Jeff Sparrow on ‘the Imbecilic Andrew Bolt’ and Unseen Academicals:
…“My problem is not,” [writes Alecia Simmonds], “that our public sphere harbours ill-educated members (like the imbecilic Andrew Bolt who never made it past first-year uni).”
Sorry? Anyone who doesn’t possess a university degree is an imbecile? That would be some 60 per cent of the working population, casually dismissed as moronic. Going to uni might not, in and of itself, make you a member of an elite. But class, ethnicity and geography still play a major role in determining access to higher education. It behoves progressives – particularly those in academia – to remember that there’s plenty of very, very bright people out there who never attended a university but who nonetheless might have something to say…
…Take the passage above. Andrew Bolt an imbecile? It might console those on the Left to think so but the notion’s entirely ludicrous.
In reality, Bolt’s a talented prose writer, adept in the tabloid genre. He’s a powerful speaker (as anyone who has seen him ruthlessly destroy academic critics in public debates would know) and an extraordinarily effective populariser of ideas. Andrew Bolt is conservative and many of his ideas are repellent. But it’s ridiculous to call him stupid on the basis of how many university degrees he does or doesn’t possess.
Now compare Simmonds’ description of Australian academics.
“Academics may also not want to enter public debate. And I can understand why. Firstly, they receive no rewards in terms of career advancement for writing for the public. And secondly, many may not want to engage with a knife-drawn public prone to Goldstein-style Two-Minute Twitter Hate Rituals. Academics are often timorous folk who specialise in showing the complexity of issues, not offering tweet-sized solutions. Social media doesn’t democratise debate. It limits it to the resilient. Snark triumphs over insight, and commentary is reserved for those with voluminous folds of scar-tissue. Sensitive thinkers rarely fit this bill.”
Academics don’t want to engage with public debate because it won’t advance their careers – and also because people might say mean things about them. They’re sensitive, don’t you know!
Does this not perfectly exemplify the problem with the liberal Left? Rather than fighting the Right, liberal academics want to be treated like philosopher kings: protected from snark and richly rewarded any time they deign to comment on public events.
Instead of dismissing polemicists like Bolt, the Left might do better to ask why we lack anyone of a similar calibre…
If I weren’t plagued with ruminations at the moment I might have a few things to add on this subject myself.