Saturday, December 21, 2013

Elitist bemoans declining popularity of elitism

The title is perhaps a bit inflammatory, but does pretty well capture the gist.  Highlights:
Schindler has a particular problem, in that he’s taken a strong stand on the Snowden/Greenwald
treason fiasco, a cause near and dear to the hearts of the young. This is a problem because young people are the most ruthlessly opposed to any notion of expertise, largely because they are the segment of the population least likely to have any. These young free-thinkers have made clear to Dr. Schindler that his references to his advanced education and to his many years of experience actually working inside the NSA are just arrogant diversions, because he just doesn’t get it. 
Some of John’s debate partners, of course, are intelligent and well-intentioned people. But some of them are just insecure — and sometimes paranoid — scolds who feel the need to lecture Schindler on how the NSA and the intelligence community really works — that world “really” pops up a lot — and to point him to things he needs to read.


Sometimes, all we are left with is to ask people to take our word on it, a request we’ve earned through experience, research, publication, service, etc. When people ask me why I think Russia has an aggressive foreign policy because, gosh, they don’t see that at all — well, there just isn’t the time or energy to take the questioner through the years of education and experience that I have and they don’t.


Part of this dismissal of expertise is the positive hostility to advanced degrees, an emotion almost entirely centered among people who do not have them. So, sure, some of it is envy, but some of it is based in ignorance about what a PhD means. Too many people, including the hapless folks who foolishly embarked on grad programs they can never finish, think a PhD is just several more years of college. It’s not.
I could go on, but by now you've noticed the Learned Expert's habit of setting up straw men.  No, anger at the NSA's spying program isn't founded in a feeling that it's unconstitutional and damaging to America's economy and security, it's because we disrespect Mr. Schindler's advanced education.  No, we do not question Expert Foreign Policy opinions on Russia because of spectacular failures of past Russian Policy Experts (c.f. the CIA's assessment that the USSR was the world's 3rd largest economy in 1988), it's because we don't appreciate his PhD.  No, we don't question the research from the current Academic Establishment because it has produced oddball policy recommendations regarding Global Warming and Keynesian Economics - it's because we don't even understand what a PhD means.

Oooooh kaaaaaay.

My take is that Tom Nichols is a very smart guy who needs to get out more often.  In particular, he needs to hear more people voicing (legitimate) complaints about the Elite's lack of transparency, accountability, and propensity to game the system in pursuit of tenure and grant funding.


Dave H said...

Jeez, when I say things would be so much better if I ran the world, I'm just kidding. I don't get all butthurt when it doesn't happen.

But then I didn't spend six figures on an education either.

Borepatch said...

Dave, the Internets that you just won will be shipped via UPS Ground. Probably won't get there until after Christmas.

Anonymous said...

Actually, you know what, he's right.

If he doesn't understand that what the NSA has done is a bad, terrible, no good thing, and he backs it up with "because I have a PhD," then I don't respect his PhD. If that PhD has taught him to think that massive invasion of privacy of US citizens across the board and the destruction of global trust of the American IT industry is perfectly fine, then that PhD might be worth the toilet paper in my bathroom... maybe.

Dorsai said...

Nonsense, Oddball, nobody would ever be able to find and exploit the backdoors in American software without Snowden. I can say this with authority because I have a PhD in Russian Studies and no software security credentials whatsoever.

Also, because I know so much Russian history, I know that no citizen ever has any reason to fear their own government.

SiGraybeard said...

Subtitle, "You say 'elitism' like it's a bad thing". Or possibly "Of course I'm elitist; I'm better than you".

Archer said...

On the one hand, you're correct: he is very arrogant, and uses quite a few strawman arguments.

On the other hand, he makes a very good point that one of the pre-requisites to having a meaningful discussion about a topic (ANY topic) is that all participants have a certain base-line level of knowledge and competence in that topic.

As an example, if I told you, BP, that I read a Wikipedia article on computer networking and that you just don't "get" how networking and security REALLY work, you'd probably think I had a pretty high opinion of my limited knowledge, right?

Now, I find his arrogance (and Dr. Schindler's in the comments - wow!) quite grating, but I think he makes a good point about where deep and timely discussions should start - and it's not at the 101 level. It's not unreasonable to expect that people do their homework before weighing in with their opinions (see: any MSM op-ed about "lax gun laws").

Just my $.02.

Borepatch said...

Archer, your point is a good one. But I must say that to date nobody has yet told be that they could better tune their Intrusion Detection Rules because they spent the evening on Wikipedia (ar at Holiday Inn Express). Maybe the good Professor is in the wrong line of work?