While ultimately ‘anti-intellectualism’ is nothing more than another version of ‘us and them’, it takes on a very bitter sense with people. Don’t forget that America is founded on two principally opposed traditions: individualism and egalitarianism…
The Simpsons are a good example but not Stephen Hawking, it’s the guy who owns the comic book store and has dreams about Seven of Nine. He’s weird, but harmless, he talks about things that you just don’t have to care about.
Intellectuals, connotatively defined, talk about or are supposed to talk about things that matter, things that are important. Maybe we really don’t care about those things all that much (Homer, Hannibal’s elephants, Shakespeare etc.), we know these are important in some abstract sense. They are the preserver of our tradition. That’s their job.
It’s okay. Well, not quite, it’s okay that they do that but we really don’t vote for these people (and never have), they don’t have any practical sense, they’re not one of us and won’t represent our interests, the real interests of those who really work for a living.
An intellectual is supposed to be noble and when they aren’t, when they not only study insane things like the use of astrology as a guide to Shakespeare’s plays or compare early nineteenth century views of masturbation in young women with the novels of Jane Austen, but also challenge the common sensical ideas of truth, of common sense, and the way we know things to be true, well, we feel betrayed.
That’s not what they’re supposed to do.
There will always be a view of the intellectual as a patrician, as someone we’re supposed to look up to, and Americans resent that (not completely without good reason). It angers even more when that same intellectual tells you that the patrician view of the intellectual is nothing more than a social construction, that it’s not true — but still acts as if it were, still refuses to get off his/her pedestal an act and talk like the rest of us.
Still acts like they’re better than you and tells you what to think.
“Who do they think they are? They haven’t done an honest day’s work in their life.”
Conservatives see this, they see this resentment and capitalize on it. The Left has always villified the rich, but the rich have countered by villifying the elite (those intellectuals in those universities and their friends). Look, they think they’re better than you, they don’t talk like you, they want to change you and your lifestyle.
It’s an amazing thing really, the separation of the rich and the elite.
And the Left fell for it. The intellectual Left (beginning with the Vietnam war) became ever more enamoured with Far Left theory and not the day to day concerns of people. When criticized, they now label the critics as ‘conservative’ and the conservatives now label the Left as ‘intellectuals.’
That is, they are out of touch with us. They are the patricians. Follow the rich, we’re the ones that have worked hard for our money, we deserve respect, we won’t take your hard earned money, we don’t understand all this new fangled jargon, we believe in the same things you do, we’re just like you.
It’s an amazing thing that so many people buy this, that the Right doesn’t have an intellectual, academic base as well.
Because of course they do.
Because an intellectual act, denotatively defined, is simply the act of maintaining a sustainable argument that others can follow, agreeing or not.
It’s anyone who goes beyond. “Well, that’s just my opinion” an attempts to show why someone else should agree with it as well.
Intellectuals talk about things that interest them and talk about them in depth. The goal of an intellectual is to persuade.
And that endangers the right of everyone to have an opinion, doesn’t it?
Or does it?