… as Nina Martyris nicely calls it, in an article about censorship at an Indian university, always identifies intellectuality as the enemy. Reflective people who value unemotional deliberation and an openness to the complexity of human life and thought are intellectual snobs – as Michael Gerson calls President Obama in a recent opinion piece – unable to appreciate the higher wisdom of plain-spoken people. Gerson joins Sarah Palin here, who in her speeches relentlessly uses the word professor to condemn Obama.

In his response to the scandal of the University of Mumbai having dropped a novel from its syllabus in response to political pressure, the author of The Lost Flamingoes of Bombay reminds us that “it’s one thing to be scandalous but quite another to be scandalously stupid.” Stupid is influential people in the world’s largest democracy choosing repressive parochialism over free thought.

In response to Sarah Palin and Michael Gerson and others, who insist that a president who openly values ambiguity, intellectual depth, and the free play of the mind — a president who voices his belief that there are stronger and weaker uses of reason in thinking about civic life — threatens the country, Michael Kinsley writes:

If an intellectual snob is someone who secretly thinks he’s smarter than the average Joe, we’ve probably never had a president — even Harry Truman — who wasn’t one. It’s true, I think, that Obama hides it worse than most. But having a president who thinks he’s smart, and shows it, is a small price to pay for having a president who really is smart. Or would people really rather have a stupid president?


UD thanks Jack, a reader in Ontario.

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5 Responses to “The politics of competitive parochialism…”

  1. AYY Says:

    I think you and Kinsley missed the point. It’s his snobbery rather than his intelligence that was being addressed.

    Jamees Taranto’s take on Kinlsey’s statement was:

    “…intellectual snobbery consists not in thinking that one is unusually smart, which some people (perhaps including Obama) are, but in thinking that one belongs to a superior class of people, and in falsely equating the characteristics of that class–in this case, left-wing political views–with intellect.. . . ”
    (from yesterday’s Opinion Journal)

    Taranto goes on to say that Obama is prone to acting in ways that aren’t smart.

    You’re also losing sight of the background. The meme among the left was that Bush wasn’t smart (even though he was) The meme for the Dem midaterm elections is that a vote for Republicans is a vote for the Bush era. Kinsley is just echoing the meme.

  2. Stephen Karlson Says:

    The best advice my dad gave me might have been an article headlined “Don’t be stupid about being smart.” I fear that many days I honor it in the breach rather than the observance, but I persevere. Our President, and far too many of his enablers in the legacy media and the academic establishment, appear never to have had the opportunity to honor the advice.

    And just for fun, let’s do a little word substitution.

    Stupid is influential people in the world’s largest democracy [the upper reaches of higher education, or perhaps NPR on a bad day] choosing repressive parochialism over free thought [and calling their repression a celebration of difference or a demonstration of sensitivity].

  3. Margaret Soltan Says:

    AYY: The problem is that nothing in the comment the Post opinion writer quotes in any way resembles what you’re calling snobbery.

  4. Margaret Soltan Says:

    Couldn’t agree more, Stephen; though I don’t think Obama is stupid about being smart. I think the Post writer is being cynical about being smart.

  5. bfa Says:

    Normal people have always resented intellectuals/academics. They think we’re lazy, or silly, or secretly plotting to rule them. At least we don’t have to drink hemlock anymore- now they just assassinate our character.

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