Fashionable Nonesense: Postmodern Intellectual Buffoonery

By: Bill Crouse

Some­time around the mid­dle of the last cen­tu­ry there were those with enough fore­sight to per­ceive what would hap­pen to seri­ous think­ing giv­en the nature of the trends at the end of the Nine­teenth. As the ideas of men like Dar­win, Marx, and Niet­zsche, and lat­er the exis­ten­tial­ists, leav­ened the lump of acad­e­mia, a few schol­ars with insight and a tinge of the prophet­ic, began to respond with rig­or­ous rebut­tals and pre­dic­tions as to what would be the fruition of these ideas. As a col­lege stu­dent in the 60’s I did­n’t have the where­with­al to grap­ple with these ideas on my own. By God’s prov­i­dence I dis­cov­ered a book by a Chris­t­ian philoso­pher which took me by the hand and instruct­ed me how to approach and cri­tique ideas alien to my Chris­t­ian faith. That book was: A Chris­t­ian View of Men and Things by Gor­don H. Clark (1952). Anoth­er book that was exceed­ing­ly help­ful was: The Decline of the Intel­lec­tu­al by Thomas Mol­nar (1960). Need­less to say, nei­ther of these made any best­seller lists. They were read by rel­a­tive­ly few peo­ple.? I still rec­om­mend them if you can find them; they are worth the search. Lat­er in the 70’s I dis­cov­ered The God Who is There (1968) by Fran­cis Scha­ef­fer, and The Dust of Death (1973) by Os Gui­ness. Both of these books show a lot of wear and tear as they’ve had great impact on my thinking.

Today the ideas of nihilism, nat­u­ral­ism, irra­tional­ism, and rel­a­tivism, spawned from the above-not­ed men and their prog­e­ny, have come to full bloom and affect all of us at the street lev­el and dic­tate the direc­tion of our cul­ture. It may be risky on my part to voice the opin­ion that we may be bot­tom­ing out with post­mod­ernism, not that it?s going away tomor­row, but there are signs of both a spir­i­tu­al revival and pub­lic reac­tion against PM. What do you have in mind, Herr Crouse?

Judg­ing by the pop­u­lar­i­ty of con­ser­v­a­tive talk­shows and some of the books cur­rent­ly being pub­lished, there is evi­dence of deep oppo­si­tion to PM and its pop cul­ture. Back in the 60’s as a stu­dent, as I not­ed above, I did­n’t find much help in cri­tiquing the pre­vail­ing philoso­phies and pop­u­lar cul­ture. Back then cri­tiques of the estab­lish­ment very rarely got pub­lished in the main­stream media out­lets. Capa­ble schol­ars were dis­cour­aged from doing so. That fil­i­buster was bro­ken, I believe, with the advent of the inter­net and talk radio. The sce­nario goes some­thing like this: A gad­fly pub­lish­es a pow­er­ful cri­tique of our PM cul­ture; pop­u­lar talk­show hosts inter­view the author; the author broad­casts the address of his web­site and announces his next appear­ance at Barnes and Noble; the result is pre­dictable.? There is no longer an aca­d­e­m­ic and media blockade.

Where­as the books I men­tioned above were obscure, this new genre of cri­tique often makes best­seller lists much to the cha­grin of the oppo­si­tion. These books are hard-hit­ting as they attack and counter the utter­ly zany think­ing pro­duced by PM pseu­do-intel­lec­tu­als and celebri­ties. For the most part, these new authors accom­plish this refu­ta­tion with humor, sar­casm, and by mere­ly bring­ing to light some of the more crazy quotes of these would be elit­ists and intel­lec­tu­al wannabes. I cur­rent­ly have about a dozen of these books on my desk for review.? One of the newest of this genre: 100 Peo­ple Who Are Screw­ing Up Amer­i­ca by best-sell­ing, for­mer old media reporter, Bernard Gold­berg (see Vol. 2, #6). Most of the peo­ple Gold­berg names and quotes are not ivy-tow­er thinkers, with the excep­tion of one or two (Singer and Chom­sky).? All of them would like to think that their celebri­ty sta­tus puts them above the hoi pol­loi (us com­mon­ers) and gives them the right to advise and dic­tate such things as: eco­nom­ics, pol­i­tics, per­son­al val­ues, and for­eign pol­i­cy. For exam­ple, singer and actress Bar­bara Streisand (#91 accord­ing to Gold­berg) advis­es on her web­site that peo­ple should aban­don clothes dry­ers and go back to hang­ing their clothes on an out­door line to save ener­gy. She was also invit­ed to give a major address at Har­vard on U.S. For­eign pol­i­cy. Enter­tain­ers are but one of Gold­berg’s cat­e­gories sin­gled out for weird and dan­ger­ous ideas most hav­ing their roots in the rad­i­cal left and PM view of the real­i­ty. There are aca­d­e­mics, jour­nal­ists, politi­cians (Carter #6, Kennedy #3), one tele-evan­ge­list, a few lit­er­ary fig­ures, and some busi­ness­men. As far as I can tell, all men­tioned are liv­ing, U.S. cit­i­zens, and are cur­rent­ly pop­u­lar fig­ures in the old media. I found myself laugh­ing fre­quent­ly as I read the book, but also felt guilty in doing so, because these peo­ple are very seri­ous. I not only agreed with his choic­es (not nec­es­sar­i­ly the order) but I want­ed to add about 20 – 30 to his list (Nor­man Lear, Ram­sey Clark, Ed Asner, Mar­tin Sheen, Shire­ly McClain, Frank Rich, Mau­reen Down, et. al.), and any num­ber from the U.S. Sen­ate on both sides of the aisle. One crit­i­cism I have of the book is the author’s incon­sis­ten­cy. He right­ly crit­i­cizes the coarse­ness of con­tem­po­rary soci­ety but in doing do, he uses some pret­ty coarse language!

Anoth­er book in the same vein is Sur­round­ed by Idiots: Fight­ing Lib­er­al Luna­cy in Amer­i­ca by talk-show host, Mike Gal­lagher.? Gal­lagher picks such tar­gets as the Dix­ie Chicks and peo­ple from PETA (People for an Ethi­cal Treat­ment of Animals) and Dan Rather.? From what I’ve read, this talk­er is becom­ing very pop­u­lar, and his book will undoubt­ed­ly be anoth­er best­seller.? Now you have to ask your­self, why is he pop­u­lar? And why is his book sell­ing? I think you would have to con­clude that the riv­er of pub­lic sen­ti­ment is flow­ing in the same direc­tion.? What you have to remem­ber is, that none of these talk­shows would have been legal under the old Fair­ness Doc­trine that was negat­ed dur­ing the Rea­gan admin­is­tra­tion. This law, if you recall, stat­ed that if a broad­cast­ing medi­um dared broad­cast some­thing con­tro­ver­sial, that sta­tion had to pro­vide free and equal time to the oppos­ing view. This law was very effec­tive in squelch­ing free­dom of speech. (By the way, who do you think decid­ed what was controversial?)

A book that spares no punch­es to acad­e­mia is: Intel­lec­tu­al Morons: How Ide­ol­o­gy Makes Smart Peo­ple Fall for Stu­pid Ideas by Daniel J. Fly­nn. His top­ics are envi­ron­men­tal­ism, fem­i­nism, the sex­u­al rev­o­lu­tion, U. S. For­eign pol­i­cy, and oth­ers. If you’re a par­ent and look­ing for a book to inform you about the intel­lec­tu­al cli­mate at your son or daugh­ter’s uni­ver­si­ty, you will appre­ci­ate this book. It’s also well-foot­not­ed and indexed. Sim­i­lar to Fly­n­n’s work, is the new book: Hood­winked: How Intel­lec­tu­al Huck­sters Have Hijacked Amer­i­can Cul­ture by Jack Cashill. What this book does is doc­u­ment aca­d­e­m­ic and media dis­hon­esty and fraud like no oth­er book I have yet seen under one cov­er. Cashill is an inves­tiga­tive jour­nal­ist of the high­est order. It is also inter­est­ing in that it is pub­lished by the well-known Chris­t­ian pub­lish­er, Thomas Nel­son. Cashill divides the book into major areas of out­right fraud, pla­gia­riz­ing, and media sup­pres­sion. For instance, the sec­ond chap­ter (95 pages) con­cerns major cov­er-ups in the media such as The New York Times cov­er-up of Stal­in’s mas­sacres, Cas­tro’s true iden­ti­ty as a com­mu­nist rev­o­lu­tion­ary, and the cov­er-up of Hiss as a com­mu­nist spy. He also devotes many pages to aca­d­e­m­ic fraud in sci­ence. I believe this is a sig­nif­i­cant book. After read­ing it, you are forced to ask: Why? And why is aca­d­e­m­ic fraud on the increase? We’ve labored in the past in RRR to inform that in a PM world it should be expect­ed. When the con­cept of truth and the laws of log­ic are spurned, then how do you decide things? Cer­tain­ly not by care­ful argu­men­ta­tion and pre­sen­ta­tion of evi­dence. Truth becomes trib­al or polit­i­cal, and ulti­mate­ly is decid­ed by jihad. Remem­ber, as we’ve said count­less times here: In a PM world all life is polit­i­cal. That’s exact­ly why we must be so dis­trust­ing of what claims to be mod­ern sci­ence. Best-sell­ing author, Michael Crich­ton, has writ­ten an entire nov­el (State of Fear) devot­ed to the theme of ide­o­log­i­cal­ly dri­ven sci­ence. Crich­ton con­firms in my mind some­thing I have been fol­low­ing now for sev­er­al years, and that is: one of the biggest lies being foist­ed on the cur­rent pub­lic is the myth of the cause of glob­al warm­ing. It’s a polit­i­cal issue, and its true goal is a polit­i­cal out­come: mass re-dis­tri­b­u­tion of the world’s wealth. I hope to doc­u­ment this in more detail in a future issue.

There are two oth­er books I will men­tion in pass­ing, since they are sim­i­lar to the above.? We all con­cede that the major pow­er in the art world today is: Hol­ly­wood rules! Occa­sion­al­ly, some good comes from there, but much is poor qual­i­ty, out­right pro­pa­gan­da, and raw sewage. These two books give much insight into the Hol­ly­wood jug­ger­naut: Tales From the Left Coast: True Sto­ries of Hol­ly­wood Stars, and Their Out­ra­geous Pol­i­tics by James Hirsen, and: Hol­ly­wood Par­ty: How Com­mu­nism Seduced The Amer­i­can Film Indus­try in the 1930’s and 1940’s, by Ken­neth Lloyd Billingsley.

I’m still not through. If I may, I’d like to just to make a few more bib­li­o­graph­i­cal notes of a dif­fer­ent order. There are some oth­er cri­tiques that might inter­est our read­ers that are of a high­er and deep­er order than the above. These are more aca­d­e­m­ic, more thor­ough in their analy­sis of our con­tem­po­rary cul­ture, and have been very help­ful to me over the years. The first two were not­ed here in the past as well as quot­ed from. They are fre­quent­ly found on my desk: Slouch­ing Toward Gomor­rah, by Robert H. Bork.? This one is in my top ten. The oth­er is: Intel­lec­tu­als by Paul John­son. He gives bio­graph­i­cal sketch­es of: Rousseau, Shel­ley, Marx, Ibsen, Tol­stoy, Hem­ming­way, Brecht, Rus­sell, Sartre, Wil­son, Gol­lancz, and Hell­man, all peo­ple who have had great weight in the 20th Cen­tu­ry and beyond. There is also the excel­lent con­clud­ing chap­ter: The Flight from Reason.


Still more: On Look­ing into the Abyss, by Gertrude Him­mel­farb, one of the most astute crit­ics of post­mod­ernism; Fash­ion­able Non­sense: Post­mod­ern Intel­lec­tu­als Abuse of Sci­ence by Alan Sokal and Jean Bric­mont. (I stole my title from this book.) If you want doc­u­men­ta­tion about the cur­rent tur­moil and polit­i­cal nature of sci­ence, this is the one; The Bur­den of Bad Ideas: How Mod­ern Intel­lec­tu­als Mis­shape Our Soci­ety, by Heather Mac­Don­ald; and Ex-Friends, by Nor­man Pod­horetz. Once a part of the left-wing estab­lish­ment in New York?s elite intel­lec­tu­al cir­cle, Pod­horetz depart­ed from these views, and now cri­tiques his for­mer friends: Allen Gins­berg, Lionel and Diana Trilling, Lil­lan Hell­man, Han­nah Arendt, and Nor­man Mail­er. Pod­horetz lat­er became one of the founders (with Irv­ing Kris­tol) of the Neo-Con­ser­v­a­tive move­ment. Old­er but still rel­e­vant are: Trousered Apes: Sick Lit­er­a­ture in a Sick Soci­ety by Dun­can Williams, and Degen­er­ate Mod­erns, by E. Michael Jones. High­er Super­sti­tion: The Aca­d­e­m­ic Left and Its Quar­rels with Sci­ence, by Paul Gross and Nor­man Levitt, is a work in the same mode as the above: Fash­ion­able Non­sense.


Sam Storms has an excel­lent review of the above-men­tioned book: Hood­winked, by Jack Cashill. While you’re at his web­site, Enjoy­ing God Min­istries, stop and troll around and dis­cov­er the wealth of infor­ma­tion he has available.

Hat­ing Amer­i­ca, Hat­ing Human­i­ty, by Paul John­son. Nation­al Review. John­son is also the author of Intel­lec­tu­als not­ed above. Ever won­der why there is such an anti-Amer­i­can cur­rent in old Europe? Or, why George Bush is one of the world’s most hat­ed men? John­son offers some good insight.

Faith­ful and True? The para­dox­i­cal State of Chris­t­ian Col­leges, by Gene Edward Vei­th. World. This arti­cle is based on a pan­el dis­cus­sion of for­mer and cur­rent pres­i­dents of Chris­t­ian col­leges. Some very inter­est­ing stud­ies are quoted.

Ear­li­er in the year I com­plet­ed a brief­ing out­line on con­spir­a­cy the­o­ries. As you are prob­a­bly aware, the world, par­tic­u­lar the Mid­dle East, is rife with some of the most out­landish con­spir­a­cy the­o­ries, and many are com­ing from the rad­i­cal left.? Some heard recent­ly: hur­ri­cane Kat­ri­na was the result of Bush not sign­ing the Kyoto Treaty, the lev­ees were blown up to destroy black neigh­bor­hoods, and all these hur­ri­canes are caused by some elec­tro­mag­net­ic gad­get invent­ed by the Rus­sians dur­ing the cold war to con­trol the weath­er. This out­line: Con­spir­a­cies, Hid­den Agen­das, Secret Soci­eties, and World Gov­ern­ment (#68) is now avail­able at our web­site. In this study I trace the his­to­ry of con­spir­a­cy the­o­ries and spec­u­late as to their cur­rent popularity.