A new kid in the blogosphere

William Katz is a man of many parts. In his very first appearance at Power Line, here is how the Power Line guys described him:

William Katz has had a long and varied career, as an assistant to a U.S. senator; an officer in the CIA; an assistant to Herman Kahn, the nuclear war theorist; an editor at The New York Times Magazine; and a talent coordinator at The Tonight Show. He is the author of ten books, translated into 15 languages.

For the six months after that introduction, Mr. Katz periodically sent amusing, interesting, and thoughtful articles to Power Line. He’s now leaving that mother ship, though, and setting out on his own with a website he calls William Katz : Urgent Agenda. Unsurprisingly, given his breadth of experience and his honed writer’s chops, it’s already a polished blog.

In a sidebar, he poses a question that we’ve discussed at this blog, so I thought you all might want to look at it and maybe try your hand at a response to his question:

A writer asked this some years ago: Why is it that intellectuals often support the worst causes?

For decades we’ve seen too many members of our educated elite – professors, authors, Nobel laureates – lend their support to appalling causes like fascism, Soviet communism, even suicide bombers. But why? Aren’t these the people who should know better?

Why do you think intellectuals often support the worst causes? Please discuss it. If you’d like to send us your thoughts, click:
response@urgentagenda.com
(Please stay within a paragraph or two. There are no guarantees, but I’ll try to pick out some replies to print.)

As for me, I addressed the question most recently in my post, 50 million intellectuals can be wrong.

Welcome to the blogosphere, Mr. Katz, and good luck!

UPDATE:  I think I fixed the bad link.

16 Responses

  1. Book: bad link to your 50 million intellectuals.

  2. It must have been a temporary problem, because it links now.

  3. Intellectuals have found themselves to be the parasites in the healthy system. Thus what they cannot fortify and strenghten, they will instead choose to bring down into red ruin and misery.

    Spreading the misery around is an age old human custom, Book.

    Intellectuals are useless for creating things that would benefit all of mankind. So their only option is to create things that will give mankind nightmares. The warrior-scholars of Greece and the US military have shown that those facing life and death decisions have more interest in humanity’s past and the solutions to humanity’s ills than any intellectual.

  4. You have got to see this, Book.

    Link

    Intellectuals can’t even create any laughter or joy as they bring humanity to its knees. Postal workers that know they are useless tend to go postal; the same applies to intellectuals.

  5. I’ve been pondering the question after reading the other post as well. I suppose I would ask some questions first. What exactly is an intellectual? Would I qualify? My writing is for the most part horrible, except if it’s an elegant bit of code, or if it’s a journal article on an experimental technique.

    So does my inability to write a clever turn of phrase, disqualify me? Who knows. It would seem to me though that many good writers are often accepted as truly knowledgeable on subjects they have no mastery of. That’s always been kind of curious to me, and may be related to where some go wrong.

    Perhaps, it’s that simple. To be an expert in one field causes some people to think they are experts in many others, and they follow the path of folly through ignorance and hubris

  6. A typical example of the kind of vapid platitudes spouted by so called intellectuals.

  7. Usually any ideology requires intellectuals as the founding fathers and also for the spiritual leadership needed afterwards. Thus people like Noam Chomsky and Marx, those interested in studying, writing, and distributing their ideas, are intellectuals.

    Then there are people in love with Marxism when Cuba went socialist. They give money and power and influence to the revolutionaries like Che and Castro, with the belief that either they will always remain in power or that the lower classes will be made to serve their ends. Course when the revolution no longer has need of them, most of them run away given that they aren’t poor or powerless like the people they sent to die under Castro/Che.

    These folks would probably be called useful idiots, but they still satisfy the intellectual criteria even if they are not the leading intellectual and spiritual leaders of their ideology. Hillary Clinton’s idol, Saul Alinsky, would also be an intellectual leader.

    To pare things down to the fundamentals, an intellectual is someone that believes thought is al lthat is necessary to change human nature into whatever. That you don’t need to dirty your hands actually killing somebody or whatever, all you need is the “thought” Allen.

    The less actions you undertake, the purer your thought and thus the purer your ideology. The purer the ideology, the less need for war and suffering.

  8. My answer is very simple,

    One of the reasons so called “intellectuals” support the worst causes is that
    most intellectuals are not all that intelligent.

    Many so called “intellectuals” are not really intellectuals,

    they do not have a better understanding of anything,
    they just have bigger words and longer more complicated sentences to tell us what they think.

    Their only talent is the ability to say simple things in very complicated ways.

    They may sound intelligent and intellectual but it is all wrapping and no content.

    It is also a way for them to separate or elevate themselves from the masses.

    If the common man eats ground beef and hates the Nazis, then the intellectual eats foie gras and admires the Nazis.

    It makes them feel superior,

    and the more we are puzzled by their strange behavior, the more intelligent they feel.

    If we can not understand why they admire the Nazis it must be because we are simple minded.

    I say we because I do not have a university degree, I’m the street guy some intellectuals would lift their nose on,
    but in an IQ test I score 20 points above most of them.

  9. There are two kinds of intelligences. The intelligence that allows a dog to be trained in tricks and the intelligence that allows a human to come up with methods to train the dog. The intellectuals have the former kind of intelligence as opposed to the later. Their handlers, usually Communist or Socialist or Revolutionary leaders and propaganda masters, have the meta-intelligence that allows them to control intelligent human beings in the same fashion human beings train and control dogs.

    This is why politicians are said to be cunning rather than intellectually orientated. Their abilities concerns manipulating humans with skills, not emulating the skills themselves. In our case, the intellectuals’ only skill is producing more disasters.

  10. There is a default political position for “intellectuals”: Against whatever the conventional, commonsense viewpoints are. To the “intellectuals,” this shows that they are unconventional, that they are superior to the rest of the common folk.

    The irony here is that what they see as the “intellectual” viewpoint can often be overturned by more research. The “intellectuals” in the 1980s fell head over heels for the Sandinistas. There was much documentary evidence against the Sandinistas, which the “intellectuals” were not aware of. Example: in March 1980, Pravda published a joint USSR- Nicaraguan (Sandinista) proclamation that “resolutely condemned” the “reactionaries” who were against the USSR invasion of Afghanistan. Example: in 1984 a Polish national authored “De Polonia a Nicaragua.” This book told of his being arrested upon entering Nicaragua with a valid visa, and being imprisoned for nearly 6 months before being freed. His crime? Suspicion of belonging to Solidarity.

    Back in the 1980s even the liberals were for Solidarity and against the USSR invasion of Afghanistan. That many liberals held these positions while still supporting the Sandinistas was a result not so much of cognitive dissonance as it was of ignorance – and being too lazy to investigate the issues.

  11. Another trait of “intellectuals” is that they see the world in term of “dream-castle” abstractions – it is easier that way and you don’t have to be accountable for real-life consequences. Most of us get along and deal with the much more difficult issues of the real nitty-gritty world as it is.

    I am with Friend of USA on this one, too – most are simply intellectual wannabees. Academia is rife with them. A telltale sign is when they use big words and convoluted arguments when simple words and logic will do. This, to me, signals, that their intent is not to communicate but to obfuscate. Usually, what they obfuscate is bad logic and ideas. Noam Chomsky is a great example.

    Also, real intellectuals don’t go around telling others that they are intellectuals. That’s for others to decide.

  12. Danny said: “I am with Friend of USA on this one, too – most are simply intellectual wannabees. Academia is rife with them. A telltale sign is when they use big words and convoluted arguments when simple words and logic will do. This, to me, signals, that their intent is not to communicate but to obfuscate. Usually, what they obfuscate is bad logic and ideas.”

    Oh, did you bring back memories, Danny. When I was an undergrad at a fairly prestigious university, I decided to take a rhetoric course. It was taught by a very puffed up graduate student who was steeped in the language of academe. Since I’m quite confident about my own language skills (and was even as a 19 year old), I had no embarrassment at all about raising my hand each time he used one of those terms and asking what it meant. He came to hate me with a passion because, at least 50% of the time, he was incapable of explaining what he was saying.

  13. Reminds me of Greg before he gave up trying to impress with big words and convoluted syntax.

  14. Regarding using big words etc. I joined Toastmasters, and quickly found out that when giving a speech without recourse to a written text , it is a LOT easier to remember simple two-cent words instead of the polysyllabic five-dollar words. The simpler words also get your point across easier, because fewer people have to stop and say to themselves, “Now what did that mean?”

  15. My kids are terrible mumblers. I intrigued them yesterday by telling them, half-jokingly (and they knew I was half joking), that the reason I enunciate so clearly is because I think that what I have to say is important, and I want people to hear me. I also said that I assume my audience is smart enough to understand what I say, if they can understand my speech.

    I said that they, by mumbling, are saying either that they have nothing worthwhile in their heads or they are insulting their audience by implying that they’re too stupid to understand any way. I have the same theory, actually, about legible handwriting (and my handwriting is very legible).

    There’s also ego in using big, unintelligible words, but that type of ego is mirrored by a corresponding disrespect for the audience — i.e., you’re so unimportant, I don’t care if you can’t understand me, so long as you are awed by my mental magnificence.

  16. This makes a nice addendum to Book’s post.

    http://neoneocon.com/2008/01/12/ah-those-clever-literary-intellectuals/

    Big words can usually contain more than one meaning to them when used in an abstract or policy manner. Thus it allows for the mind to branch off unto various different avenues by using words that are ambiguous when writing. It can shorten thoughts down and compress them, so that each line has multiple meanings that all apply. Whether a person can connect those multiple ideas into a coherent whole or not, depends really on how close their thinking aligns with the author’s. If you don’t think like the author, then the author’s method of transcribing his thoughts on paper via the interconnections of one big word together with another, becomes its own puzzle game.

    g really had only one thing to say, so his attempts to use big and incorrectly spelled words was really a waste.

    Also the ability to retain vocabulary and to accelerate one’s abstract thinking abilities is aided by using large words that require a large portion of your own brain power to effect. Holding multiple meanings of multiple different words so that they can be chained together in one uber sentence does indeed require something akin to doublethink. Which is why intellectuals are the only ones capable of true mastery of doublethink. Idiots cannot really hold too many thoughts in their head simultaneously, let alone too many contradictory thoughts at once. To be foolish and unwise, one must have a supreme amount of intellect. Just look at Kerry or g, both malignant and intelligent narcissists.

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