Wednesday, January 27, 2010

"...a particular type of stupidity..."

James Taranto:
"People will never know" is gentler than "a nation of dodos," but the underlying message isn't that different. Axelrod, speaking of the president, tells the Washington Post: "This is someone who in law school worked with [Harvard professor] Larry Tribe on a paper on the legal implications of Einstein's theory of relativity." That's got to be a joke, but the message is clear: President Obama and his men are a lot smarter than the average voter.

It is likely that this is true. Shockingly, half of all Americans have IQs below the median. But intelligence is not the same thing as wisdom or sense. Very intelligent people have been known to advance very compelling arguments on behalf of very bad ideas.

What's more, there is a particular type of stupidity to which intelligent people are uniquely prone: intellectual snobbery, or the tendency to cultivate an attitude of contempt toward those who are not as bright. This may appeal to New York Times readers or voters in, say, Hyde Park--that is, to people who think they're better than everyone else too. But it may prove Barack Obama's undoing as a national politician.
Does anyone suppose that Barack Obama or David Axelrod or Joe Klein have ever read Gulliver's Travels? The whole thing, that is, and not just the journey to Lilliput? Everyone who wants to impose projects and plans on the people on the ground that they represent an intellectual elite should read Swift's account of Gulliver's trip to Laputa. And then watch the They Saved Lisa' Brain episode of The Simpsons. And then take some time to try to develop a little bit of perspective about themselves and their elitism...

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