’s The Assault on Reason," writes Jonathan Liu. "A new American exceptionalism of literalist Christianity and proud anti-intellectualism has taken hold: With our Left Behinds and intelligent designs, we must surely seem exceptionally ridiculous to the rest of the world, not least the London-Dubai-Shanghai axis that’s inherited the future while we’ve dawdled over Jesus."



Liu's review is the best because it picks up on Jacoby's nuance -- her attention to the dialectics at play in American anti-intellectualism, from the Scopes monkey trial onwards: "If Scopes and Spencer and Bryan were the morning of the culture wars, Ms. Jacoby’s noontime showdown was the anti-communist 1950’s, which cemented the “pointy-head” academic “as an alien organism within the American body politic.” Her argument is again quietly iconoclastic; McCarthy’s inquisitions were barbaric, but they also pumped up the self-esteem of a tiny clique of Old Left New Yorkers who’d spent the 30’s debating Stalin and Trotsky in obscure journals. “[A] crucial factor,” Ms. Jacoby writes, “in the postwar conflation of anti-communism and anti-intellectualism was the retrospective exaggeration by intellectuals themselves of their own importance and the importance of their twenty-year-old political and personal feuds.” At some point, it seems, the American intellectual fell in love with the idea of himself as the alien organism among bourgeois rubes."

Events in Europe this month haven't been much more reassuring, though. First the Archbishop of Canterbury said the adoption of elements of Islamic sharia law in the UK civic code "seems unavoidable". Then Sarkozy in France started stressing his Catholic credentials, muddying the clear divide between church and state in France. Danish MPs had to cancel a potentially lucrative trip to Iran after the regime there called on them to apologize for the re-publication of the notorious cartoons (which caused renewed riots throughout Denmark), and they refused.

A UK think tank called the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) issued a report saying multiculturalism and excessive liberal tolerance had made Britain a "soft touch" for terrorists, extremists and militants because the "fragmenting, post-Christian society" was seeing "a loss of confidence in our own identity, values, constitution and institutions". Debate over Islam also fuelled the apparent defeat of Marxist critic Terry Eagleton by Martin Amis; the Guardian reported that, following a long-running debate over Amis' anti-Islamic arguments, Eagleton was facing non-renewal of his contract at Manchester University, where Amis gets £80,000 for just 28 hours a year of creative writing tuition. He clearly wouldn't approve of Eagleton's new book, which casts Jesus as a Palestinian revolutionary. But it may be a mark of the fallen tone of our times -- the way that religion seems to be setting all our cultural agendas -- that Eagleton, "Britain's leading Marxist critic", had to reach for Jesus in the first place.



If Marxism won't save us from religious de-evolution, perhaps machines will. This was also the week when Ray Kurzweil declared that man and machine would merge by 2029. On the current evidence, I'm not quite sure what's in it for the machines; at this rate, the only thing they'll be getting in 2029 is religion.

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electricwitch
electricwitch
For anything, oh! she´ll bust her elastic
Mon, Feb. 18th, 2008 10:06 am (UTC)
lol marx

"He clearly wouldn't approve of Eagleton's new book, which casts Jesus as a Palestinian revolutionary."

LOLOLOL yes because Jesus was a militaristic muslim. With champions like that, you really don´t need religion to oppose Marxism.

BTW, religion and Marxism? Oh, bb :(


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mcgazz
mcgazz
McGazz
Mon, Feb. 18th, 2008 10:35 am (UTC)
Re: lol marx

> yes because Jesus was a militaristic muslim

LOLOLOL yes because all Palestinian revolutionaries were/are "militaristic muslims".

Or were you providing a demonstration of "reductive" for Momus?


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(Anonymous)
Mon, Feb. 18th, 2008 10:09 am (UTC)
404

my google feed page had your post "send me death!" on for some time, but I got a 404notfound every time I clicked. what happened to that post??


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imomus
imomus
imomus
Mon, Feb. 18th, 2008 10:15 am (UTC)
Re: 404

It was a request for an mp3 of my song What Will Death Be Like?, which I couldn't find a copy of and need to reconstruct for a live performance in March. I deleted the post as soon as I got a copy of the song. In fact, I got a whole bunch of mp3s from kind readers, clogging up my mailbox!


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electricwitch
electricwitch
For anything, oh! she´ll bust her elastic
Mon, Feb. 18th, 2008 10:26 am (UTC)

And how about the future of intellislash and intellicocks, anyway?


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trickseybird
trickseybird
Bruce Springsteen, you're not the boss of me
Mon, Feb. 18th, 2008 10:28 am (UTC)

Actually, according to momus' wiki entry, the future of his intellicock may be endangered!

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Momus_%28artist%29


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thomascott
thomascott
Thomas Scott
Mon, Feb. 18th, 2008 10:29 am (UTC)
Where have all the intellectuals gone?

Great post,very Furedian and very necessary.


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trickseybird
trickseybird
Bruce Springsteen, you're not the boss of me
Mon, Feb. 18th, 2008 11:02 am (UTC)
Re: Lest we forget THE BOSS.

Photobucket


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(Anonymous)
Mon, Feb. 18th, 2008 10:33 am (UTC)

So you still read ILX but you don't post there anymore? Just the occasional snarky remark on Clique Opera? That seems very passive-aggressive for a self-mediating node like your good self!


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imomus
imomus
imomus
Mon, Feb. 18th, 2008 10:40 am (UTC)

ILX has jumped the shark, Click Opera hasn't!


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(no subject) - (Anonymous) Expand

trickseybird
trickseybird
Bruce Springsteen, you're not the boss of me
Mon, Feb. 18th, 2008 10:40 am (UTC)

We're family people, he screws men, women and children..

O, man. Don't say that and then post pictures of monkeys, it's a jarring visual.


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lobsterbelle
lobsterbelle
-
Mon, Feb. 18th, 2008 11:35 pm (UTC)

I know you're hot for monkeys. Don't try and hide it behind a veil of anti-simianism.


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mcgazz
mcgazz
McGazz
Mon, Feb. 18th, 2008 10:46 am (UTC)

Interestingly, the neocon view of the intellectual is a mixture of your right-wing and left-wing stereotypes.


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imomus
imomus
imomus
Mon, Feb. 18th, 2008 10:53 am (UTC)

Those neocons don't know whether they're coming or going!


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(Anonymous)
Mon, Feb. 18th, 2008 11:43 am (UTC)

This post made me go ape-shit

wewillbecome.com


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qscrisp
qscrisp
Mon, Feb. 18th, 2008 12:05 pm (UTC)

Ray Kurzweil and religion are setting all our cultural agendas together. It's a two-headed monster. Religion created materialism and now we're supposed to choose sides in this as the two-headed monster battles itself, Kurzweil drooling for the same ego-immortality in matter that he and his kind can't believe religion will provide them in spirit. They're all vile. Why else is this blog post such an implosion?


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nato_dakke
nate
Mon, Feb. 18th, 2008 12:32 pm (UTC)

Of all the Momus masks, the "america is scary" one is my favorite.

Thanks.


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cerulicante
cerulicante
cerulicante
Mon, Feb. 18th, 2008 12:55 pm (UTC)

You don't understand. Americans are stupid, faceless masses of sheep that buy into mass consumerism and capitalism and are therefore to be abhorred and shunned.

But when they ignore or cast aspersions upon European WISDOM (i.e., the global warming/CO2 canard), then Americans aren't rejecting Eurogroupthink mass hysteria...they're "unenlightened."



We just can't win. But who cares what people with no jobs think of us?


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(Anonymous)
Mon, Feb. 18th, 2008 01:47 pm (UTC)

I don't see religion as being the problem here. The democratic spirit is the problem. The country has placed such a high value on equality that people get offended whenever someone tries to rise above the general level of the masses. Republicans have just embraced and exploited this tendency for political gain. They even attack their own intellectuals. When the folks at the National Review poo-pooed the Harriet Miers nomination (because she wasn't qualified enough), the Populist Right went up in arms over out-of-control intellectual elitism.


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polocrunch
polocrunch
Polocrunch
Tue, Feb. 19th, 2008 12:13 am (UTC)

Alexis de Tocqueville made the very same connection 150 years ago, and it really has held true throughout. The levelling effect of American culture that prevents tyranny and oligarchical rule (well...) also reduces respect for intellectuals and sophistication. The sheer size of America has the effect of making minorities, which would in other countries be quite small groups, potentially very significant. The effect of straddling half a continent also reduces the chance of many inhabitants ever leaving the country - that many Americans don't have passports is a popular and often-repeated fact.

But anyway, let's not buy into Momus' polemic or de Tocqueville's 'observations' (if a collection of anecdotes can really be called such) too much. The supposed 'anti-intellectualism' he quivers at is far more a construction of overly-defensive intellectuals and a slim stratum of canny operators on the right far more than it is a genuine problem in America's 'grassroots'.


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electricwitch
electricwitch
For anything, oh! she´ll bust her elastic
Mon, Feb. 18th, 2008 02:28 pm (UTC)
the problem with failing

NEEDS MOAR STEENS&PEENS.


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hideandseekfest
hideandseekfest
hideandseekfest
Mon, Feb. 18th, 2008 03:46 pm (UTC)
Hi, we would like you to come and do something

Hi Momus,

I run a festival of mixed reality games in London. We would like you to come and play something with us in June. You can read a bit about the festival and see a film we shot last year at sandpit.hideandseekfest.co.uk. If you're curious please could you mail me at alex@hideandseekfest.co.uk.
Thanks
Alex


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cheapsurrealist
cheapsurrealist
Dave Nold
Mon, Feb. 18th, 2008 04:27 pm (UTC)
We're in our right minds. Aren't we?



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imomus
imomus
imomus
Mon, Feb. 18th, 2008 05:05 pm (UTC)
Re: We're in our right minds. Aren't we?

At least 20 IQ points -- and 200 years of science -- lost in that translation!


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desant012
||||||||||
Mon, Feb. 18th, 2008 06:14 pm (UTC)

What I think is a little disappointing is how the intellectual left's dusty postmodern viewpoint has almost the same principles as the anti-rational right, as in, "nothing is certain". The same ideas the right uses to debate the validity of evolution, the left uses to debate ... well, the validity of other scientific ideas.

Unfortunately, our anti-rational stance is a product of both the left intellectual and the right anti-intellectual.


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imomus
imomus
imomus
Mon, Feb. 18th, 2008 06:21 pm (UTC)

But that's because -- as I said in relativism swings right -- the right stole our ideas, having seen how they could use them for their own nefarious purposes.


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pay_option07
pay_option07
Mon, Feb. 18th, 2008 06:47 pm (UTC)
Pandora's Box

What a species will do for a little bit of tail.


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microworlds
microworlds
Sparkachu Maelworth
Mon, Feb. 18th, 2008 08:36 pm (UTC)

Hmm, this sounds like something my boyfriend would write. I should show it to him and have him comment on it. If you get a really long response under my name, it's him. LOL!


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trickseybird
trickseybird
Bruce Springsteen, you're not the boss of me
Mon, Feb. 18th, 2008 09:27 pm (UTC)

..Your bf is Rick Astley though, right?


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pay_option07
pay_option07
Mon, Feb. 18th, 2008 09:24 pm (UTC)
Berlin

BERLIN (Kyodo) Director Izuru Kumasaka won the Best First Feature award for his movie, "Asyl — Park and Love Hotel," at the 58th Berlin International Film Festival on Saturday.


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(Anonymous)
Mon, Feb. 18th, 2008 10:05 pm (UTC)

you should use the voice of the sad robot from that belafonte video for your joke voice.

speaking of that, my proctologist, coincedentally named Dr. Momus Belafonte, was checking my prostate the other day, and he put on the glove, lubed his fingers and then proceeded to put his finger in my mouth. Should I be offended?

--The Heirophant






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(Anonymous)
Mon, Feb. 18th, 2008 10:10 pm (UTC)

cnt_vrnsy


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(no subject) - (Anonymous) Expand

(Anonymous)
Mon, Feb. 18th, 2008 10:17 pm (UTC)

I'm beginning to feel sorry for Momus, the well-meaning arts and politics teacher at the Heinrich Hoffman Special Needs School funded by the International Attention Deficit Disorder Association.

der.


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(Anonymous)
Mon, Feb. 18th, 2008 11:15 pm (UTC)
Is Eagleton the last of the snake-oil salesmen?

Marxist theory, Birkbeck head-bend, Princeton hippies and Cornel West. A success for Barrack Obama might be the last nail in the coffin for old-school progressives (class of 1848). Be a Brother, not The Man. Fire with fire and fascinating times.

In a way, though: "Look at the smart monkeys, solving all the problems the other monkeys make. Atheism for Religion. Class War for Feudalism. Marxism for Capitalism. Feminism for Sexism. The clever ones, they're the shit-clearers. After the chewers have chewed, the foragers have foraged."

Go back, little Terry monkey. "Oo?!" Go back, before slicing and dicing, counter-slicing and contra-dicing. Before the reactionary, the Catholic Nationalism, the Permadog. Back to source... back.. back..

The Pro-Bling Etc.


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lobsterbelle
lobsterbelle
-
Mon, Feb. 18th, 2008 11:31 pm (UTC)

Hasn't religion always set our cultural agendas?


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vonbruckhousen
vonbruckhousen
Tue, Feb. 19th, 2008 04:32 am (UTC)

What's the difference between an apathetic yawn and a belligerent baring of incisors?, between disinterest and aggression?ddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddd...[sorry, fell asleep]


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imomus
imomus
imomus
Tue, Feb. 19th, 2008 01:54 pm (UTC)

'Preciated!


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kineticfactory
kineticfactory
this is not your sawtooth wave
Tue, Feb. 19th, 2008 05:18 pm (UTC)
Aside

Soon after reading this post, I found a few news items about "Mac users" vs. "PC users" (here and here). The stereotype of the Mac user (as the cosmopolitan, snobbish cultural elitist, who's Not One Of Us) reminded me of your paraphrasing of right-wing anti-intellectualism.

I'm wondering whether or not Microsoft, Dell and such missed a trick for not running ads playing on the "Mac user=rootless cosmopolitan" stereotype in the year or two after 9/11. when any distancing from patriotic populism was seen as suspect.


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