03/14/2005: Thought for the Day:
For a while now, conservative elites have made common cause, sometimes cynically, with populist anti-intellectuals. Once upon a time, the original neoconservativesóthe academics and intellectuals around the journal The Public Interestórested their critiques of liberalism on penetrating social science scholarship and attacked the left for preferring bleeding-heart sentiment to polemical rigor. But now The Public Interest is defunct, and in the Bush years, conservatism has embraced not only the familiar ridicule of the eggheads but a rejection of the very legitimacy of independent, nonpartisan expert authority. The wisdom of legal professionals, such as those in the American Bar Association, is now denied, and, since George Bush took office, no longer used by the White House in evaluating candidates for federal judgeships. Mainstream journalism, such as that in the major newspapers and network news shows, is deemed liberal, slanted, and unreliable. The faith-based belief in creationism, enjoying renewed support of late, is accorded equal (or greater) weight as the scientific theory of evolution.
It was only a matter of time before this kind of thinking spread to history. Politics has always colored the ways that people interpret the past, but The Politically Incorrect Guide politicizes history in a new way, reducing all scholarly inquiry to a mere stance in the culture wars. "Everything (well, almost everything) you know about American history is wrong," states the book's back cover, "because most textbooks and popular history books are written by left-wing academic historians who treat their biases as fact." Conservatives who believe in open intellectual pursuit understandably blanch at the popularity of a book like this. The problem, however, isn't a lone piece of agitprop but a cynical alliance that conservative intellectuals forged with those who hold their ideals of scholarship in contempt. It's not surprising that the anti-intellectual currents they've aligned themselves with are proving too powerful for them to control.
Len on 03.14.05 @ 07:06 AM CST