Over on the esteemed William Briggs’ blog, a guest poster is discussing the glee with which certain people react to an analysis of Trump’s use of language based on the Flesch-Kincaid grade level scale and other similar tests. Seems our president speaks with a fourth grade level vocabulary, by far the lowest grade level of any president. This, of course, cannot mean he’s trying to reach as broad a population as possible – it can only mean he’s stupid. (1)
This brings to mind when I first heard of Obama and saw him speaking. The first thought I had: teacher’s pet. (2) As a kid from a blue collar family, in the first generation to go to college, I am perhaps better attuned than some to seeing that weird phenomenon most especially present in the children of academics: people whose identities are strongly tied to thinking they are smarter than the peons, and yet so insecure that any challenge is seen as a personal attack.
Such folks seem especially prone to becoming teacher’s pets: they don’t have non-academic achievements to be proud of, so they assign great importance to pleasing Teacher. Patted on the head, told how smart they are, admired and envied by their peers, they move through school and eventually life always looking for and leaning on that approval and self-image. They do great in highly-structured careers where there few if any objective measures of success: academics, educators, lawyers, judges, journalists. They are by nature courtesans: their success depends entirely on how well they can ingratiate themselves to Power, and thus their contempt for those who do not care to court power, and viciousness toward those who would undermine it.
Thus, perhaps the most dangerous divide in America is between those who take pride in their own objective achievements, and those for whom the only achievement that counts is how close to power you can get. I’d guess at most 10% of the population is courtesans – I don’t think a population could support more than that. The courtesan and the objectively productive people are mutually unintelligible: the courtesan simple does not believe that the objectively productive person wants to be left alone; the productive person can’t believe anyone could possibly count what amounts to professional ass-kissing as ‘achievement’ worthy of anything but contempt. Yet they both see the result or at least the threat: the Power comes from somewhere. Increase centralized power, and you improve opportunity for courtesans and decrease the world in which productive people can operate, and visa versa.
From the productive’s point of view, he is being dragged into a political fight he’d rather not be in and will abandon as soon as possible. He is Cincinnatus longing to get back to his plow. From the courtesan’s perspective, the political fight is all there is, he would cease to live if it ever stopped.
For a Marxist, everything is political. They are courtesans, ultimately, with the goal of becoming Tyrant. (see: Lenin, Vladimir; Stalin, Josef; and a host of others). This drive is clothed in the sheep’s clothing of Justice, Fairness, History, and other Orwellian euphemisms, but the drive is Power. The useful idiots and whoever loses out when power is gained might as well line up for their personal Night of the Long Knives: the winners cannot allow anyone they may not be able to control in any positions of power, especially if they have the skill set needed to run a successful revolution. (I try not to enjoy the image of all those Antifa soyboys facing blunt reality if they ‘win’, but it amuses me that they think they will have any power or even won’t be culled. Because, you know, they beat the snot out of unarmed people and newspaper vending boxes. I suppose they might make serviceable gulag guards, but – nah.)
The bad news: the fight isn’t going to go away. The insanity and derangement on the Left is understandable in this context: they didn’t just lose an election, their entire reality is under threat! An objectively productive person would shrug, as we all did when Obama won, and look for a chance to win the next election. The courtesan cannot endure any threat to the Power from which and towards which their lives flow. They will fight, and fight dirty and desperately and, even though grossly outnumbered, have shown that they can win. Our main hope is that more and more people are seeing the insanity, and will simply refuse to swallow the rhetoric of the power hungry.
Back to this whole intelligence thing. I have always been baffled by the ‘Obama is a genius’ claim. THAT’s a genius? People need to get out more, especially out of academia, if that’s the idea of genius they hold. I suspect rather that O is a particularly flattering mirror: I am like that man, I think and believe like him. His success is my success, the victory of his ideas validates everything I hold dear!
This whole professor to community organizer to adoption by the Chicago Outfit doesn’t really scream ‘achievement’ or even ‘intelligence’. The Chicago Outfit and the Democratic Party found a man they could use, and did so. The fact remains that the people who owed their jobs to Fred Roti, who owed his job to Bruno The Bomber Roti, chose Obama as their front man. He then brought that team to the White House. The main characteristic of any politician in that environment is that he can be controlled. Intelligence is probably a liability.
I think Obama is a bit over average intelligence. He speaks like someone who has a difficult time structuring even slightly complicated thoughts into words. In any event, you can bet we’d know all about it if he were a 4.0+ student with a 150 IQ, the tribal indicators of smarts in lieu of any actual achievement. But we don’t, which tells you what you want to know.
As I’ve said before, I neither like nor trust Trump. I like few and trust no politicians. I do admire his evident cunning, his shocking interest in keeping his promises and his charming ability to make his enemies heads explode. More often than not, his enemies are my enemies. That doesn’t make him my friend, however. As it stands, if the choice comes down to Trump or those who hate me and wish me dead, well, the choice is pretty clear.
Ultimately, who cares how smart our leaders are, above a certain minimal level? You want to be governed by Samwise Gamgee, not the smartest Hobbit in town, because he doesn’t think he’s got it all figured out and is way smarter than you. He knows he doesn’t know, and embraces his duty to do the right thing to the best of his ability. When you believe the little people need to be lead by the nose by the smart people, of course your head explodes when you lose, and of course you have to believe whoever you lost to is stupid – because ALL THE SMART PEOPLE agree with you. Or, if smart, EEEEEEVIL! Because there are simply no other options. This is called being open minded.
These are interesting times.
- I am reminded in this context of the gaming of the SAT tests once they added a writing section. The test-taking strategists quickly figured out you’d score better the more you wrote regardless of quality. Thus, the Flesch-Kincaid grade level scale and other such test reward verbose, 10-dollar-word laden gibberish and have no way of accounting for how rational or even clear you are.
- I eventually concluded that he was the ideal Fabian Trojan Horse. But I had no opinion on that at the time.