Introducing the Carnival of Elitist Bastards

Some folks are much better writers than I am. Most folks are better drivers. And nearly everyone is a better singer. Naturally, all those folks are elitist bastards — so far as I’m concerned. I recommend you don’t trust them.

I might sound crazy, but I’m actually just going with the flow. Isn’t it popular to revile elites? When, recently, Clinton proposed a gas tax holiday, nearly every economist who spoke up condemned her plan. She dismissed them all as “elites”. A whole lot of voters applauded her for that.

An “elite” is one of the worse names you can call an American these days. It’s a word that, like communist or fascist, conjures up a visceral reaction. Yet, not all elites are loathed.

The elite entertainer, the elite football player, the elite preacher, the elite talk show host, and even the elite politician still have their worshipers. Those folks have somehow managed to escape the loathing that is largely reserved for certain kinds of elites. Most notably, scientists and intellectuals.

Scientists and intellectuals are increasingly becoming marginalized in American society. It is that elite that is besieged. That elite that is loathed, distrusted, ridiculed and scorned.

For instance, the overwhelming consensus among people working in the evolutionary sciences is that evolution is a fact, and that evolutionary theory is the best explanation we currently have for the origin and diversity of life forms. Yet, fully half of the American public rejects evolution. If 50,000 out of 50,200 plumbers asserted that water flows downhill, the public would listen. But not if 50,000 out of 50,200 evolutionary scientists say evolution is a fact.

Again, when George Bush, Dick Cheney, and Donald Rumsfeld took this country to war in Iraq, neither Bush nor Cheney nor Rumsfeld showed even the least respect for the government experts and advisers who attempted to tell them their plans were flawed and unworkable.

Worse, after we won the first round, they filled the American positions in Iraq with party hacks — many in their twenties — who had neither expertise in nation building, nor in Middle Eastern affairs, nor in the judiciary, nor in law enforcement — nor expertise in any role that mattered. It was as if the senior leadership of America actually believed the juvenile fantasy that knowledge, experience and wisdom count for less than fervent hopes and raw enthusiasm in bringing about a desired outcome.

Everywhere you turn in America these days you can find alarming examples of the people’s rejection of expertise. Some days, I suspect the only knowledge that’s still respected in America is the knowledge of how to make bombs and money.

Well then, maybe Dana Hunter is onto something. She’s the snarky blogger of En Tequila Es Verdad, and she’s launching a carnival to combat the growing movement to distort, reject and belittle the hard-won knowledge of society’s scientists and intellectuals. The Carnival of Elitist Bastards.

Her battle cry seems to be, “it’s time we stopped celebrating willful ignorance and start promoting genius instead.” Which is a painfully long battle cry to scream at the top of your lungs. But whatever. She’s come up with a great idea, and I think you and the rest of us should consider participating in it. The fact is, we are all in this society together, and no society that marginalizes it’s intellectual and scientific elites can hope to long retain its quality of life.

Adlai Stevenson was once called an “egghead” by a supporter of Dwight Eisenhower. Stevenson replied, “Eggheads unite! You have nothing to loose but your yolks!” Hunter has taken that line, shortened it, and slapped it on a badge for her carnival. I don’t know of anyone these days who considers themselves an egghead, but maybe those of us who don’t want to see willful ignorance plunge us into yet another war, who don’t want to see creationism taught as a science in the public schools, who don’t want to see our quality of life diminished — maybe we should unite.

Please give serious thought to writing an article or two for Dana Hunter’s carnival. And, if you’re inclined, please help get the word out by mentioning the upcoming carnival on your blogs. Thanks!

For those who prefer Christopher Hitchens, there’s this:

And for Noam Chomsky fans:

Of course, there’s always Norman Borlaug:

And who could forget Richard Dawkins:

More badges at Carnival of the Elitist Bastards

Related Essays:

Bill Henson’s Nudes and the Attack on the Intelligentsia

Is this How Artistic, Scientific and Intellectual Elites can become Good People?

33 thoughts on “Introducing the Carnival of Elitist Bastards

  1. Now that’s an announcement … no, a pronouncement. Thanks, Paul.

    Who would have imagined that the elite thinkers of our race would be so thoroughly despised by those who stand to benefit most? Apparently these elites ask too much of the boorish and fearful mind. These minds want only to be entertained and to worship. The elites they hate are the ones which would have them change their minds.

    Well, like Dana has been saying, this is no time to give-in. We’ll drag them kicking and screaming to the precipice and then by god we’ll kick them off. And that’s how we’ll save them.

    Contraria contrariis curantur.


  2. Welcome to the blog, Matt!

    I think it would be bad for society if scientists and intellectuals ever came to be worshiped like some preachers and politicians are. But they should at least be respected. It’s suicidal of any society to scorn its intellectual and scientific elite.


  3. Paul, those tags look great! One suggestion on the Hitch tag … can you get the text to line-up and center as well and capitalize the main words as you did for the Stevenson tag? Maybe put “of the Elitist” on one line like you did for Stevenson?


  4. Brilliant! I love them!

    And I love this article! I only wish this weren’t true: “Some days, I suspect the only knowledge that’s still respected in America is the knowledge of how to make bombs and money.”

    Well, we’re going to change a few minds. Eggheads, Unite!


  5. The word elite is a bad word in India as we have a socialist tradition. I think all those people who revile elites are hypocrites. The only way that someone who is “elite” would become a person someone to be despised is if he/she is arrogant and supercilious and we have such people distributed equally between “elites” and “non-elites.”
    The problem is that people who prefer dogma to science and knowledge usually distrust those who espouse knowledge. I think it gives them an inferiority complex to some extent.


  6. @ Paul:

    The use of the word ‘elite’ in the 3 or so posts reminds me of an Indian experience.

    One of the cities that I lived in had a cinema hall called Elite. How did the elite of the city pronounce the name? Yep, you could never guess – “E light”.

    Anyway – if elitists are to unite proudly, why must they agree to be referred to as ‘bastards’? It is not their right to _choose_ to be called bastards. It is a judgemental if somewhat anachronistic slur on their mothers and possibly fathers.

    Could the carnival not be called just the “Carnival of Elitists”? Just a thought.


  7. Nita – ‘elite’ is a bad word pretty much everywhere. That’s rather the point of using it here! The word is used to shut up any expert who says you’re wrong. It’s a form of anti-intellectual bullying.

    In the US election, Clinton was dismissing the (almost universal) opinion of US economists that her “gas tax holiday” policy was a bad idea as ‘elite opinion’
    -rather than what it was, which was the opinion of a very large group of experts.

    As with gays adopting words like “fag”, and some atheists with “baby-eating”, one way to defang your opponents when they use a bad word is to adopt the label. So if you want to fight anti-intellectual rhetoric, “Elitist Bastards” sounds like a good label to me.


  8. Enfrique: you’re so right! Thankees for the excellent defense.

    @Shefaly: in a word, no. If you need a longer explanation, drop by my place. Bring a sense of humor and an open mind, my dear, and hopefully you’ll have a much happier view of things.


  9. As a moron, if we start celebrating in intelligence then I’d feel bad about myself. I can’t have that. Nothing’s more important to me than my self-esteem.


  10. There are many reasons why folk tag people with the word “elitist”. The one I notice coming to the fore more and more in N America is that they don’t want people to expect reasoned debate.
    A lot of the media and politicians spend a lot of time admiring the emperor’s new clothes. They don’t like it when some one points out he isn’t wearing any.
    Truisms and fads are the new reality, and you are so right Leroy, the only thing that matters is feeling good.
    Reasonable debate and evidence are a hindrance and our leaders and commentators need us to be stupid so we’ll fall for their crap. Anybody who doesn’t, needs to be called a name so all the others who don’t like being asked to think can feel better and absolved of any bad feelings. “Oh their elitists.”
    This new level of compliance then allows people to redefine words and use pseudoscience and bald faced lies to operate a regime of denialism against their particular bete noir. (Ooo elitist foreign words there.)
    Examples are many but include, anti-vaccine, anti-climate change, HIV denialists etc. Redefine the argument and allow less rigor in research and accuse those who spend a lifetime learning of being guilty of social loathing, then use a tag to indicate who the real enemy is and you win.
    Keep em dumb, encourage the dumbness and you don’t need to explain things.


  11. Shefaley, and anyone else who is turned off by the use of the word “bastard,” look at it this way: the bastard firstborn child of a king is denied rulership. Thus we elitist “bastards” are claiming our rightful position in society.

    Wonderful idea. keep it up.


  12. I agree that it is common practice to turn labels into weapons against those one disagrees with. Elite isn’t the only such word. Liberal, conservative, fundementalist, socialist, environmentalist…. the list is long. It is so common now days we hardly notice that we are so adept at pigeon holing everyone around us and thereby holding off any reasonable conversation about most anything.

    I’m not guiltless – I have done this as well.

    But appeals to authority is just as bad an argument as labeling and then dismissing someone on the basis of that label. Just because “experts” say something is so, doesn’t mean it is so.


  13. A recent poll of American students said that over 60% could not identify a single scientist that they admired.

    It’s “Chomsky” not “Chompsky.”


  14. Awesome badges! I used the Stevenson one of course, since I live in his home town.

    Apparently it’s “elitist” to tell someone the reality they prefer doesn’t hold water.


  15. Thanks, George! In some cases I think that’s the whole point of charging someone with elitism — to sidestep the issue of whether “one’s reality” holds any water.


  16. Any chance of making any link logo badges with women ? I nominate Grace Hopper. There are some good images here:

    Or you could go for Hannah Arendt, or Simone de Beauvoir, or for a real cranky controversial elitist curmudgeon, Our Germs (Germain Greer). I think she’d make a good complement to Hitchens 🙂


  17. Hi Cath! Welcome to the blog! I’ve posted a couple badges with women on the Carnival of Elitist Bastards blog. Eleanor Roosevelt and Simone de Beauvoir. I plan on making more badges with women as time permits. Those are some candidates you’ve suggested and I will follow up on those if I can find good pics of them in the right size.


  18. Begging to differ…

    It’s suicidal of any society to scorn its intellectual and scientific elite.

    There are reality checks on the scientific elite (creating a fairly strong meritocracy), but intellectuals can succumb to fads which would lead entire societies to suicide.  Need I point out post-modernism as one recent example?  (Post-modernism is also opposed to science, as so deftly demonstrated by Alan Sokal.  When the “intellectuals” and scientists are at war, which side do you join?)

    The public is right to be suspicious of things which are against their interests.  The problem is that the dispassionate seekers after truth are at a disadvantage to the cunning manipulators of opinion.


  19. Hi Engineer-Poet! Welcome to the blog! 🙂

    I’m saddened to say that your points are quite legitimate. That is, I wish it was not the case that intellectuals so often succumb to fads, but I must recognize that a number of them do.

    I don’t think one of the solutions is to scorn intellectuals as a group, however. On the other hand, I am not sure how to solve the problem. Do you have any suggestions?


  20. Solution?  You want me to suggest a solution?!  “Against stupidity the gods themselves struggle in vain.”

    Or as Ashleigh Brilliant quipped, “I don’t have any solution, but I certainly admire the problem.”  I may fit right in with the Elitist Bastards, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t recognize my own limitations.

    On the other hand, a lot of this stuff is hosted in—or perhaps I should say, is a parasite upon—the ivory towers of academia.  If the public universities subjected the efforts of the “literature” (and especially the hyphenated-studies) camps to the rigorous analysis of science and pulled teaching duties from faculty whose product cannot withstand scrutiny without falling apart, at least the taxpayer’s money would stop accelerating the rot.  Perhaps entire colleges within those universities should be closed, and their faculty allowed to seek other employment.  I would nominate several at my own alma mater (elitist bastard that I am).

    On the other hand, I give this about the same odds as the tissue-paper dog chasing the asbestos cat through Hell.


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