In a brief essay called “Private Bates,” C. S. Lewis insisted that we discard the notion “that it is the masses who can be led by the nose. The only people who are really the dupes of their favorite newspapers are the intelligentsia.”
Although he made that point in 1944, near the end of the last World War, Lewis’s observation still stands. We’re talking about folks who ever wonder what the New York Times has to say about an issue, any issue, or at what Rachel Maddow’s latest foaming rant is aimed, or what made Chris Matthews’ leg quiver with excitement this week, or what Bill Maher, who can’t tell the difference between “smart” and “smart-ass,” thinks is funny.
I say “folks” because the left wing elitists I have in mind don’t like to be called “folks.” That’s what they like to call others. If you aren’t sure to what I refer, then try to count how often President Obama uses the word “folks,” and how often he declines to include himself in the group.
The “folks” I have in mind think more highly of themselves than to be lumped in with all the allegedly backward folks who live between New York City and Los Angeles -- minus, of course, the self-identified heroic, leftist savants who live in the Ann Arbor and Madison enclaves.
By “folks,” I mean those who’d never be caught dead with the citizens of Pennsylvania, who cling to God and guns, as President Obama so memorably put it.
By “folks” I mean those who wonder, even for the briefest moment, what Susan Sarandon, Sean Penn, Michael Moore or George Clooney have to say about any social, political, or economic issue in the world.
By “folks” I mean those who don’t yet know that if the Harvard faculty teaches it, it’s probably deeply wrong. These “folks” treat Harvard as the postmodern Delphic oracle. To them, if it comes from Harvard, it might as well come from God. The “folks” I have in mind have never learned about the stupidity of the expert, even though it’s an old, old lesson.
If you are one of the “folks” I’m talking about, you won’t recall the connection between Jesus and the stupidity of the expert when He explained how God had chosen for His cornerstone the very stone rejected by the builders (Mark 12: 10). The builders, mind you -- not the butchers, the bakers and the candlestick makers -- the builders themselves rejected the very stone of God’s own choosing. Their putative expertise served only to pit them against Profundity and Wisdom Himself. If you are one of the “folks” I have in mind, you also won’t know that when Jesus mentioned the builders and their twisted judgment in this way, He was quoting from a text that was already many hundreds of years old when He quoted it (Psalm 118: 22).
The stupidity of the expert is an ancient and enduring phenomenon. It didn’t begin with Harvard. Harvard is just its latest embodiment, and our President is Harvard’s latest legacy to under-informed but overly self-congratulatory elitism posing as wisdom and dazzled by a pedestrian rhetoric that cannot rise above bumper sticker offerings like “hope” and “change.”
That happens a lot at Harvard. Their experts are fools, and have been for many, many decades. But the Harvardolators among us seem never to have noticed. Neither have those they idolize, “folks” who are pretty sure that if they pull an all-nighter, they can solve any problem the world comes up with, just like they did in grad school.
I’ve often wondered how to exorcise the Harvard demon from sycophantic leftists. The only way I can think of at the moment is to remind them that their arch-enemies also went to Harvard and that, if Harvard makes you wise, then the Harvardolators are going to have to worship at the altar of Bill O’Reilly, William Bennett, and Alan Keyes -- Harvard men all -- and therefore worthy of your adulation.
You remember Alan Keyes, right? You know, Alan Keyes: the man who crushed Obama in the debates during their Illinois campaign for Senate.
Don’t believe me? It’s all on Youtube in the most withering rhetorical defeat I have ever seen. Check it out.
Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s Prime Minister, who recently took Obama to school on Middle Eastern realities, also went to Harvard – and, for good measure, to MIT. And if you want to look at his grades at either school, I bet he’ll let you. Some Harvard sorts won’t. You ask to see their transcripts and it’s like they think you’re asking for a birth certificate or something.
The conservative contrarians I mentioned above, who did not drink the Crimson Kool-Aid, understand that you take off best against the wind. So they earned their wings flying intellectual combat missions into the wind coming from the left. God bless them for it.
Although it bothers “folks” when I bring up God in this (or any) context, it’s perfectly appropriate: All three of these Harvard anomalies are devout Christians, which is partly why they believe what they believe -- and what Harvard does not.
I once attended a special benefit dinner for a small Christian college just outside Detroit. One of the Harvard men mentioned above, William Bennett, was the keynote speaker. He began like this:
“I have been here for nearly three days now, and I’ve noticed that this college is not like Harvard.”
He paused while an audible gasp passed through the room at his perceived insult: “Oh, no he didn’t,” they all thought.
Then he continued: