David Frum recently wrote about what he thinks is a disturbing trend among conservatives, dismissing too intellectual positions without properly understanding them while advancing popular, even common, causes and people instead.
While it is true that progressive points of view are given short shrift by conservatives there are often valid reasons for their dismissal.
As an example of anti-intellectual bias in conservative politics, Frum pointed to Harriet Miers, President Bush’s nominee for the Supreme Court who was slammed in the media for being under-qualified for the position, Mike Huckabee and Ron Paul, writing:
Huckabee and Paul have not the faintest idea of what they are talking about. The problem is not that their answers are wrong — that can happen to anyone. The problem is that they don’t understand the questions, and are too lazy or too arrogant to learn. But say that aloud and their partisans will shout back: Elitism!
On its face, this retort is ridiculous. How exactly is it elitist to expect a candidate for president to be immune to obvious flim-flam? Or to submit his ideas to criticism–and change them if they cannot stand up?
Like Frum I found Miers’ qualifications underwhelming to say the least (although she has a law degree, practiced for many years, and headed the Texas State Bar Association). Ms. Miers should not have been nominated for a position of such importance given her lack of experience.
Yet it is a bit much to claim that Huckabee and Paul don’t understand the issues of the day. I suspect that what Frum meant is that their positions are incompatible with his own – which are 100% right and unassailable, of course – and therefore can only result from ignorance.
Both candidates have positions with which I disagree. Yet Huckabee’s support for educating the children of illegal immigrants doesn’t necessarily mean he has no understanding of the immigration problem. We have simply come to a different opinion about how this issue should be addressed.
Dismissing both men, Frum finishes with a flourish:
If elitism means snobbishness, then of course it is a vicious thing. If it means being impressed by credentials instead of evidence, then again: good riddance. But if it is elitist to expect politicians to be able to see through glaringly false and stupid ideas — well in that case, call me elitist.
Me too. Above all, my highest ideal is to know the truth. Whatever it may be and wherever it may lead us I believe we should undertake to discover the truth and, having found it, embrace it.
The problem with so many of today’s intellectuals – one which drives so many people to despise them – is that the truth is not their highest objective. Rather, too often their own ideas, ideals, and agendas have replaced objective truth as that which must be realized.
A research paper that won a Hebrew University teachers’ committee prize finds that the lack of IDF rapes of Palestinian women is designed to serve a political purpose.
The abstract of the paper, authored by doctoral candidate Tal Nitzan, notes that the paper shows that “the lack of organized military rape is an alternate way of realizing [particular] political goals.”
The next sentence delineates the particular goals that are realized in this manner: “In the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, it can be seen that the lack of military rape merely strengthens the ethnic boundaries and clarifies the inter-ethnic differences – just as organized military rape would have done.”
The paper further theorizes that Arab women in Judea and Samaria are not raped by IDF soldiers because the women are de-humanized in the soldiers’ eyes.
Or it could be that Israeli soldiers are simply properly trained, better disciplined, and more civilized human beings than the troops of nations like Serbia, Rwanda, Uganda, etc, etc.
Do we really need to cook up some elaborate stew of sociological gibberish to explain this phenomenon of human decency?
I say that we do not. The simple fact is that the Israelis’ moral code is superior to those of the ethic cleansers in Yugoslavia, the xenophobic butchers in Iraq, and others of their ilk.
If that belief makes me anti-intellectual, so be it.