Wednesday, August 27, 2008

I was a bit surprised that Paul Krugman defended Obama for going after McCain's inability to remember how many houses he owns. It seems to me that if you don't want the Republicans to castigate you as an intellectual elitist (which Obama is), don't castigate your opponent for being a wealth elitist (which McCain most certainly is). A better point to make - and I'm not sure how to make it in this twisted political landscape - is that it's far better to be an intellectual elitist than a wealth elitist. If you went to Harvard Law, you're an elitist; if you can't remember how many houses you own, you are one too. But which kind is more likely to have the know-how, poise and breadth of diplomatic and other skills necessary to lead the country?

This notion that intellectuals are to be distrusted, this creepy idea that Nixon internalized and that Karl Rove and George W. Bush externalized and perfected, seems to haunt us still - even after its disgraceful consequences in our recent past. It's far more damaging than your run-of-the-mill campaign canard; in fact, it's fascist. It's Bolshevik. And Islamist, too. Totalitarian regimes, and the philosophies that gird them, have long repressed, demonized, ridiculed and even slaughtered the intellectual class. Why? Because intellectuals are the types of people who have the brains and insight to stop evil people, such as Republicans and terrorists, from doing whatever the fuck they want. It's always been easy for regimes to repress the intellectual class, because "regular" people - be they blue-collar Americans, the Russian proletariat or the Iraqi poor - are exceedingly susceptible to class resentment. This is a very easy button for propagandists to push, and once that's taken care of, it's not hard to make the problem "go away" - intellectuals tend not to be militaristic; they don't put up much of a fight. In Spain during the Inquisition, or Russia under Stalin, this meant you could round them up and kill them. In the United States today, you have to dispatch them more subtly - by insinuating that they're "soft on national security." No matter the method, it's the same crime.