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As Everyone Knows...

I suspect that anybody who reads my entries regularly can guess that I like to poke around in places of intellectual high-hattery. Sites or publications with "New York", "Journal of", "Review of", and other telltale hoity-toitiness in their title are where I go to find something stimulating to wake me up in the morning.

The problem is that intellectuals can be complete idiots. :-`

My pet theory is that they've spent their whole lives being told, and telling themselves, that they're so smart because they can take tests well and have a pentasyllabic vocabulary [1], that they just sort of take it as read that any idea they have must be a good one, because how could such a smartypants come up with a stupid idea?

This is particularly bad in the realm of politics. My experience suggests that, politically speaking, the more one fits in with the intellectual set, the more likely their politics are to be an irrational collection of unchallenged assumptions, half-baked ideas, and inherited prejudices -- all held up as being not only correct, but enlightened and superior to the kind of stuff believed by everyday bumpkins.

Anyway, what's got me rambling on this particular subject this morning is that over the past few weeks, I keep coming upon more and more articles, usually of a political bent, that start with the phrase "As everyone knows..."

Such as, "As everyone knows, global warming will kill us all in less than a year," or "As everyone knows, more baby ducks have been killed in Iraq than have ever lived," or "As everyone knows, the Republicans are going to be swept out of power in the next election and dissipate forever shortly thereafter."

This irks the heck out of me. First of all, it's intellectually dishonest at best. When someone says to me, "as everyone knows," my immediate reaction is "O RLY? I bet that without breaking much of a sweat I could find you at least five people who 'know' the exact opposite, smart guy!" "As everyone knows" --as far as I can tell, anyhow-- is shorthand for "only Undesirable Nonpersons would dare question this assumption, and you don't want to be one of those do you?" Evidence? Who needs it? "Everyone knows" the assertion is true, after all. What are you, a bumpkin?

This is not a phenomenon unique to the left by any stretch, but because of my own particular interests and haunts it's lefties that I usually encounter doing it. That also irks me to no end, because by their own assertion of intellectual rigor and general not-bumpkinitude, they should know better. They should recognize "As everyone knows" for the rhetorical sneer it is and spurn it like you'd spurn a painful skin disease.

But, as I have commented before, politics make people stoopid. Find something generally considered beyond the pale (nun-beating or hamster-tossing, let's say) -- and those who practice it will be given a complete pass by half the population based on whether they have (R) or (D) after their name. Take the exact same behavior, flip the (R) or (D), and they'll be given a pass by the other half instead. It's crazy!

"As everyone knows"! Harumph!

-The Gneech

[1] Nice one, eh? I made it up myself!

Comments

( 19 comments — Leave a comment )
mg4h
Sep. 17th, 2007 02:34 pm (UTC)
GIP.
the_gneech
Sep. 17th, 2007 02:53 pm (UTC)
It's not totally gratuitous -- the icon fits the gist.

Although I notice it pokes on "in my experience," a phrase which I use with particular care in re: its meaning! ;P

-The Gneech
mg4h
Sep. 17th, 2007 03:12 pm (UTC)
Depends on the denotation and connotation I was going for. It was indeed a "free" post, a gratuity if you want, and it was pretty spontaneous - I already had the icon saved, and it was the perfect answer to your post.

;)

You're not trying to argue semantics with an English major, now are you? *innocent*
the_gneech
Sep. 17th, 2007 03:15 pm (UTC)
Trying to? No. Why, are you? ;)

-The Gneech
laurie_robey
Sep. 17th, 2007 03:16 pm (UTC)
No English major horn-locking, now!
mg4h
Sep. 17th, 2007 03:19 pm (UTC)
Awww, but it's FUN! I don't have anyone here to argue semantics with, except for one geek who always goes by denotation and never lets me argue over the various connotations words get :)

Don't worry, I won't drive him *too* nuts. Promise.
jordan179
Sep. 17th, 2007 03:44 pm (UTC)
"In my experience" would be simple inductive reasoning, though one might commit the fallacy of Overgeneralization. ("In my experience," says the Hindu whose friends are all Hindus, "nobody eats cheeseburgers. Hence, cheeseburgers cannot be a popular food item.")
walkertxkitty
Sep. 17th, 2007 03:24 pm (UTC)
My pet theory is that they've spent their whole lives being told, and telling themselves, that they're so smart because they can take tests well and have a pentasyllabic vocabulary [1], that they just sort of take it as read that any idea they have must be a good one

Heh...alternately, you could suggest that they spend so much time thinking about high and lofty ideas that they forget that anything of merit has to have practical applications somewhere in the real world.

Your rant reminds me of a field trip I took in college to the think tank down in Los Alamos. Those were the best of the best, true intellectuals, but what a mess! One guy was wandering the halls with a grease pen and no pant, just boxers and a lab coat, muttering as he worked out some sort of equasion on the walls. Most of them looked like younger Einsteins or fashion rejects. It was more like being in an insane asylum than a think tank. Some of them couldn't even tell you what day or what year it was.
jordan179
Sep. 17th, 2007 03:41 pm (UTC)
There is probably a name for the "as everyone knows" fallacy. Argument from Popularity? Or is it a vague version of the Argument from Authority?

Anyway, yeah, it bothers me too.
the_gneech
Sep. 17th, 2007 06:57 pm (UTC)
"Argument from fictional consensus" maybe? ;) It's been way too long since my Philosophy 101 to remember this stuff!

-The Gneech
susandeer
Sep. 17th, 2007 05:02 pm (UTC)
This needs to be in a column in some widely read newspaper.
kelloggs2066
Sep. 17th, 2007 05:21 pm (UTC)
I think everyone knows that...
sirfox
Sep. 17th, 2007 05:42 pm (UTC)
If you want what might be the most accurate dissection of what political language is, and how people dress up innocent words and send them out to walk the streets, check out "thank you for smoking".

The main character is also pure, pure chaotic neutral.
laurie_robey
Sep. 17th, 2007 05:56 pm (UTC)
I'll have to put that on my Netflix list.
oceansedge
Sep. 17th, 2007 07:19 pm (UTC)
that's right up there with using "they say" in an argument - a habit with thankfully my mother broke me of when I was 12.
galadrion
Sep. 17th, 2007 08:10 pm (UTC)
"As everyone knows, the Republicans are going to be swept out of power in the next election and dissipate forever shortly thereafter." *Snicker* I seem to recall hearing this one repeatedly... about the Democrats. I can't help but notice that both pestilences still afflict the body politic...

And as for the argument-phenomenon itself, well, by an odd coincidence, I happened to be rereading "Selfishness: the Unknown Virtue", and one of the essays therein touches on the "only Undesirable Nonpersons would dare question this assumption, and you don't want to be one of those do you?" tactic. (Incidentally, such an "argument" is intimidation, pure and simple, not a valid argument technique at all. It amounts to "You want me to like you, don't you? Well, if you disagree with me, I won't! Nyah, nyah!" To which my reply is, and has been for decades, "Why would I want cheap goods like that at such an overblown price?" Shocks the daylights out of the sort who use the tactic in the first place...)
leoni2
Sep. 17th, 2007 09:25 pm (UTC)
I wonder how they would react to, 'What? You want to like me? Give me a good reason why you would WANT to like me, and I'll give several reasons why you will never like me. Maybe respect me, but not like me. Among which is that I tend to be a pain in your ass.' ;)
kelloggs2066
Sep. 18th, 2007 12:11 pm (UTC)
Kathy, wife of Scott, here.

You should read the story in Slate about the "study" which "proves" that liberals are smarter than conservatives.

the_gneech
Sep. 18th, 2007 01:36 pm (UTC)
Is that the one with flipping of "Yes/No" or whatever it was?

-TG
( 19 comments — Leave a comment )

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