July 28, 2005

Anti-intellectual half-wits

Smugonauts 'strike' back.

Maybe they really don't know what Barthesian Mythemes are. Maybe they really do think that Barthes was a sociologist. (Interesting btw that they consider that being a sociology graduate is intrinsically worthy of derision).

If so, you have to ask: what did they graduate in?

And if they really don't know anything about Barthes, how do they know that his ideas are ridiculous? (Or perhaps what is objected to is the application of abstruse concepts to contemporary media?)

The irony is that this kind of stance - and the implied plain-speaking common man speaking position it affects to come from - are ripe for precisely the kind of analysis that Barthes pioneered in Mythologies. The well-defined anti-intellectual position that has achieved an near-unchallenged consensus in the current British media conforms to a series of strict structural requirements. Rod Liddle's column a couple of weeks ago in the Sunday Times on Marx and philosophy (I can't link to it since the Times only keeps its articles freely available for seven days after publication) was a near-perfect exemplication of all of these. The message is always that the writer knows enough to know that they don't need to know. In other words, they, the sensible and the commonsensical, know what all this stuff is about, but they also know that it is a waste of time. The message is reinforced by lame in-jokes (witness Liddle's bewildering notion that philosophy is all about the ontological status of tables) aimed at reassuring other half-educated half-wits that their time spent in the union bar was better spent than it would have been in the library. Think again....

UPDATE: Infinite Thought has a copy of Liddle's article, so you can all read for yourselves this high watermark of stupidity. (btw: Did people catch Liddle's 'review' of that grubby little play by Toby Young and some other no-mark about the Spectator summer of sleaze? Metrotextual masturbation... 'Hotel maids smile in unison... then you know you must leave the capitol...')

Posted by mark at July 28, 2005 03:08 PM | TrackBack