Anti-intellectualism and demagogy

by Narkissos 22 Replies latest jw friends

  • LittleToe

    Didier:I like the way you included CHirac in your examples. That nicely averted any concern that this thread might in any way be construed as anti-American (which it obviously isn't). The other comments are well put too.

    I have nothing to add, right this minute, but I just wanted to point out your excellent way of putting things, for those too lazy to have noticed - a lesson that would do well to be emulated by all, given the wide (but predominantly outragable American) audience

  • Narkissos

    Interesting responses.

    Ross, I didn't even think of anti-Americanism here. I mentioned Chirac (who is a right-wing politician btw, pace Forscher) because he built most of his career on demagogy, often criticising technocrats although he is himself a graduate from the most prestigious technocratic college (Ecole nationale de l'administration, ENA), flattering the "gut feelings" of people (including xenophobia sometimes) instead. As a result he doesn't appear to be an "intellectual" (former president Mitterrand often ridiculed him on that) and many just love him for that (not so far from Bush in this regard afaik) -- although he tried to correct this image in the last few years, especially with counsellors/ministres as De Villepin.

    As for the main topic, I think Dave, after Nicolaou and AlanF, is right on: most people just never learnt to think and trust (or even enjoy) their own thinking (which first implies separating facts from opinions). They are afraid of the loneliness which "independent thinking" (a pleonasm) requires (whence the herd mentality Frankie and U/D mentioned). They tend to trust the person (preacher or politician) which gives them a simple imaginary picture of reality through purely rhetorical questions, rather than listening to the expert who offers a honest presentation of complex facts and really open questions, and then leaves them alone to handle them. And the close circle of questions and answers in the WT is a perfect caricature of how any mind-control system actually works.

    Now about Sixie's "mythturbation" (great neologism, unfortunately this one doesn't work in French), I guess we're all mythturbators to an extent. Even the concepts we use could be described as mythemes. Only, what Western thought has learnt from the Greek philosophers is that there is more to myths than "beliefs". They can be tools to grasp reality, provided we use them as such instead of "believing" them (the old story of the moon and the finger). Which implies an ability to criticise our own myths/concepts and regard them as they are -- provisional cognitive tools, not "the truth". From this point of view, I think there is no real gap between "religion" and "philosophy": both belong to the history of thought.

    Now while there is little doubt that anti-intellectualism is cynically exploited by religious and political demagogues, perhaps the intellectuals have some responsibility in it too, as Forscher suggested. What do you think?

  • OldSoul
    Dead Scotsman (Richard Pryor to Chevy Chase): given the wide (but predominantly outragable American) audience

    Who you callin' FAT?!??

  • SixofNine

    LOL! ....took me a minute.

  • Forscher

    Excuse me. I forget what my foreign born professor pointed out to us in a history class (he was in the U.S. as part of a special program. What we in the U.S. call the left, the rest of the world calls right. What we call right, or conservatism, the rest of the world calls liberal. And progressivism is an acceptable term for what the rest of the world calls the right. Monarchism is what the world calls rafdical right. This came from an Argentinian who was explaining the politics of South America and why it is pretty much the same as Europe's. For us here in the U.S. Chirac's secularist outlook marks him as radically liberal to us.


  • frenchbabyface


    before I feel to go further on this please define what you mean "here" by intellectualisme cause I've just read its definition in the dictionnary and it says something very interesting that might deserve a thread :

    "Doctrine that says that everything can be reduce into intellectual element, even will and feeling"

    in French for you to translate it better than I did : "Doctrine selon laquelle tout se réduit à des éléments intellectuels, même la volonté et le sentiment" (Source : dictionnaire Quillet de la langue Française).

  • Narkissos

    FBF: By anti-intellectualism I didn't mean the philosophical opposition to the specific doctrine of intellectualism, but the more general rejection (or distrust) of (stereotyped) "intellectuals" and their supposed way of thinking. IOW, the "-ism" is primarily related to the "anti-" (as in "antisemitism").

    I throw in some Bible texts which have been used in such an "anti-intellectual" way:

    At that time Jesus said, "I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and the intelligent and have revealed them to infants; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will.
    For the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written, "I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart." Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, God decided, through the foolishness of our proclamation, to save those who believe. For Jews demand signs and Greeks desire wisdom, but we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For God's foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God's weakness is stronger than human strength.
    Consider your own call, brothers and sisters: not many of you were wise by human standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, things that are not, to reduce to nothing things that are, so that no one might boast in the presence of God.
  • frenchbabyface

    Ok I see,

    I throw in some Bible texts which have been used in such an "anti-intellectual" way:

    At that time Jesus said, "I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and the intelligent and have revealed them to infants; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will.

    LOL ... very obvious ... (Oh God do we have the right to think a little bit) those who have written this book had some Master degree in manipulation !

    So I agree with Nicolaus (basicaly)

  • Leolaia

    Sixy....LOL!! Just one question...When a religion mythturbates, what are the myths per se -- the fantasies or the icky residue of the act of myth-making, er, mythturbating?

  • shotgun

    Being raised a dub or becoming a dub means you must surrender the ability to make decisions for yourself.

    Do not rely upon your own understanding is drilled into your head in every article you read and every meeting you attend, before long even very intellectual individuals find making decisions too much responsibility.

    Have you checked the bound volumes brother? Oh it wasn't clear..go see the elders, I'm sure they know if ribbed condems are approved.

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