[FoRK] Instinctive distrust, Santorumians' absolute contempt

Stephen Williams sdw at lig.net
Sun Mar 4 14:25:16 PST 2012

Somewhat of a weak article, but a few good points:

America, of course, has a long history of supporting that vaguely defined confederacy of breezy avatars who remind us of our own 
mousiness, our struggles, our embarrassing cousins. Usually it’s Hollywood fare, from Jack and Angelica to Brad and Angelina, and 
not the brainiacs—suggesting that TED represents something new. Which raises the basic question, is it so bad for America to worship 
brains and not actors with bright teeth? Isn’t this progress?

Well, no, actually. Granted, TED arose out of a genuine necessity, a need for technogeeks to talk to one another. But within a 
decade or so, the dawn of the TED Era began, and we saw a change—Steve Jobs and those guys migrated from their bookish nerdery (I 
mean, what was DOS, anyhow?) and found themselves at the very height of hip, combining the vision thing, big bucks, and scientific 
brilliance in a field none of us could master. So one by one, they crawled like heliotropic bugs to the light—the TED spotlight that 
is—bringing with them the Nobel laureates and presidents...

But these examples of low-grade intellectual fraud, although exasperating, aren’t the main problem with TED. No, the problem with 
TED is more complicated and worrisome, for this is a strange time to be smart, or to want to be smart, in America. The rational mind 
is under constant assault from the not-so-far-right-anymore right; as we recently learned, college now is a snob haven. People with 
information and an inclination to use it are viewed as contemptible nonbelievers, insincere blowhards, showoffs, sissies, maybe not 
even American.

TED and their entire starship /Enterprise/ world feed directly into many people’s instinctive distrust of the intellectual (and the 
Santorumians <http://www.thedailybeast.com/cheats/2012/03/01/biden-slams-santorum-s-views-on-education.html>’ absolute contempt). 
With the provocation, TEDdies are dragging down with them actual American intellectuals (yes, they exist). These are the real gym 
rats who fret their way through daily confusion and panic; hostile, never-ending scientific-turf wars; and lousy funding to squeeze 
out a drop of truth—people who scare us not because they are cool, but because they are so frantically intense and of a single 
lumpish piece. Not that the TEDdies care about the trouble, really. They already are getting their slides together for the next big 


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