Saturday, October 23, 2010

Flying Intellectuals

I"ve already mentioned Paul Berman's The Flight of the Intellectuals, a book which claims that too many Western intellectuals are unwilling to confront the realities of the Islamists' ideology. Recently, the New York Review of Books published a rebuttal of Berman which seems to me to demonstrate his thesis - but perhaps that's just me. The author, Malise Ruthven, bolsters the case by citing confused, inaccurate and not-obviously relevant anecdotes about things Israel does wrong. The article begins with a description of Yad Vashem which is demonstrably false. Sol Stern now offers a detailed rebuttal of the rebuttal.

The whole thing is depressing. Is it important?That depends upon whether you think intellectuals play much of a role in things.

By and by, the discussion mentions another important book, Elhanan Yakira's Post-Zionism, Post-Holocaust: Three Essays on Denial, Forgetting, and the Delegitimation of Israel. So if you'd like to read fewer blogs and more books (a fine idea), here are two you might be interested in.


Anonymous said...

Do intellectuals play much of a role in things? Fortunately not. The intellectuals in the West who supported Communism for decades were powerless to prevent the fall of Communism, the inter-War pacifist intellectuals were powerless to prevent the outbreak of WW11, the intellectual supporters of the Pol Pot regime (genocide deniers such as Noam Chomsky) were powerless to prevent the fall of that regime by the neighbouring Vietnamese. At the risk of sounding like a foreign policy realist, the only thing that counts in this world is power and the self-interest of nations. Let the intellectuals babble...

Anonymous said...

I beg to disagree -

Intellectuals provide justification for "us" in the masses to do what we want to do, like follow this or that strongman or -woman and lots of other things. No matter how ridiculous or incomprehensible "we" may find them, to me it seems they have acquired much of the influence which Pastors and Priests used to have.

I'd assume it hasn't changed that kids in school get told by teachers that they have to rever this or that one for his higher wisdoms or disdain that one for another set of reasons.

What didn't happen in my time and what I have never noticed becoming the fashion is that kids are told that if their gut tells them it is nonsense they are allowed to cry the emperor has no clothes and not tolerate getting silenced by the intellectual's peers.


NormanF said...

I have contempt for intellectuals.

A Ph.D really stands for Pile High Dirt.

Most of them can't think make a coherent argument or string a couple of sentences together.

They're not worth listening to. Two decades ago, Paul Johnson wrote "Intellectuals," a book that documented the damaging influence of stupid ideas by the most renowned and notorious persons of history upon the course of Western civilization. It has stood the test of time.

As long as we don't heed the errant nonsense they spout, the better off the rest of us will be.

Anonymous said...


I'd love to agree but I guess Yaacov and a lot of others I admire and love to learn from qualify also

there is nothing than learning to separate the straw from the wheat.

recently I heard or read that academics are trained to think sequentially while formally mostly uneducated Churchill was good at thinking laterally. I think when both respect the other and cooperate, good may come from it. That's one reason why I think that the "west's" delgating so many of its manual skills to the east will come home to roost really badly.


Lee Ratner said...

I'm really surprised that Paul Berman's book is causing such a stir. The Cold War didn't end that long ago and I think that practically everybody old enough to remember it, would be familiar with the useful idiot phenomenon. The appeasers/defenders of the Islamists are just the recent manifestation of this phenomenon.

I also have to savor the irony some posters complaining about the uselessness of intellectuals and PhD on a blog site of an intellectual with a PhD on a post defending an intellectual with a PhD. Just because an intellectual writes something you like, doesn't make that person less of an intellectual.