Stupid photos of stupid columnists: 1st in a series
Lenin rightly draws attention to the chorus of stupidity issuing from smugonaut central in response to Charlotte Street‘s well-justified (and well-argued) analysis of the inane droolings of smugonaut-in-chief, David Aaronovitch. The passage from Kristeva which Lenin cites suggests that anti-intellectualism is not unique to Britain, but the level of anti-intellectualism in Britain is surely higher than almost anywhere else. It scarcely seems credible, for instance, that a petit-bourgeois dunce like Aaronovitch would get a regular column on a broadsheet newspaper in any other European country.
Readers outside the UK might like to take a read through these ‘comments’ to get a sense of the intellectual climate here. I thought Badiou’s description on Friday of the attacks on Derrida after his death as ‘Texan’ was a little cheap, partly because it is surely Britain which is the world capital of proud anti-intellectualism. Contra Chirac, here’s nothing inherently ‘Anglo-Saxon’ about neo-liberalism (just as there is nothing inherently ‘European’ about Statist protectionism); if there is an Anglo-Saxon sensibility, though, it is manifest in the disdain for theory, an empiricist distrust of any discourse not conducted in the language of ‘plain speaking common-sense’.
What marks this out as definitively petit-bourgeois is not the ignorance itself, but the will to ignorance. Of course, Mark’s piece is perfectly clear; almost certainly the sneerocrats are well aware of the meaning of a ‘Barthesian mytheme’. The point, though, is they have to pretend that they don’t. The comment, ‘By ‘eck we never ‘ad those in Bolton when I were a lass’ is especially revealing. The – parodied but identified-with voice is that of a working class Other, the Other who does not know. It is is this – defiantly ignorant – Other who is the figure to whom anti-intellectual derision must appeal. Needless to say, this Other is the product of anti-intellectual discourse, the fantasy figure around which it is structured.
The ruling class project – in pop cultural terms, you can see it at work in Mclaren’s treatment of John Lydon in the 70s, and in Endemol’s manipulated image of the working class as drunk idiots on Big Brother now – has always been to flatten out the working class into thoughtless, bovine zombies, whose uneducated ‘authenticity’ and ‘honesty’ are to be both feared and revered. There is no doubt that Blairism has continued and exacerbated the Thatcherite trend towards destruction of working class intelligence, although in truth the saddening decline in the number of working class libraries and institutions of self-education preceded both Blair and Thatcher. Yes, anti-intellectualism is to be found in those members of the working class complicit in their own oppression, but the only class interests it serves are those of the bourgeoisie.
‘Do people really talk like that, even in Islington?’
Well, I couldn’t speak for people in Islington – surely Blairite apologists for the existing order could tell us more about that? – but yes, yes, there are those of who really, really talk like that. And, you know what, we regard it as an achievement, too. But then again, we weren’t given an expensive private education, I suppose.
(By the way, I should have thought that even anti-intellectuals would be able to punctuate properly. ‘its getting ridiculous now?’. That would be ‘it’s’.)
UPDATE: This looks like it is going to be the perfect antidote for pro-Bombing smugonautics.