Puppets and Labradors moving in the marketplace of ideas.

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Oct. 15 2008 11:55 AM

The Land of the Elite and the Home of the Intellectual

Puppets and Labradors moving in the marketplace of ideas.

"Politically speaking, 'elite' just means 'just as educated and rich as us, but in the opposite party.' This was a useful definition from justicepsych but not one that was going to meet with a lot of approval. Some of us have not been able to get to the "XX Factor," let alone its Fray, in recent weeks, so it was certainly time to drop by and see which cool intellectual debates were going on there. Whoa, take that back, the word intellectual has proved to be as controversial as almost anything in Slate this election year, and cool isn't exactly the right word, either. Rachael Larimore's "Thoughts on Intellectuals and Anti-Intellectuals" in the blog was the focus of endless discussion on—well, on intellectuals and anti-intellectuals. Amazingly, apparently you can insult someone by calling them either of these names. Throw in "elitist" and you have a full-scale flame war.


Ophymirage posted a splendid disquisition on intellectuals. Naturally we're going to quote the funny bit:

When it comes down to it, Intellectual are a harmless bunch. About the worst thing that intellectuals are going to do to this country is to stage a pretentious community-theater production of "Titus Andronicus" with giant puppets.

But also a serious, if possibly idealistic, bit:

The best thing that intellectuals can do for this country is to show everyone the way to the tools that are necessary for genuine self-knowledge. And one of the chief benefits of knowing yourself is that it makes it a lot harder to hate other people.

There's a long discussion here on whether we want elites ruling us or not. Go here to find out who's an intellectual, who an engineer, and who could run a gas station. At what might be called the far edges of the discussion: What was that again about the Labrador going to duck-collecting college? No, didn't quite get it. Lubbesuh says there are too many intellectuals, and even those with opposing political views seemed to agree.

The splendidly-named HopefulCynic had this to say

Is it better for Americans to vote for someone they feel reflects their own worldview, or someone who is best able to do the job? It seems to me loyalty to party should come far below loyalty to country or family or duty ... somewhere around loyalty to Kellogg Brand Cereals.

—and made a convincing case. "Are Intellectuals Mean?", posted byMalone, was very popular with other readers, though mostly, it has to be said, those who agreed with him or her politically.

Posts are still pouring in on this topic, so feel free to join in. But a word of warning: you don't even want to go near the other current argument in "XX Factor" on flag mending/trampling. It's sticky and cross and long and involved. But, no—what are we saying? That would be a recommendation to most Fray posters. MR ...5.00 p.m. GMT