Covering the Front and Back Pages of the Newspaper
October 17, 2002
POLITICS: The Elite
Making fun of Maureen Dowd is so easy and tempting as to be the webpundit equivalent of an Elvis impersonation. But this one on NRO had some good zingers that amused me:
The minimum requirement for membership in the intelligentsia used to be, well, intelligence. This is no longer the case. Rather, what is now required is the mere sense of your own superiority, the smirky confidence that flows from an undergraduate grasp of history, philosophy, and literature, and which can only be sustained by a maniacal deafness to counterarguments. Listening to your political opponents is deadly under such circumstances; they must therefore be dismissed, a priori, as stupid . . . The problem isn't that the new elites are consciously attempting to paint whoever disagrees with them as stupid; it's that they really believe that only stupid people could possibly disagree with them.
I should add that this blinkered refusal to consider even the possibility of error, particularly in the younger generations (as opposed to the fiftysomething Dowd) flows directly from the nature of our institutions of higher education and the 'mainstream' media, which for decades have taught and reinforced only a single point of view. I recall when I was on the college debate circuit back in the Bush the Elder Administration, and my debate partner and I (both Republicans) mischievously picked the debate topic (if you went first, you picked the topic) that "BE IT RESOLVED, Dan Quayle is too stupid to be a heartbeat away from the presidency." Counter to our own beliefs, we launched into a tirade against the vice president, relying heavily on conventional wisdom. The other side, from Cornell, complained that we had given them an indefensible argument. This poor girl from Cornell wound up leaving nearly in tears; she couldn't even imagine that one would be asked to defend Dan Quayle.