THOUGHTS ON THE U.S. INTELLECTUAL ESTABLISHMENT
The reaction to the campaign of the Underground Literary Alliance last decade revolved around a false narrative which completely distorted what we were about. The ULA was called Stalinist in places like The Believer. I was widely referred to across the Internet as a dictator. This, about the most open and democratic of organizations. This experience gave me a first-hand look at how the Intellectual Establishment operates.
The literary wing of that Establishment, despite the posturing, is anti-democratic-- evidenced by the structure and history, for instance, of the main U.S. branch of the PEN writers organization, which I've covered on this blog and elsewhere previously.
The hostility toward intellectual outsiders extends to outsider ideas-- to any ideas that aren't the elite's.
An example of this is what was added to my wikipedia profile in an attempt to discredit me. They mentioned that I'm a skeptic of manmade global warming theory-- as anyone should be a skeptic of any such extreme scenario, especially when there are gaping holes in it. Second, my anonymous opponents stated that I had mildly defended Sarah Palin on a couple points. Wow!
Now, consider the thinking of those who added this to that wiki entry. Their belief seems to be that merely holding such thoughts puts one beyond the pale. All they need do is inform people of what I'd said, and I'd be instantly discredited. In other words, there are ideas and positions-- not at all outlandish-- which are intellectually unacceptable.
Does this show a hostility to the free interchange of ideas and to independent thinking?
I note that last night the Tony Awards took place in tony New York City. A musical which mocks the Mormon religion received a gazillion nominations. Fine. Free expression, approved by the intellectual elite. But the question has to be raised: Could such a stage play ever be made about, say, Islam? For me it seems an example of intellectual inconsistency, hypocrisy, and cowardice.
Again, I have the position of one who's been on the receiving end of that elite's fraudulence and dishonesty.
Meanwhile, I see Sarah Palin, a private citizen, is in the news again. Apparently 24,000 of Ms. Palin's emails have been thrown open for public viewing, including many on a private Yahoo account. This was the result of, and occasioned, a mass media frenzy by those eager to discredit Ms. Palin.
Supporters of President Obama, for obvious reasons, should be among those outraged at this. If only to avoid the appearance of a clear double standard.
What has been found in Ms. Palin's emails? All 24,000 of them? Has there been support of the media's constructed imagined narrative about her? Was she shown to be a partisan extremist, prima donna hyper-ambitious egotist?
Hardly. She's in fact been shown to be notably NON-partisan, an independent thinker who was willing to clash with powerful members of her own party.
Why am I posting this? I'm not a conservative. I'm sure I disagree with Sarah Palin on many things. Much of my history has been on the other side of the divide.
I like to think, however, that I have intellectual honesty and integrity. I call things as I see them. I'm outraged by phoniness and duplicity. I've also had my eyes opened, when I was a leading member of the ULA, to the absence of character of those who control the main avenues of intellectual debate in this society, those who presume to decide what is or isn't proper thinking.
Sorry for the rant.
(p.s. This stream of thought came about after seeing Woody Allen's new film, "Midnight in Paris." A nice little movie. Not a dud, not quite, because it's saved toward the finish and ends up being a pleasant if unexceptional movie experience. But-- starred reviews? A- ratings? Gushes of enthusiasms? Something else is going on with those doing the gushing-- their bias is showing. I plan to discuss this further in a review of the movie, upcoming.)