Here’s an interesting piece by Frank Furedi on Spiked. It’s called YOU’RE RIGHT-WING? YOU MUST BE STUPID and its subtitle is “Frank Furedi on how conservatism came to be treated as a mental deficiency.”
Furedi is far from a conservative. But he’s a smart guy who has moved from student radicalism to being a liberal college professor in England who does not follow the herd thinking of the left. His piece begins:
Mocking conservative and right-wing political figures for their stupidity is all the rage in certain media circles. …
Not surprisingly, commentators compared Banister to Sarah Palin, the former US Republican vice-presidential candidate who was, and continues to be, regularly targeted for her ‘stupidity’. One blogger recently referred to Palin as the ‘Queen of Stupidity’, the ‘very embodiment of all things stupid’.
The idea that conservatives are thick and simple is increasingly being backed up by a new brand of advocacy research. In recent years there have been numerous so-called studies purporting to prove the intellectual inferiority of conservative people. Two Canadian academics gave us a good example of this tendentious research last year. Their ‘study’, titled Bright Minds and Dark Attitudes: Lower Cognitive Ability Predicts Greater Prejudice Through Right-Wing Ideology and Low Intergroup Contact, claimed there is evidence that simpletons go on to become prejudiced right-wingers in later life.
It is worth noting that, historically, the manipulation of science to discredit political opponents – from nineteenth-century craniology to twentieth-century Stalinist and Nazi theories – was strongly criticised by the intellectual community. Today, by contrast, it is self-styled intellectuals, especially the ones who refer to themselves as ‘liberal’, who use such pseudo-scientific tactics to pathologise their opponents as a mentally and intellectually inferior political species. And there is barely any dissent from this view.
He gives the history of how we have gotten to this point, and comments:
Things have now moved so far in this direction that today, in the twenty-first century, it is sometimes hard to appreciate the fact that until the second half of the last century, right-wing thinkers constituted a significant section of the Western intelligentsia.
Since the 1940s, intelligence has been turned into a cultural weapon that is used by individuals and groups to validate their status and authority. Inevitably, this weapon is most effectively used by those claiming the status of an intellectual.
Genuine intellectuals who are devoted to the pursuit of ideas and who understand the transformative potential of debate should reject the politics of insult. Instead of sneeringly declaring ‘they don’t get it’, a real intellectual should develop ideas in a way that would allow ‘them’ to get it. Indeed, it is the conviction that most human beings have the potential to grasp the issues facing their communities that underpins the ideals of democratic politics and popular sovereignty. The real problem today is not stupid conservatives, but people with multiple university degrees who ‘don’t get’ what it truly means to be an intellectual.
Conservatives talk about this all the time. We are well aware that liberals and radicals don’t know how to argue; they just call names. It’s refreshing to see this incisive critique from an academic liberal. His whole article is well worth reading.
I looked up Furedi on Wikipedia and found a few points that especially interested me:
- Furedi maintains that society and universities are undergoing a politically driven ‘dumbing down’ process which is manifest in society’s growing inability to understand and assess the meaning of risk. The rise of the environmental and green movements parallels society’s growing obsession with risk. Furedi also attacks the scientific consensus on Global Warming, and has criticised the prominent role played by science in policy formation….
- In 2008 he criticised opponents of American vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin on the Spiked website. He claims: “It seems that even fervent advocates of women’s rights will adopt outdated and chauvinistic moral rhetoric when targeting a woman they do not like.”
- In 2008 he co-authored a book with Jennie Bristow published by the think tank Civitas titled Licensed to Hug: How Child Protection Policies Are Poisoning the Relationship Between the Generations and Damaging the Voluntary Sector, arguing that the growth of police vetting (see Criminal Records Bureau) has created a sense of mistrust and advocating a more common-sense approach to adult/child relations, based on the assumption that the vast majority of adults can be relied on to help and support children, and that the healthy interaction between generations enriches children’s lives.
I like to discover non-conformist liberals like Furedi. I’d like to meet him because he has interesting things to say, whereas I have no interest in meeting any of the crazed leftists in the media and online.