It’s harder than I thought, at least if Russell Jacoby’s critique of the Right has any merit. Why does Jacoby say that we’re anti-intellectual? It’s because we blame things we don’t like about society on the influence of ideas like individualism and feminism rather than on impersonal economic forces. Thus, we always end up pointing fingers at intellectuals for promoting ideas we don’t like.
This is really baffling. I thought that focusing on ideas, and especially engaging rival ideological systems, was what intellectuals were supposed to do. One might even say, in Marxist fashion, that focusing on ideas to the exclusion of economic forces is the characteristic mistake of intellectuals. I’ve never heard it said before that this sort of thing is anti-intellectual. What, one wonders, would be pro-intellectual? Perhaps we should look at the majority of Jacoby’s liberal colleagues, who while remaining complacently ignorant of the conservative intellectual tradition feel free to dismiss conservatives for being a bunch of dumb inbred rednecks. This, you see, is pro-intellectual, even though it’s nothing but rank unthinking prejudice, because it keeps the hostility directed at those not deemed to be part of the intellectual elite.
Then there’s this: “Compare William Kristol and John Podhoretz on the right to David Bell, Michael Kazin, and Sean Wilentz on the left….In brief, the former are ideologues; the latter serious writers and thinkers.” Oh, yeah? Two can play that game, buddy. If I said “Compare Michael Moore and Lady Gaga on the left to Jim Kalb, Paul Gottfried, and Roger Scruton on the right…In brief, the former are ideologues; the latter are serious writers and thinkers.”, would that be a fair comparison? No? Well, then, leave the neocon hacks out of this.