Worth a Look

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.

About Paul Bamford (aka Gummo T)

Gummo Trotsky is the on-line persona of Paul Bamford. Paul recently placed his intellect at risk of finally becoming productive by enrolling in a Lemonade, Lime & Bitters degree via distance education. He also plays the piano but Keith Jarrett he ain't.
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conrad
conrad
8 years ago

“Academics don’t want to engage with public debate because it won’t advance their careers”

Actually, the main reason, even for those that could enter the public debate, is that you have any number of other things to do, most of which are more productive than public speaking and most of which you are obliged to do for your university.

Crispin Bennett
Crispin Bennett
8 years ago

If you don’t believe that a majority of the great Aussie public is truly moronic, you can’t be getting out to enough barbecues.

Crispin Bennett
Crispin Bennett
8 years ago

In Brisbvegas? It’s bogans all the way down.

observa
observa
8 years ago

Well at the very least Alecia should be grateful Bolty gave her a decent platform with Jonesys imbeciles and bogans to convince them not to fall into the clutches of that nasty Misterabbit. Why isn’t everyone listening to the clever Mr Gonski she wonders, when he’s clearly on the right path with more Gonskis for more education revolutions? Best to ask Labor pollies which private schools they’re spending their Gonskis on for the answer to that luv and it pays to not be so snippy if you want to pull a bloke down the pub.

Then it’s O lord why hast thou forsaken us-

Australians have come to see elite multinational companies as having the same interests as the everyday person and academics as haughty public menaces. The former self-avowedly exists only for their own profits, the latter commits the crime of thinking about people.

It’s no wonder Gillard chose to pick on academics. They’re the perfect targets: too socially obscure to be missed and too loathed to be defended.

And you too Gillard? (not on first name terms any longer babe) As if Alecia and the misogyny industry were not at the commanding heights and responsible for their champion team being on the nose now. No they were always the besieged minority fighting the good fight against sexism, racism and misogyny out there everywhere-

academics didn’t offer any resistance to Howard? Really? What about the black armband debate (which in many ways defined the culture wars of the Howard era) where academics from Anne Curthoys to Henry Reynolds to Dirk Moses spent years fighting against racist imbeciles like Bolt and Windschuttle?

Yes folks it was all that evil Bolty and Windschuttle that pulled down the rabbit proof fence and caused their noble edifice on the commanding heights to come tumbling down. Nothing to do with the proof of their pudding being in the eating. The Sorry crowd and children overboarders fighting racism and xenophobia out there beyond the cloisters everywhere (or at the very least Brissy bus drivers refusing certain statistical anomalies a ride without a ticket)

Now their champions in Canberra reduced to going cap in hand to that heinous Abbott mob to excise the Oz mainland in order to stop kiddies on the rocks. What is their world coming to? Oh for the enlightenment of those cultured frenchys and Le Monde

hc
hc
8 years ago

In Australia if a view is sought on the Federal budget the person sought first is the leader of the opposition or the shadow treasurer. Failing that business economists with interest rate obsessions. The response is invariably negative and drearily predictable.

Those who do now something about fiscal policy (particularly academics) are typically ignored. This isn’t the case in the US where academics do have a role.

Of course it is nonsense to suppose that a university degree is essential for intelligence. Many of our most intelligent citizens – e.g. Paul Keating – don’t have one. Moreover, if you cannot pass first-year that might indicate alternative interests rather than stupidity. Some of the smartest people I know failed university – indeed they spent much of their youth in pubs learning to cope with a society less intelligent than they were by drinking.

Bolt isn’t an imbecile. Unconditionally.

Tel
Tel
8 years ago

I do agree with the gist of this, there seem to be a group of academics who are staring so intently at their own navels they are at risk of tumbling in. Somehow they regard themselves as “elite” but since they are completely detached from the world, I wonder how they go about judging their position. Richard North calls it “living in the bubble”:

http://www.eureferendum.com/blogview.aspx?blogno=74020

Instead of dismissing polemicists like Bolt, the Left might do better to ask why we lack anyone of a similar calibre…

Don’t be shy Gummo Trotsky, I know you are angling for the job.

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.

They sold out as propagandists years ago, but good propaganda is subtle, keeping up appearances IS their job. Protection from snark means owning the moral high ground. Don’t take this personally, but you have some work to do before getting to grips with Andrew Bolt and how the system works. I’m trying to be encouraging (in my own peculiar way).

Crispin Bennett
Crispin Bennett
8 years ago

It’s one job of a cognitively-responsible member of h. sapiens to try and align the contents of one’s head with reality (given the collective power available to contemporary humans, this responsibility should be an uncontroversial ethical requirement).

Bolt fails to even attempt this, so is either thick or ethically moribund. I suspect both, in that his public pronouncements display neither capacity nor will to ferret out truths.

Unlike those who excoriate ‘elites’, I believe these responsibilities fall equally on all, even QLD bogans. Apparently demotic genuflections blaming academics for not persuading the folk are underhandedly contemptuous of said folk, taking them to be without responsibility for informing themselves. I’d prefer open contempt. Bolt’s a moron, possibly a wilful one. Anyone persuaded by him is likewise.

observa
observa
8 years ago

Bolt’s a moron, possibly a wilful one. Anyone persuaded by him is likewise.

You assume it’s moronic, imbecilic Bolt that’s doing all the persuading when he often presents us with a dilemma. Black Armband, Stolen Generations, misogyny Alecia contrasted with boots on the ground Bess Price
In the final analysis it will be outcomes that are the acid test of any statistical and theoretical underpinnings.

There’s nowhere to hide from fact and fiction nowadays but anyone is welcome to compete in the new democratic digital space for analysis and some truths. Bolty is just damn good at presenting pieces of the jigsaw.

Patrick
Patrick
8 years ago

Good points throughout, even if a bit derailed in the comments.