Friday, 4 August 2017

What is an intellectual?

By that question, I don't mean is it someone who is clever, or well read, or who thinks and writes about things that others don't have time for ... No, I mean why are some people described as an 'intellectual', whilst others with similar achievements or attributes are not? Personally I don't know.

Marxists Liked To Interview Each Other ....

However the BBC seems to have definite template for those who should be described by them as being an 'intellectual' and those that aren't. From my minor research into this matter, it appears that they, along with other liberal media organisations have an identikit process to identify intellectuals.

They apparently have to be left leaning liberals, who perhaps have embraced or previously flirted with communism, despite its obvious deep intellectual flaws. If not that, then they should be black or brown, and have written just about anything on, or at least agitated about the evils of white colonialism, and it being the worst of all possible crimes. Particularly if they argue that colonialism is why those ethnic groups have failed so spectacularly since colonialism ended over 50 years ago.

How did I come to this identikit template? Simply by going on the BBC web site and searching for articles with the word 'Intellectual' in them .... I found the following examples, in the first hundred or so of the results, and after ignoring references to intellectual property rights, I have included everyone found:

'North Korea's film actress Song Hye-rim was the daughter of South Korean communist intellectuals who migrated to the North during the Korean War': This makes the connection fairly self evident, by a description of the two as 'intellectuals' who moved to live under communist rule.

Ali Mazrui, was regarded as 'one of Africa's foremost intellectuals' - In this case he got whatever prominence he has writing about and condemning the 'atrocities' committed by white colonial rulers ... perfect 3rd world qualifications to be described as 'one of Africa's foremost intellectuals' apparently.

Hamish Henderson was a poet, soldier, intellectual, activist, songwriter and leading force in the revival of Scottish folk music. Henderson was a socialist and Henderson's work expresses a tension between romantic nationalism and socialist internationalism .... was socialist internationalism relevant after the exposure of Stalinist crimes in the 1950's? - However this delusional belief in socialist internationalism apparently qualifies him as an 'intellectual'.

Alain Finkielkraut is a French philosopher and public intellectual. He is a member of the Academie Francaise (A council of 40 French Greats elected for life). In France his books are best-sellers, but his views about integration and French identity have led to clashes with other intellectuals. His books have explored topics including French colonialism, Jewish identity, the decline of French culture. - All the boxes on the template ticked here - Jewish, French, Colonialism.

Gore Vidal was one of the intellectual greats of the 20th Century, whose writing influenced politics, literature and the culture wars. As a 'public intellectual', Gore Vidal was identified with the liberal politicians, and the progressive social causes of the Democratic Party. - Again, he couldn't miss really, as 'progressive social causes' is shorthand for left-wing.

Doris Lessing was a woman who spoke her mind and who was curious, passionate, and a great intellectual. As well as campaigning against nuclear arms, she was an active opponent of apartheid which led in 1956 to being banned from South Africa and Rhodesia for many years. In the same year, following the Soviet invasion of Hungary, she left the British Communist Party ... Her associations with Communism and her anti-racist activism are reported to be the reasons for the UK secret service interest in her.

A 2010 BBC radio documentary listed Doris Lessing and several other prominent British writers as Vladimir Lenin's "useful idiots"; a 2014 article in The Zimbabwean quoted her admission of naivete when she discovered that Soviet News Agency TASS had edited articles that she wrote for them during the pre-independence era. - She is perhaps the uber intellectual stereo-type. She was a Communist, then split from them. Was a Anti-Apartheid campaigner, and was used as a Soviet propaganda stooge, and Anti-nuclear campaigner.

Are There Any Truly Working Class Intellectuals?

Now I accept that this is not a scientific study or analysis ... perhaps because I am not intellectual material, but it is a good indicator of who gets the soubriquet of 'intellectual' in the BBC world. As you can clearly see, all those listed were/are 'socialists', 'communists', or had anti-colonialist credentials. None was from the right of the political spectrum .... apparently there is simply no one on the right who qualifies as an intellectual in the BBC sub editors world.

So perhaps the American right is correct to despise the term 'intellectual' as being little more that shorthand for 'socialist' .... still, as I am obviously not even close to being an intellectual, I can happily state that I don't know why only left-wingers are described as 'intellectuals'.

George Orwell Knew His Intellectuals And Swords

However I know that George Orwell (who was no intellectual slouch himself), proffered the opinion that ‘England is perhaps the only great country whose intellectuals are ashamed of their own nationality. In Left-wing circles it is always felt there is something slightly disgraceful in being an Englishman and that it is a duty to snigger at every British institution.’ ... and as a democratic socialist who fought in the Spanish civil War for the Workers' Party of Marxist Unification, he certainly knew all the leading socialist 'intellectuals' of his era, and he clearly also labels them as 'Left-wing'.

I have searched the web, and I am not of course the only one to have questioned this strange ownership of the word 'intellectual' by the British Left .... The Spectator offers this viewpoint. The Libcom Org offers this point. But others have also wondered about this: The Spiked web site posted on it, and even The Daily Mail Newspaper has picked it up a couple of times.

Still it has to be admitted that its a very strange phenomenon, and one that the BBC have happily accepted as being an eternal truth. So it leaves us with the questions:

Are we of the right simply stupid by definition? Or perhaps, do you only move to the political right, because you are already intellectually stupid?


  1. Not being an intellectual myself, my humble opinion of this use of the word is that to be on the right requires little thought, it is the status quo which rests on our human instincts of self preservation, self interest and greed.
    To consider another way and contemplate a social system which doesn't rely on our common denominators is viewed as an effort of thought, ie. intellectual.

    1. An easy observation to make, but in a West where its generally been a left leaning view of society that prevails (at least in Europe), one that can easily be challenged.

      Socialist thought or its bedfellow political correctness hold sway on:

      (a) Healthcare provision.
      (b) Immigration policies.
      (c) Race (Multiculturalism).
      (d) Asylum.
      (e) Welfare Benefits.
      (f) Law and Order.

      So how can right thinking intellectual thought be for the status quo?

      After all the current status quo represents 80 - 100 years of neo-liberalism social policies, all being implemented with no regard for their success or failure?

      I submit therefore that intellectualism i.e considering another way can only come from the right, and its the left and its lazy thinking, who are defending the status quo.


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