Waymon Hudson

The War on Intellectualism

Filed By Waymon Hudson | October 03, 2008 3:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Media, Politics
Tags: Barack Obama, culture wars, Intellectualism, Joe Biden, Joe Six-pack, McCain/Palin, professorial, war

It seems there is a new threat to our country- an insidious danger that is seeping into our homes and everyday lives that must be stopped at any cost. That threat is intellectualism.

We have heard some of the buzzwords of this political season- Folksy, Joe Six-pack, Elitist, and Arugula Eating. It seems the new "culture war" or wedge issue is intelligence. The Vice-Presidential debate only solidified the lines in this war. On one side, you had Palin- full of "folksy charm" and "you betcha" language. Then you had Biden, who had a command of the issues, but was called "boring" and (gasp!) "professorial" by the pundits.

Is this the point we have come to in our country? Do we really think that having knowledge about an issue is a liability? Have we learned nothing from the past eight years about voting for the person you "want to have a beer with"? Is being smart or intellectually curious a bad thing?

It seems the war is on and the Republicans have launched another surge strategy.

I have been absolutely dumbfounded as I have watched the level of discourse (and the ensuing media coverage) in this political season. There has always been a level of "east coast intellectual" bashing from the right, but this cycle it has been raised to a completely new level.

We have seen McCain release vapid attack ad after attack ad about "celebrity", all the while being devoid of any facts or issues. We have seen Palin stumble through interviews, to the point of not even being able to name any newspapers she reads (very reminiscent of George W Bush, who famously said he doesn't read). The media even praised Palin in the debate for being "down to earth" and a "breath of fresh air."

How is dumbing down our country a breath of fresh air? Lowering the discourse to these levels (Paris Hilton, hockey moms, and lipstick- oh my!) has been staggering and disheartening to watch.

The war has not only been waged by promoting the "Joe Six-pack" quality (a term that makes my skin crawl and sounds incredibly offensive) of McCain and Palin, however. They GOP has taken to throwing around charges of elitism, arugula eating, latte and martini drinking to show how Obama and Biden- and by extension all Democrats- are "out of touch" with "real" Americans. It's an amazing argument- by being too smart and thoughtful on issues, they just don't understand anything. Want proof? They eat fancy salad and drink coffee.

It is also constantly being said that both Obama and Biden are too "professorial", as if being an intelligent leader is a weakness. Professors are people who KNOW THINGS and can lead and teach others. How is that an insult? They simply know too much to be the leaders of the free world? All those pesky details floating around in their heads makes it impossible for them to lead? Huh?

How did we get here? I certainly don't want just any old Average Joe to lead our country. I want someone who knows facts and issues. And if they don't know something, I want someone with the intellectual curiosity to learn and find out! Pick up a newspaper, get online, and surround yourself with other intelligent people. Yet McCain can't use the internet and Palin can't name a paper she reads. Where is the intellectualism to be a true leader in this time of trouble in our country?

Let me be clear- I don't care if politicians don't seem "fun" or "folksy"- I don't want to have a beer with them. I want them to lead. "Going with your gut" is not a viable option for this level of leadership. Quick sound bites or catch phrases don't make you a good leader. I don't care if you can hunt, were in the PTA, or wink at me- I want you to be educated about the issues facing our country.

Intellectualism is a quality we want in a leader. I would rather have someone who might be a bit dry and heavy on the facts than someone who is folksy and dead wrong any day.

But hey, what do I know? Maybe I'll just stick to eating my elitist arugula salad and reading.

UPDATE 2: A second post was written in July 2010 following up on this one: The War on Intellectualism Pt. 2: Mainstream Media Madness

UPDATE: Since this post made the front page of Digg, I thought I should point out to our new readers that you can sign up for our RSS feed or get the daily digest delivered directly into your inbox so you don't miss a thing on The Bilerico Project.

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If we'd been electing peeps like Al Gore for the presidency instead of Dummya, we wouldn't be in the mess we are now.

The reason the GOP attacks intelligence is because surveys have proven that the more college education a person is, the more likely they'll vote Democratic or gravitate to liberal-progressive policies.

Many colleges give a liberal education--because colleges receive a good portion of funds from the government.

A true intellect knows that there's very little difference between these so-called Republicans and the Democrats.

A true anti-intellect suggests that the two parties have a significant difference worth debating. In actuality these so called "debates" are contrived and insubstantial and has no true purpose but to create divisiveness to win votes-- surely a symptom of being ideologically the same (or the lack of an ideology thereof.)

Basically by "battling" anti-intellectual attacks by the right they are engaging in making intellectual attacks. Surely I'm not the only one that sees the irony here. This article is anti-intellectual as it fails to address the fact that the parties are the same.

I would like hear More about this...

Kyle, you seem to be missing the point of the article. The author carries on about how the Republicans are intentionally dumbing down the American people, and how "intellectualism" is seen by some as insults rather than something to strive towards.
You may be right about the whole 'both parties are the same' but that is really not the issue at present.

I'm merely pointing how this attitude of the "educated Democrats" vs. the "Redneck Republicans" is totally anti-intellectual. I'm saying the parties are the same and they are both dumbing down America because of evasive tactics (like name-calling) to avoid real issues. And by this article even giving rise to this ignorant conflict is completely anti-intellectual despite it's intent.

The true issue is why the two political parties are virtually the same in the policies of upholding the current status-quo. It's disheartening to see a lot of blogs picking up television talking points rather than cutting this convoluted political bullshit down to size.

"The true issue is why the two political parties are virtually the same in the policies of upholding the current status-quo."

Ummm, no Kyle, but I don't think that you have been paying close enough attention. These past couple of weeks have been more than an adequate illustration of the fact that they are NOT the same. The GOP, and in particular McCain have been and continue to be against any form of regulation - that has gotten us into this entire horrible economic mess. This is exactly the point the Democratic party has been harping on.

And the point of the article still stands: this running monologue against thought has been a constant theme for the McCain-Palin ticket so that it can (and obviously does) distract.

Bill Perdue Bill Perdue | October 5, 2008 11:46 PM

George’s far-fetched claim that only Republicans are behind the deregulation that wrecked our standard of living is dead wrong. The Republicans are for deregulation, NAFTA, union busting and tax cuts for the rich but they weren’t the Party that rammed those measures through.

Jimmy Carter championed opening up S&Ls to corporate predators and working people picked up the $1.2 trillion dollar tab for that.

NAFTA would not have passed without Bill Clinton and he was primarily responsible for repeal of the regulatory laws passed after the last Great Depression. The tab for Clinton’s sell-out will be over $3 trillion dollars, and counting.

Joe Biden, whom deluded liberals uncritically and absurdly describe as a “friend of working people” was the prime mover behind changes in the bankruptcy. Now if you get in debt you stay in debt – mortgages, auto loans and the credit card have become the new company store.

Democrats and Republicans are co-conspirators in the so far one-sided class war waged by the corporate rich against working people and sooner, rather than later, their vote for the $700 billion dollar Grand Theft will politically destroy them. Good.

McCain is Warren Harding in drag and Obama is Clinton in drag

Robert Ganshorn Robert Ganshorn | October 6, 2008 12:42 AM

Ah, but are they joined at the hip?

Bill Perdue Bill Perdue | October 6, 2008 10:18 AM

Some people vote their paycheck. You’re an 'investment portfolio” voting right centrist, aka, a right winger. Bush and Obama were the front row cheerleaders urging the Grand Theft of 700 billion dollars. The downside for working people is that we lose social programs and get imposed austerity. We have to pay for the incompetence of the corporate rich. The upside for you is that they protected your portfolio.

Bush, McCain and Obama are your people; you ask them if they're joined at the hip.

Get back to us.

william chiquelin | October 6, 2008 11:13 AM

I agree with Kyle; after the last two sham elections, I no longer support the Democratic Party, and I view the two party system as a shell game, designed to distract American voters, while our elected officials sell us out to corporations and special interest groups.
If you don't think anti-intellectualism is rampant, just look at how teachers across the country are paid and treated.

After reviewing the current state of our schools and education, I am more interested in what other idiots will come out of all this mess.

Hall Monitor

PatriciaCarol | October 5, 2008 12:36 PM

Hang on a second.... checking my memory.....
Ah, yes..... now I remember...

We did elect Gore!

Mandy Hampton asks Jed Bartlett if he could be less like an Economics Professor with a big ole stick up his butt. To which he replies, "I am an Economic Professor with a big ole stick up his butt."

Quite frankly, I *want* a president who is smarter than I am. Much smarter. Here's to sniffing the arugula.

How funny, Greg. That's the same thing I thought of immediately too.

Perfect post! It was long, but your writing is always so engaging and fun that I just breeze right through it.

I understand what you're saying, but I also think the GOP will try to come up with anything in order to appeal to the public.

They'll spin just about anything e.g. McCain is this amazing maverick who wants "Change."

They're uncreative a-holes and they're highly intelligent people. They're just dumbing things down to reach a wider audience, like hitting the youth demo with an ad mentioning Paris Hilton.

I'm not so sure the media and pundits are knocking intellectualism. Palin is a laughing stock.

Actually, anti-intellectualism has been alive and well in this country for quite a while. We even discussed it in my philosophy courses back in college, which was about 1982 or so.

There are cycles where it is less of a factor in politics and society, but we seem to not be living in one of them right now.

America has had it's share of "folksy" leaders, who were actually quite intelligent and conversant in the issues of the day. Unfortuantely I think the last one was Eisenhower, back in the 50's.

Oh well, buckle up, we are in for a rough ride.

GREAT post, Waymon! It hit the nail on the head!

Frankly, I wouldn't mind Palin's "folksy" style, if she could back it up with intelligence and solid policy and ideas. I'm all for reaching out to all voters, and putting things in ways that folks can understand. Everyone should be able to participate in our political conversations, regardless of their level of education. But they (and especially Palin) take it way too far - when the style becomes all there is, and we're supposed to somehow think that that's enough, that's when we're in trouble.

Isn't it interesting that the peeps who proclaim that the world was created through "Intelligent Design" are the ones who are at war with any other kind of intellect?

I hate to break it to you, but there is a God. I'm an evolutionist, but I have proof God intervened in evolution. I feel more sorry for the folks right on evolution and wrong on the existence of God, than those who are atheists and worshippers of Darwin. The irony is that the lowest 16 percentile don't know there's a God.

God says...

This really shouldn't evolve (ha ha) into a debate on evolution since that's not the issue at hand, but PLEASE don't simply claim you have proof of something and fail to actually provide this proof. It suggests you have none.

And besides, god's irrelevant to the evolution issue. The two ideas can co-exist. One doesn't preclude the other.

I have nothing against a cool one, but beer drinking in politics seems to go along with anti-intellectualism, from Jimmy Carter's brother Billy and his efforts to market "Billy beer" to Palin's "Joe Six Pack" to McCain's wife Cindy who would be running her late father's beer distribution business from the White House if she was made first lady. All dumb as doorknobs.

The funny thing is - I'd probably really enjoy having a beer with Biden or Obama.

Bush/Palin seems like they'd be real assholes to hang out with. Bush seems like the kind of guy who thinks giving wedgies is funny in a 60 year old man. Palin doesn't seem like she could talk about anyone else other than herself. Even giving the "who would you want to have a beer with" trope - they fail. They're more like Faux-sixpack.

But don't you know, McCain's mansions all have Budweiser on tap.

Seriously. Look it up.

So maybe we should all be wanting to have a beer with Cindy McCain. I hear she's got some good stuff! *grins*

There's no way I'd want to drink with Palin. You know she's the type to get a few in her and then want to go out shooting. Unlike Cheney, she wouldn't just hit the guy with shotgun pellets, she'd take off his head with a hollow point or something...

Ah - so - if you drink with Cindy & Sarah - it's Bud and Soylent Green time?


Ccurrent criteria for the Presidency:
1) Following the Protestant faith,
2) Pronouncing "nuclear" as "nucular"
3) Knowing how to form a sentence that makes it sound like you just might have a policy or stance on an issue, but that you don't want to belabor people with it.

This gets down to the age-old faith versus knowledge rivalry. Remember, it was the evil Tree of Knowledge that Eve and Adam were tempted with. It wouldn't matter if there was conclusive evidence that evolution were fact, the Bible doesn't say it, so the Fundie masses won't accept it. "Elitist" is just a buzzword for this distrust for science and gnosis, coupled with a historically cumulative distrust of government for the sake of government.

Consequently, "Joe Six-Pack" feels that he's the most qualified to run the country the way that is appropriate for "Joe Six-Pack" (certainly more than those eknow-it-all scientists, teachers, lawyers and such), so that's the kind of person he's likely to vote for. It's a legitimate and misguided trend, and the Repugnicans know it.

Except that the masses haven't really taken notice of what has happened under the last "Joe Six-Pack," or added that all up yet. If I were slightly more optimistic today, I'd say to expect that to change. :S

Ah, but Mercedes, you have to understand that, religion used to be the government. I mean there may be a king, but they ruled by "divine right" and the bueracracy was usually formed by ecclesiasticals, and there was always a few priests sonewhere in the mix.

Organized religion has always been about controlling people, about the few having power over the many. Monotheist religions are the perfected form of this type of population control.

Put the blame where it belongs, on the neo-con religio-facists who are getting tired of the "geat democratic experiment" and want to bring the american people back under control of the few.

Resistance is a sin, ask any preacher.

You can't trust educated people:

  • Educated people were behind the Wall Street meltdown.
  • Educated doctors get sued for malpractice.
  • Educated lawyers are responsible for high malpractice rates.
  • Educated teachers teach anti-Biblical things like evolution and an old Earth.

Really, you're better off with someone who has some education, but not too much education.

Someone like Jethro Bodine.

That is ridiculous Cindi, Just because some intelligent people take advantage of their power over others doesn't mean that we should strive for someone who is less intelligent, and about your last comment, I wouldn't call science a bad thing.

Please read the entire comment, especially the part about Jethro Bodine. Make sure your sarcasm detector is turned on.

A few years ago the country (barely) elected Bush, a folksy, down to earth guy with traditional values that were perceived to be 'like us.' No consideration was given to the basic question "Is this person smart enough to run the most important government and biggest economy in the world?" The bottom line is, we need our leaders to be on the intellectual side of the spectrum. Quite frankly, I want to think my president is smarter than me. I do not think Bush is smarter than me (I think my cat is smarter than bush, LOL). I think Palin might out debate me, but I doubt she's smarter than me. And I think she may have out debated Biden in some measures, but she is clearly not as smart as him. As for McCain, he passionate and dedicated, but I don't think he's anywhere near as smart as Obama. It's time to put an intellectual back into the White House!

We cannot survive another dministration of "average men"

The greatest American Administrations were administrations of giants:
Washington Administration:
Adams, Marshall, Jefferson, Hamilton amongst others

Lincoln Administration:
Stanton, Seward, Usher, Chase, Wells, Speed

Theodore Roosevelt Administration:
John Hay, Root, Cortelyou, Taft

Franklin Roosevelt Administration:
Robert Jackson, Frank Biddle, Hull, Stettinius, Knox, Forrestal, Ickes, Frences Perkins

and the last respected US administration:
William Clinton:
Christopher, Albright, Panetta, Richardson

bernard quatermass | October 6, 2008 8:53 AM

I franky doubt Palin could "out-debate" a moist cigarette paper if the rules of formal debate were truly followed.

Unfortunately formal and/or substantive debate is not what we get any more.

I for one would like to see Bill O'Reilly or any other conservative "pundit" engage in a real, formal debate with someone like, say, Noam Chomsky or Richard Dawkins. What would they do if they couldn't yell and name-call and cut off mikes? I predict exploding heads a la _Scanners_.

Bill Perdue Bill Perdue | October 4, 2008 8:51 AM

Folksiness is a non-issue. It’s a scam, an attempt by right wing politicians to appear to be populists. A good example is Obama saying he's not a rightwing centrist because he only owns one car. Or when McCain and Obama claim that 'god' agrees with them that we shouldn't be allowed to get married.

The real danger is the all out attack on civil liberties in laws like the Paytriot Act, which Biden, McCain and Obama all voted to extend or FISA, which both Obama and McCain both supported. FISA eviscerated the 4th Amendment.

Now that the giveaway has passed with huge bipartisan support (just like DOMA, NAFTA, deregulation, the genocides of Clinton and Bush and the gutting of ENDA) attacks on civil liberties are likely to increase.

Americans are not going to accept the forced austerity that a $15 trillion dollar debt will impose without a fight and that will lead to increased bipartisan authoritarianism. Pretty soon we'll all live in Denver, St. Paul or Guantanamo, depending on how bad it gets.

Voting for Democrats or Republicans is voting against the Bill of Rights and for authoritarianism.

Dr. David Fawcett Dr. David Fawcett | October 4, 2008 8:59 AM

Great post, Waymon. You really captured how critical thinking, which is necessary for any democracy, has been promoted as something dangerous and to be feared.

Americans: please fix this before it spreads from your country to the rest of the world.

It amazes me how little substance there is in the presidential race, especially coming from the GOP. McCain has been all about "staying the course" all through out his campaign. One Wall Street crisis later, he has rebranded himself the "candidate for change." What moron is going to believe that? And his choice for VP? You've got to be kidding. This is the best he can find? This is the sign of a leader?

Unsure if you mean Intellectualism or liberalism.

One is a disclipine and the other a philosophy.

Intellectualism says I must think about things critically before I decide what is true.

Liberalism says there is what I believe and the rest are Nash Car, gun toting morons who should not be trusted with anything more important than their bibles.

I just didnt get the idea you knew the difference.


Your answer says it all - if that's what you think liberalism is you need to go get back your money from whatever school you attended.

I was hoping to engage in debate, not personal insult. Did I come to the wrong place?

My point is that intellectualism seems far too immersed in liberalism and has lost its luster.

Intellectualism requires a dedication to doing the right logical and moral thing, where liberalisms seems to more blindly and emotionally follow the leader.

True - conservatives do likewise; no argument there.

Can there be an intellectual who does not subscribe to liberalism?


PS - I meant no offense in my previous comment, I simply wanted to debate your contention.

Bill O'Reilly | October 4, 2008 4:23 PM

There you liberals go again. Making up some lame issue about perception and whining on and on about how no one appreciates you. Politics is tough and if you're not up for a little straight talk then go back to sipping lattes and discussing french cinema with the other liberal losers.

Robert Ganshorn Robert Ganshorn | October 6, 2008 12:40 AM

Bill, Rupert needs his shoes shined. Get right on that!

Bill Perdue Bill Perdue | October 6, 2008 10:40 AM

Rupert Murdoch donated over $100,000.00 to Hilary Clinton’s campaign.

I’d think that a big Clinton fan like you might want some of that action.

You and O'Reilly will just have to settle who's the left polisher and who's the right.

That ought to be interesting.

Well Bill, I'm liberal but i hate French cinema and lattes. Hopefully that's not too mind blowing for the likes of ya

Was it Oscar Wilde who described an intellectual as someone educated above his intelligence? Anyway, most of you people fit that definition. Self congratulating over-educated fools.

Iowa has the highest percentage of pig farmers in the US. Also the highest literacy rate in the US.

Most of you haven't figured out that there is a huge difference between being intelligent, and being an intellectual. But the people in the heartland have. While you're slapping each other on the back and telling each other what smart boys you are, your financials are going south and your civilization is being taken over by foreign opportunists. But that's okay, because, like, multiculturalism, man.

Let's make the point: my side has most of the guns and pretty much ALL of the military experience, because, like, joining the army is so not cool, dude.

I can hit a man-sized target at 2000 feet. Can you, princess? I'll bet my life that you can't. Your life, too.

Now make a cute remark about Chimpie Bushitler McPalin and yuk it up. Then try to find a job. Know how to use a shovel? Keyboard jobs for wannabee commentators have pretty much dried right the heck up. See you on the labor line. I'm one of them there capitalist piggie entrepreneurs, so I'm hiring, but you have to have MAD SKILLZ beyond clever chatter. Otherwise, there are millions of Mexican nationals who are willing to work a lot harder than you ever could for a third of what you effete naifs think you're worth.

Michael Koloshinsky | October 4, 2008 9:51 PM

Thoreau said if you give a soldier a good education
you will make a deserter out of him.
Sorry for your short-comings.
People like you reek of fear.

Melanie Davis | October 5, 2008 1:05 AM

Hiya, darlin'! Now, now, attacking and threatening these poor folk isn't good form. Many of the people here have had to pull themselves up by their bootstraps and make a life of their own when they couldn't find work, otherwise. Personally, I love guns. I'm not sure if I could hit a "man-sized target at 2000 feet, but give me a Barret .50 and a box of rounds, and I'll have a great time trying! Hell, stick someone I really can't stand out there in lieu of the target, and I might get it on the first try.

Intellect is the capacity for rational thought, therefore an intellectual is someone who should be thinking rationally. Intelligence is the ability to learn and comprehend things. Both of them are interdependent and just a couple of parts of the thinking process. You can be intelligent, but not think rationally, you can be an intellectual, but not be very intelligent.

I don't give one bleached ass hair if "your side" has most of the guns and most of the military experience. Unless you are declaring war against your fellow Americans, I respectfully ask you to can the macho rhetoric. If you are planning on declaring a war upon your fellow Americans, shame on you. Timothy McVey was a midwestern boy well versed in all things military, too. I hope you don't share his values.

Truthfully, I don't think there is anything to your comment other than to be kind of snarky and make yourself feel better. Kudos to you for starting your own business, I hope it survives the mess we're in. Everyone in my family has started their own business, and I plan to do so as well. I nothing but respect for you in that, but coming on this forum, or even speaking the inane drivel in public takes away your credibility. Sweeping generalisations, vague threats, and comparing your manhood to your audience's is totally middle-school bully tactics.

We're trying really hard. Check back in the beginning of November to see how it worked.

Whoops - that was a reply to Russell above!

To Cindi Knox

I have to disagree that "Educated people were behind the Wall Street meltdown".

This mess started at the bottom, on Main Street America. Yes the educated people should have known better, but they profited from this mess just like all the little people:

The hometown realtors who knowingly bumped up their commissions by selling houses too expensive for their clients to afford.

The buyers who just had to have a bigger home than their friends, even if that meant paying interest only for 5 years. They'd worry about the balloon payments and tripled mortgage rates later.

The mortgage brokers with no education pumping out this crap so they could reap fat origination fees. These "companies" were sprouting up everywhere owned and staffed by anyone with a cell phone and a computer who wanted to cash in on this house of cards.

The lawyers who closed these loans knowing they were likely to be foreclosed. I worked in a real estate law office until 2003. Our office refused to close these and would counsel clients to get traditional loans. We considered closing these mortgages to be legal malpractice. We lost business, but nobody lost heir house because of it.

The mortgage companies who bumped up their portfolios with mortgages people couldn't possibly pay off.

Educated people didn't cause this, greedy people did. Did educated people profit? Absolutely! But so did a lot of other people.

The sarcasm tags didn't show up in my reply. If you read the remainder (including the comment about Jethro Bodine), I would hope you would pick it up from context.

I agree with you that it was not the education that led to this mess, it was the greed.

However, for what it's worth, homebuyers didn't invent or misuse credit default swaps. Homebuyers didn't count, as assets, anticipated tax deductions against prospective income based on current losses. And homebuyers didn't ask mortgage brokers to please give them subprime loans when they qualified for traditional loans.

I was going to have a small two bedroom raised ranch built. The builder wanted me to use his mortgage broker (50 miles away). The broker told me I would be foolish to go with a conventional mortgage and put together a package where 100% of the price was financed: 80% in a 3 year ARM and 20% in a 5 year interest-only balloon. He said it would be a great deal for me because I would get a large tax deduction on the interest and, with the equity I would gain when the home appreciated, I could refinance before the ARM adjusted and balloon came due.

Fortunately, I had owned a home before and knew this was insane. Even though real estate generally appreciates, it's very risky to base a mortgage choice on the expectation of future home values.

In addition, the builder started talking about how it was important to stay on his good side even after the closing or "there could be problems... some people have learned this the hard way", and so I bailed.

I had a three bedroom ranch built by another builder and got a 6% fixed rate conventional mortgage.

But what if I didn't know better? What if I trusted the guy who said "we wouldn't lend you this money if we didn't think it was going to be paid back"?

I think a lot of people with little knowledge were taken advantage of by fast-talking people who claimed to know better.

The only problem I have with the war on Intellectualism is that it remains a war of words & media.

If we made it a real war it would get cleared up quickly.

Seriously, average/stupid religious woo-buying people, do you REALLY think you have ANY chance of winning a REAL war with the smart people?

Who has more guns and ammunition? :)

I realize you're being facetious (or at least I think you are) but to any here who might be using that point seriously I have to mention that America by far has the most guns and ammo and of the most advanced variety, not to mention air support and hugely expensive state of the art equipment and yet... we're not doing so well in Iraq or Afghanistan.

Point being, it doesn't matter who has the most toys if you're not using them intelligently.

Geniuses with rocks will win over idiots with guns every time.

Oh and I'm not saying people with guns are idiots, obviously the best setup is geniuses with guns. I'm also not saying our soldiers are idiots either, but they're not being used intelligently by our leaders. I'm ALSO not saying republicans=idiots or democrats=geniuses. Wow what a disclaimer.

Louie Lovas | October 4, 2008 6:53 PM

I've always thought a degree in history should be a prerequisite to a political life, armed with such knowledge would clearly provide guidance to govern wisely.

While I agree in spirit with this article, there are a few points that are not necessarily true. Professors who chose a career to teach are not necessarily cut out to lead. It's the rare individual that has both leadership skills and the intellect to do so.

The powers within the Republican party are focused on one and only one thing - 'how to win votes'. There choice of Palin is a clear indication of that. She has an appeal to the folksy middle American intellectually challenged. She proved that so well in the VP debate. She actually did quite well against Biden. She was well coached. But it solidified in me, a registered Republican that all is lost for true fiscal-conservatives. I
do not want a hockey-mom a heart-beat away from the 'Button' in Washington.

t is also constantly being said that both Obama and Biden are too "professorial", as if being an intelligent leader is a weakness. Professors are people who KNOW THINGS and can lead and teach others. How is that an insult? They

Having intelligence and applying it properly are two completely different things. I have worked with several "Highly educated individuals" and have found I can talk over their head on subjects so easily I have to "Dumb down" my comments so they can understand. Do you know the difficulty in dropping your conversational verbage from your norm down to a fifth grade level to be understood?

I am a heavy reader as well. Very hard to keep my curiosity under control. First patent back more on the way. So just because I maintain the conservative view doesn't make me any better or worse than a six-packer.

Michael Crawford Michael Crawford | October 4, 2008 8:15 PM


You really knocked it out of the park with this post! Republicans are on an anti-intellectual tip partially as a way of distracting us from what's really going on and also to wrap themselves in an "every man" persona.

I don't vote for a candidate because I want to have a beer with them or because they only use monosyllabic words. I vote for people who I know are much smarter than me, have a wider grasp of complex issues like the economy, foreign policy and military policy.

I want a president who will lead with strength, character and judgment. In other words, I am voting for Obama because I don't trust McCain's temper being that close to the red button.

I am reminded of another quote from Jed Bartlet of The West Wing: "It's not our job to appeal to the lowest common denominator.... It's our job to raise it." Season 3, "Manchester." YouTube's got the clip.

Let me just ask if I may,

Where the twunny fo's, the hoes, ma dro at?

Obama '08

Robert Ganshorn Robert Ganshorn | October 5, 2008 12:18 AM

Waymon, I noticed that the "CNN Meter" during the debate took a precipitous dip when Ms. Mooseslayer used the phrase "Joe Six Pack."

Just as they talk down to "liberals" I think the working class voters have finally figured out they are being marginalized as well.

I have to agree and state the obvious that the attack on intellectualism is not founded on just reason. To come down hard on the Republicians for this is dumbfounding. Both parties seemed to be involved in a post modern anything you can do, I can do dumber contest. The truth is arbitrary for both sides. The loser in this fight is not a political elephant, but the idea of genuine value based reason that society was founded on. Doesn't everyone in Washington sound like the bankrupt renter telling his creditors that he will have the money by Friday while in the meantime packing up and skipping out of town?? You Betcha!
No not our beloved democratic media darlings who will save us from the evil Republicians!? The dumb Republician interviews didn't come in response to all the dumb assertions by the democratic media in the entire past month *gasp* that Sarah Palin does everything wrong (Sarah Palin can't talk, she's corrupt, she is a dumb Alaskian, she has aids, she causes cancer...etc.. etc..)
I'm sorry my dear blogger. Your article is a well written Democratic fluff piece for your media brethern. Your article is intellectually void and very! very! unsound. Continue killing the intellectualism that you do not care about. I don't know if I can bring myself to sign my death certificate ballot with either party at this time. The write in spot is looking very tempting as a duty to my valued forefathers, but does it matter when the United States is already past due.

I was just saying this the other day. Since when is the average, everyday American qualified to be President? People keep saying things like "she's just like me, I feel like I could have dinner with her" ... which is fine to say about someone... but not if your next sentence is going to be "that's what I want her to be President."


Sorry. I'm not smart enough to be President, and I'm a college graduate. My friends with MAs aren't smart enough to be President. My professors with PhDs aren't smart enough to be President. I want someone who would run intellectual circles around me while doing the New York Times crossword puzzle, they're that smart.

I want a fucking genius to be President. I don't want them to smile, I don't want them to wink, I want them to lead the strongest country on Earth both militarily and economically. Doing so requires that you be extremely intelligent, have excellent judgment, have trustworthy experts in their fields as advisors, and have endless patience. Being a "regular American" is not a qualification for President.

Funny, I am right in the middle of reading "the age of american unreason" and I found it ironic that i just stumbled across this article. You might want to check it out if you haven't read it already. This country truly is going downhill and if mccain/palin win I think were gonna see an all-new low.

Life imitating Art.

I guess most haven't watched, Idiocracy.


This is a very interesting and well thought-out article. I'm not from US myself, but I suppose these issues are faced in many democratic countries. As they say: "individuals are smart, masses are stupid".

This article isn't intellectual at any way. If the author had focused on the fact that in America today, we put more emphasis on personal qualities rather than intelligence and leadership skills, then I would agree whole-heartedly.

Instead, he devolves down to insulting the Senator from Arizona and his Alaskan VP, while ignoring that Obama does the same technique. "Change!" Don't question it, I will change Washington! Wow, that sounds familiar? Who also said that? Oh yeah, the president we are stuck with right now.

Obama preaches that we should educate ourselves, but we shouldn't question his leadership. We must all follow Obama, for he wants change! Americans are lemmings. And the author doesn't seem very different.

Nixon started the "dumbing down of America" and bragged about it. "No one ever got poor by underestimating the intelligence of the average American". The quote may be a little off, but Nixon did present it as essentially quoted (I'm not an intellectual). Reagan and both Bushes just pushed the mantle a little farther, and now McCain is dying for it to be the end all and be all of the current election. Swallowing platitudes is a prerequisite of being a good Republican, and if you don't just "swallow the platitudes", then your car will be keyed and spat upon. Intelligent people, some of whom are intellectuals, may decry this, but we also decry crack cocaine and it still exists in this country. Intelligent people had a chance starting in 2002 to change this stupidity by making sure the 2004 elections were fair. But everyone buried their head in the sand, and all those heads are still buried in the sand (not too smart, if still intellectually "feasible"). So we are still at the same place we were when the Supreme Court said, "STOP THE COUNT!" and then, a month or so later said, "We should have done the recount, but there's no time now so George Bush is the President." When intellectuals grasp this fact, they have a chance at leading the charge of mental clarity that they once had in our past history. If they don't grasp this fact, they can intellectualize until the cows come home, and long after that, but no one will bother to read what they write or listen to what they say. It is an intellectual charge to "think at the top". It's hard to do that with one's head in the sand.

I don't get it. Why on earth would anyone want to have a beer with a dumb inbred c-nt like Sarah Palin? She can't even answer half the questions you ask her, has the brain of a snow pea, and is an ugly lookin and sounding caricature of a White Citizen's Council hatemonger...

dear waymon,
you're totaly right, but the sad fact is that after the elections nothing will go better, remember the murphy's laws...

In case you've never come across it, there's a really excellent 2005 article in Esquire on the "dumbing down of America" by Charles Pierce, in his case using the "controversy" of the intelligent design/evolution "debate" as his entry point.

You can read the article here:

Very scary indeed.

Crash2Parties | October 6, 2008 4:31 PM

Of *course* they are creating an anti-intellectual bias! They're not stupid, you know.

Seriously, take the above statement at face value. Cheney, Paulson, Rove and the rest of the Lil' Rascals Gang are not dumb. In fact, I'd say each of them is probably quite intelligent. But, if they were to be seen as such, the "common" person might think that they were to blame for the messes we are in. You know, that maybe it was *intentional*. But, if someone is anti-intellectual, they can't *possibly* be intellectual themselves, right? Just ask "Joe Six Pack", he'll tell ya, you betcha!

richard roe | October 6, 2008 5:31 PM

How does a guy who owns 7 houses and is a multi-millionaire get away with calling someone else "elitist"?

McCain doesn't even know the price of a gallon of milk.

It's time to call bullshit on the Republican brand of "everyman", unless it's every man who is a multi-millionaire.

Talk about elitest!

We need anti-intellectualism as well as intellectualism to balance things out. When a society falls too much into one without the other, everything falls apart.

excellent article. very true indeed.

Richard Rhodes | October 10, 2008 9:17 AM

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candace mitchell | October 10, 2008 3:10 PM

As Ralph Waldo Emerson said : "Common sense is genius dressed in its working clothes".

I take offense to those "educated", "inlightened" souls how think that common language and lack of advanced schooling make people less qualified.

I have a engineering degree and do quite well in my life. Even though I am married to a professor, spend lots of times with numerous Ph.D.s; the smartest person I know is my dad. He has a high school education is a farmer and I mechanic. He can tell me about history, the weather, politics, auto mechanics and electricity. Just because your are educated on theory and language doesn't make you smarter than my dad.

So "folksy" and Joe-six pack shouldn't be looked down upon it should be admired because without those "folks" at some time in your life you won't have gotten where you are today. I bet that there are alot of farmers and blue-collars in your own family tree.

I can't help but draw comparisons to this 'War on Intellectualism' and Ayn Rand's novel Atlas Shrugged; where the men and women of innovation and mind go 'on strike' and the world falls apart without them. That is what will happen if we keep ushering in leaders without brains.

Have you ever seen the movie Idiocracy?

Yeah, that's us if this keeps happening.

The current trend tends to be toward anti-expertise as well as anti-intellectualism. In the past, some anti-intellectualism had been associated with a pragmatic, business-oriented view. "What good does it do me to know about literary critical theory (Latin, Greek, ...)? It doesn't help me make better widgets and feed my family". Now there is scorn for pragmatic expertise as well. That scorn got us into war in Iraq.

When you write a post touting your dedication to "intellectualism," you might want to proof read it.

(At least the first few paragraphs, which is more than your Digg followers will read before determining which side you are on so they know whether to up or down vote it.)

"We have heard the some of the buzzwords of this political season..."

As for what appears to be one of your main themes, you present a false dichotomy. Not very intellectual of you. You suggest that one can't be "folksy," connecting with "average Joe," while also having a command of the issues.

There is nothing new here, more preaching to the converted - the same tired old palaver amateurishly dressed up in a futile effort to look like something that hasn't been said before, over and over, ad nauseum.

Its confusing to put it all together.
You have to be smart to make sense
out of all of this.

Sorry to tell you but anti-intellectualism in America is far from new. It's just that it's gotten more strident and, if anything, more pervasive. It seems people just want dolts like the current occupant, in the White House and elsewhere. If you're bright or eloquent or--dare I say it?--just out-and-out intelligent, people fear you, or worse. God forbid you run for an office.

Enter Sarah Palin.

james warren | December 7, 2008 9:30 PM

The dichotomy is a familiar one: Evil City Slicker against the Naiive Country Bumpkin.

"War on intellectualism"?

Are you kidding me?

Maybe in Europe.

The United States has been so anti-intellectual since, what? At least the 60's. People of all ages and classes--except the upper- and white and wealthy, unfortunately--have had a clear and obvious anti-intellectual dislike and distrust at least these last 40 years, to our detriment.

Hopefully finally having a clearly intelligent, educated and eloquent new President and First Lady will help the situation.

I'm skeptical of it, at least.

Paul in Canada | October 19, 2010 8:25 PM

I think this article should be reposted now, during he mid-terms. How appropriate!

I read somewhere that nowadays people reach a day the amount of information that in middle ages people get known for a year. And in our epoch of intelligence and free information we are going under the amount of it. Thank you.

You are completely correct sir: NAFTA would not have passed without Bill Clinton and he was primarily responsible for repeal and Reformas of the regulatory laws passed after the last Great Depression.

Thanks for this post, I believe anti-intellectualism in America is far from new. It's just that it's gotten more strident and, if anything, more pervasive. It seems people just want dolts like the current occupant, in the White House and elsewhere. If you're bright or eloquent or--dare I say it?--just out-and-out intelligent, people fear you, or worse. God forbid you run for an office. Thanks, Steve