Culture, Education

Why do Academics believe stupid ideas?

I’ve wondered this for a while. Why do folks with doctoral degrees, who look down on others for their stupidity, nevertheless reject the value of IQ tests? Why do academics who believe in the power of ethnic solidarity and identity politics also believe that human beings are born as blank slates? Why do academics who oppose fascism, support larger government all the time? Why do academics who believe in the sexual revolution decry rape culture which is essentially the direct result of that revolution (devolution)?

Here’s a nice summary of Jacques Ellul’s explanation:

A related point, central in Ellul’s thesis is that modern propaganda cannot work without “education”; he thus reverses the widespread notion that education is the best prophylactic against propaganda. In fact, education is largely identical with what Ellul calls “pre-propaganda” – the conditioning of minds with vast amounts of incoherent information, already dispensed for ulterior purposes, posing as “facts” and as “education.” Ellul follows through by designating intellectuals as virtually the most vulnerable of all to modern propaganda, for three reasons:

(1) they absorb the largest amount of second hand, unverifiable information;

(2) they fell a compelling need to have an opinion on every important question of our time, and thus easily succumb to opinions offered to them by propaganda on all indigestible pieces of information;

(3) they consider themselves capable of “judging for themselves.”

They literally need propaganda.

Ellul, Propaganda: The Formation of Men’s Attitudes, 2

This is basically right. Nicolaus Taleb calls them “intellectual yet idiots.” Bruce Charlton calls them clever-sillies. It’s probably best to start calling them goobers and weirdos. Sometimes mockery is the best medicine for bad ideas.

What’s the difference between propaganda and education? I can think of one thing: propaganda provides ideas, habits, and attitudes while not providing its consumers with the tools to reject its influence. On the other hand, education provides a tradition of ideas, habits, attitudes along with the tools to reject them if they are inconsistent with apparent reality.

Appendix

One Commnet on “Why do Academics believe stupid ideas?

  1. Reminds me of two quotes, but two very distinct personalities, one a socialist, the other a Republican.

    “One has to belong to the intelligentsia to believe things like that: no ordinary man could be such a fool.” – George Orwell

    “The trouble with our liberal friends is not that they’re ignorant; it’s that so much of what they know isn’t true.” – Ronald Reagan

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