Anti-Intellectualism as Infotainment

You’d think that a major university like Rutgers would be largely immune to the anti-intellectualism that plagues U.S. Higher Education. That’s apparently not true as their recent hiring of “Snookie” for a recent speech. She was paid $32.000. (Strangely, for once I agree with the American Council of Trustees and Alumni, which reported the story here.) I think this might signal some sort of benchmark for the class divide in U.S. Up there, of course, money is no issue.

If this were a state funded school, or any non-Ivy league university, I imagine that the outrage would be much louder. I don’t mean the public at large, though, I mean the outrage inside Rutgers. My guess is that the students at the school, all no doubt destined to be our betters, are too completely secure in their superiority to be threatened by mass entertainment. It’s no more (or less) anti-intellectual than Naturalists in late 19th century America visiting freak shows.

It’s bad faith humanism, or domestic Orientalism, as if the literate and materially and socially affluent now feel so distant from the less literate, less affluent that they seem like exotic animals, fascinating examples of other cultures. Something like this must explain why there are now so many “working class” television reality shows, like “Coal” and “Dangerous Catch” and so on. I suppose that earlier shows, like American Chopper and Dirty Jobs were the earliest signs of the trend.

About Ray Watkins

I was born in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, at Our Lady of the Lake Hospital. I grew up in Houston, as a part of what we only half-jokingly call the Cajun Diaspora. At a certain point during the Regan administration, I had to leave, so I served in the Peace Corps, Philippines, from 1987-89. I didn't want to return to the United States just yet, so I moved to Paris, France, where I lived for three years or so. I then moved back to Austin, Texas, where I had received my Masters Degree, and (eventually) began a Ph.D., which I completed in 1999. I spent a year at Temple University and then accepted a position at Eastern Illinois University where I worked until May of 2006. I now work exclusively on line (although that may change) for Johns Hopkins, the Art Institute Online, and I can be reached most easily via email: raywatkins [that 'at' symbol]

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