Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Interlektules Rool OK!

I blogged a couple of months ago on the tendency of liberals to believe that their favoured political candidates are intellectual giants and their opponents are stupid. Thomas Sowell has an article today on that very subject:

Among the many wonders to be expected from an Obama administration, if Nicholas D. Kristof of the New York Times is to be believed, is ending "the anti-intellectualism that has long been a strain in American life."

He cited Adlai Stevenson, the suave and debonair governor of Illinois, who twice ran for president against Eisenhower in the 1950s, as an example of an intellectual in politics.

Intellectuals, according to Mr. Kristof, are people who are "interested in ideas and comfortable with complexity," people who "read the classics."


Historian Michael Beschloss, among others, has noted that Stevenson "could go quite happily for months or years without picking up a book." But Stevenson had the airs of an intellectual -- the form, rather than the substance.

What is more telling, form was enough to impress the intellectuals, not only then but even now, years after the facts have been revealed, though apparently not to Mr. Kristof.

That is one of many reasons why intellectuals are not taken as seriously by others as they take themselves.

Stevenson is not the only example of an empty headed liberal being hailed as deep thinkers, John Kerry and Joe Biden are more recent examples of this type. A couple of weeks ago on another blog I gave my opinion that the 3 best presidents of 20th century were Coolidge, Truman and Reagan. All three of them were dismissed as amiable dunces, the New York Times backed their opponents each time, yet Reagan's intellect can be seen clearly by looking up any of his self penned speeches on YouTube and his long struggle to advance what were often unpopular ideas and Sowell says of Coolidge and Truman:
President Harry Truman, whom no one thought of as an intellectual, was a voracious reader of heavyweight stuff like Thucydides and read Cicero in the original Latin. When Chief Justice Carl Vinson quoted in Latin, Truman was able to correct him.

Yet intellectuals tended to think of the unpretentious and plain-spoken Truman as little more than a country bumpkin.

Similarly, no one ever thought of President Calvin Coolidge as an intellectual. Yet Coolidge also read the classics in the White House. He read both Latin and Greek, and read Dante in the original Italian, since he spoke several languages. It was said that the taciturn Coolidge could be silent in five different languages.

So whilst intelligence is a valuable commodity in a leader, intellectualism is not and most pundits have a demonstrable inability to distinguish the two. The easiest way to convince people that you're smart is to agree with them so politicians whose beliefs reflect the prejudices of journalists can easily be regarded as latter day Einstein's by the press.

1 comment:

Brian Barker said...

Apparently London Mayor Boris Johnson, wants Latin to be taught in all London schools. However I would prefer Esperanto on the basis that it has great propaedeutic values.

If you have time can I ask you to visit http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-YHALnLV9XU or http://www.lernu.net for evidence?