[FoRK] U.S. Anti-intellectualism (was Confessions of an Engineering Washout)

mattj at newsblip.com mattj
Wed Oct 12 10:13:25 PDT 2005

Quoting Robert Harley <robert.harley at gmail.com>:

> [In France, t]here is no attitude disparaging of "propeller-heads".  
> No adulation of football jocks or whatnot.
> Those who excel at the hard sciences, maths first and foremost, are
> the elite of the future.

Which reminds me of two great takes on American anti-intellectualism I read
yesterday, both of which indicate how that widespread attitude provides the
foundation supporting this Administration's ineptitude, cronyism, and
dumbing-down of all three branches of the gederal government.  Below.

-Matt Jensen


Few strains run quite as deep in the American psyche as a pervasive
anti-intellectualism that has somehow inverted the notion that all people are
equal before the law and possessed of the same unalienable rights into the
currently fashionable fake egalitarianism that lies at the heart of so much
nonsense. There is a subset of Americans that reflexively recoils at 
experts" who "think they know more than we do." Well I'm sorry, Goober, 
but lots
of people know more than you do about a lot of things. And herewith, 
the latest
example of how this idea metastasizes. From Dan Coats, the man 
appointed by the
President to be his point man in assuring the confirmation of Harriet Miers:

    "If great intellectual powerhouse is a qualification to be a member of the
court and represent the American people and the wishes of the American people
and to interpret the Constitution, then I think we have a court so skewed on
the intellectual side that we may not be getting representation of 
America as a
whole," Mr. Coats said in a CNN interview.

    Mr. Specter, asked about that remark, laughed and wondered if it was
"another Hruska quote" - a reference to an oft-quoted comment by the 
late Roman
Hruska, a Republican senator from Nebraska, who defended G. Harrold 
Carswell, a
Supreme Court nominee who was rejected by the Senate. "Even if he is 
Mr. Hruska said, "there are a lot of mediocre judges and people and lawyers.
They are entitled to a little representation, aren't they, and a little

Our Supreme Court justices are "skewed on the intellectual side"? Such
imbecility is almost impossible to parody. What would you prefer, Mr. Coats, a
Supreme Court that "looks like America", maybe with a hairdresser, a
steelworker and an accountant on it? The Hruska quote nails it perfectly. This
anti-intellectualism is nothing more than how the mediocre make 
themselves feel
better about their ignorance.  [... more ...]

from The New Republic (subscription required, worth it for this article alone)

Welcome to the Hackocracy

The events of the past months have awakened the press to the true 
nature of the
Bush administration. It is overrun with hacks--that is, government officials
with waifish resum?s padded like the Michelin man, whose political connections
have won them important national responsibilities. But, in the face of 
this rush
to flay the Bush hacks, we should consider their achievements.

To fully appreciate the virtues of this administration, we must first 
recall the
administration that came before. Back in the 1990s, Bill Clinton recruited a
small army of Arkansans and Rhodes scholars to the West Wing. Although there
was the occasional kindergarten buddy who was out of his depth, most of these
FOBs (friends of Bill) were insufferable wonks who never let you forget their
dense resum?s. President Bush put his finger on the smug mindset of these
Clinton meritocrats when he said, "They're all of a sudden smarter than the
average person because they happen to have an Ivy League degree."

Now we can consider this problem solved. The Bush era has taken government out
of the hands of the hyper-qualified and given it back to the common man. This
new breed may not have what the credentialists sneeringly call "relevant
experience." Their alma maters may not always be "accredited." But they have
something the intellectual snobs of yore never had: loyalty. If not loyalty to
country, then at least loyalty to party and to the guy who got them the job.
And their loyalty has been rewarded: Even if they fail, they know they 
can move
up the chain until they find a job they can succeed in or until a major 
city is destroyed, whichever comes first.

The hackocracy, of course, reflects the virtues of its architect, George W.
Bush. Like Michael Brown and lesser known hacks, the president hasn't allowed
personal setbacks to stymie him. The old-fashioned values of fortitude and
family have given him the strength to rebound from a doomed oil company called
Arbusto, a doomed congressional candidacy, and catastrophic failures at Harken
Energy. That may be why, while cronies populate every presidency, no
administration has etched the principles of hackocracy into its governing
philosophy as deeply as this one. If there's an underappreciated corner of the
bureaucracy to fill, it has found just the crony (or college roommate of a
crony), party operative (or cousin of a party operative) to fill it. To honor
this achievement, we've drawn up a list of the 15 biggest Bush administration
hacks--from the highest levels of government to the civil servant rank and
file. The tnr 15 is a diverse group--from the assistant secretary of commerce
who started his career by supplying Bush with Altoids to the Republican
National Committee chair-turned-Veterans Affairs secretary who forgot about
wounded Iraq war vets--but they all share two things: responsibility and
[... much more ...]

More information about the FoRK mailing list