Friday, February 24, 2006
Intellectuals and the Masses
The long-term reader here will know that our usual theme is not one of posting grotesque photographs of Mohammed but of examining closely the history of why we have arrived today at the social and political conclusions we take as given and normal; and that we trace those opinions, the history ideas of the right and good of multiculturalism, of welfare and state corporatism, of what we reduce to Left dhimmi fascism, as our main emphases.
Over the course of this blog we've looked at the modern Western intelligentsia as a corrupt and disgusting lot who, from at least the time of Plato have written of the "masses" as sub-human, as incapable creatures who must be controlled by the elites. In essay after essay we've looked at the history of this elitist fascism. Chronologically, our most recent looks at this idea has been Julian Benda's Treason of the Intellectuals, written in the 1920s, at the gnostic fascism of the proto-Nazis of the 19th to mid 20th centuries, and at the French "postmodernist" Left dhimmi fascist neo-feudalists of our time. Folks, it's not alway fun reading this blog. This installment, however, deals with the same theme in the form of three very short book reviews from amazon books. I've just acquired a copy of the book under discussion, and the reviews that follow should give at least as good an account for you as I will give when I finish it.
This topic is essential for us to understand if we are to effectively deal with our social decay and the creeping rot that destroys our democracies. Our elites, our political leaders, our clergy, university professors, school teachers, the media morons, all of these people are the very kinds of personalities we'll see in the discussions below. I'll follow as time allows when I finish my reading.
PARTHO ROY (Tampa, Florida USA) - See all my reviews
Strange to think that a well-chaired professor at Oxford, that ancient bastion of academic elitism (still, despite the sun setting on its hallowed but crumbling halls), would have so much criticism to level against the dawn of modern intelligentsia. But upon reading the first part of this concise and well-documented book, it became clear to me just how rotten at heart our intellectual heroes truly were. Carey finds a wealth of unnerving evidence that the great figures (self-appointed "greats," as this book shows us) of the modern literary canon festered with hatred of the common man, so much that they advocated (oftentimes straightforwardly) wiping out all of humanity. Moreso, the various case studies in the book's second part uncover further details about just how much these great writers loathed the "masses," and the strange, selfish reasons behind their disdain.
This is an excellent read for anyone struggling through "Ulysses," "To the Lighthouse," or even "The Wasteland." Carey's thorough research and well-argued points shed much-needed light on the dark side of our past century's most celebrated authors: why they wrote in such an unreachable voice, why they crafted their themes to be so alien to most people, why they lived where they did, and (most importantly) how much worthier they took themselves as human beings. I did groan a bit during the final chapter, which was about Wyndham Lewis and Hitler. Dropping the "H-bomb" can make anything seem evil and was therefore too easy a potshot for Carey to take at the intellectuals. Also, the two back-to-back case studies on H. G. Wells were somewhat redundant; Carey would have done better to write two case studies on two separate writers. Still, this book gives the reader an exciting, enlightening, and shocking view at the world of the intellectuals between 1880 and 1939 (and, in the Postscript, a look at similar currents in today's postmodern world), and I highly recommend it to any fan of modern literature who is not afraid to explore the ugly side of the great writers.
The Writer As Totalitarian Snob, January 30, 2003
Reviewer: R. W. Rasband
John Carey's "The Intellectuals and the Masses" is an eye-opening account of the fear and loathing many English writers had for ordinary people during the early days of Modernism. The intellectuals of the time hated and feared the growing power of the newly expanding middle class. Many famous and prominent writers came to dislike democracy and capitalism, because they thought they were losing influence. Carey theorizes that Modernism was invented in order to shut out the common reader of the day; to prove the elite's superiority and to put the upstarts in their places. Wyndham Lewis, a man with an amoral personal life, worshipped Hitler. D.H. Lawrence noted the efficiency of poison gas and imagined a large execution chamber where all the stupid people could be killed. Virginia Woolf sneered at the banality of the conversations she overheard from the women in the lavatory. The Bloomsbury set was especially guilty of the worst class-consciousness.
Some writers did battle with their impulses and the intellectual fashions of those years. George Orwell wrote with a minimum on condescension about "the proles" in his early novels and "1984." H.G. Wells seemed to advocate mass extermination of his inferiors in his non-fiction, but in his fiction his imaginative sympathies were usually with the failures and "losers" of the world. James Joyce's masterpiece was "Ulysses", a tribute of sorts to the common man (although written in a Modernist style that made it impossible for the common man to read it.) But on the whole the snobbery of most of the intellectuals of the day was unforgivable.
This book is an excellent companion to Modris Eksteins' "Rites of Spring" his cultural history of World War I. Both books argue that Modernism was in part responsible for the horrors of the 20th century, with its ruthless elitism and emotional coldness. Shaw, Pound and Forster dreamed of ridding the world of "superfluous" people; did this make it possible for Hitler and Stalin to actually attempt it? The necessary ideas were in the air. And they still are. Carey notes that, as the masses began to catch up in sophistication, post-modernism and literary theory was invented to create a new elite artistic language for its aristocratic initiates to revel in. The Modernist loathing for the mass media of newspapers was replaced by hatred of television and America, the middle-class nation par excellence. (And I would add, they really hate the Internet.) If you want to know why so many celebrities seem so sour and cynical about everything but themselves, read this book.
Intellectual hatchet-job., June 21, 2000
Reviewer: A reader
When I adjudicated secondary-school debating competitions, there was always one dependable red flag that signalled a crumbling argument: the comparison with Hitler. Hitler was the teenager's favourite: if you could infect your opponent's argument with just a touch of Hitlerism, the crowd was instantly on your side and your opponent now had to climb a mountain of odium to win them back. The biggest and most facile cliche was always the favourite amongst the weak speakers for knocking down an argument with one brute blow. All that was required to make it work was the unthinking presence of a large crowd.
With this in mind, it is disturbing to discover that an Oxford Professor of Literature is able to do no better. Carey has written an entire book that appeals to the masses (for its dishonest nature similarly requires an unthinking audience for its success). It confirms from on high the masses' most vulgar stereotypes about some of our most well-respected intellectuals and writers: their snobbery, elitism, wilful esoterica and even their supposed personal problems. Given this fact, it's no surprise that a comparison with the lowest common denominator of villains crops up - yes, Hitler.
The most objectionable aspect of the book is that instead of examining the validity of the selected writers' ideas on their own merit, Carey focuses mainly on their personal shortcomings. In attempting to appeal to a not especially bright readership, Carey certainly knows what he's doing: after all, once you are made to think that Nietzsche was resentful and unfulfilled, that H.G. Wells had sexual problems, that Virginia Woolf was annoyed by bland banter because she was approaching madness, and that Wyndham Lewis had similar thoughts about art and culture to Hitler, it's difficult to warm to their ideas, whether right or wrong. The chapter on Lewis and Hitler is particularly funny since on the basis of the incidental similarities Carey finds between the two, thousands of other writers could be accused of Nazism.Why would an academic take on such a mission? Why write an entire book deliberately quoting the top writers out of context and classifying them as maladjusted fools? Why stoop to such such low-bred ad hominem attacks? If the Professor feels that literature suffers from a lack of popular appeal, demonising some of its finest luminaries is hardly going to help.
If any of this has been of interest to you and if you wish to know more of what our focus is here we suggest a google search of our title and such names and words as benda, plato, darre, gnosticism, neo-feudalism, left dhimmi fascism. There are roughly 30o essays in the archives here on this topic alone. Some of it might be interesting to the dedicated reader. I hope so.