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The fact that America has the world’s greatest universities, wins so many Nobel Prizes in science, sent men to the moon, and is responsible for most of the technological breakthroughs that have created the modern world is directly connected to the fact that we are, from a European intellectual’s perspective, an anti-intellectual people – which is to say that we’re not interested in endlessly parroting the utopian doctrines of failed and dangerous ideologies; instead, we prefer to live in the real world and to devote our energies to figuring out what works and what doesn’t, and using that practical knowledge to make life better.
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Nowhere in Europe do “intellectuals” have such a high profile as in Norway, where I live. The airwaves are awash in credentialed mediocrities who mouth the same tattered socialist orthodoxies over and over again as if they were saying something new and brilliant. Some days it seems as if every story reported on the evening news contains an on-camera exchange with some professor, usually from the University of Oslo, who is seen sitting in his or her office (a) testifying self-importantly, as if any kind of expertise were required, to the veracity of the most self-evident facts, and/or (b) providing an extra dose of ideological spin to whatever story needs that just that little bit more.
It would make a fine drinking game: each time the Norwegian evening news cuts to a close-up of a professor saying something blindingly obvious or patently ideological, throw back another shot of Jägermeister. (This is an especially good idea for a game because watching the TV news in Norway on a regular basis is enough to drive any cogent individual to the liquor cabinet.)
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For an example of exactly what is required – and not required – of a European intellectual, take a certain professor who is considered Norway’s top “America expert.” This gentleman appears routinely on NRK (Norway’s answer to the BBC), where he’s treated as a sage. A few years back this sage wrote a book about America. It proved to be an astonishing, indeed hilarious, display of colossal ignorance. For instance, he declared with pontifical authority that although Thanksgiving falls on a Thursday, Americans never celebrate it on Thursday – they always celebrate it on the weekend. This piece of misinformation was offered, with the usual condescending sneer, as an example of Americans’ indifference to the real meaning of the holiday, which in turn was meant as yet another illustration of their general lack of intellectual seriousness.
And that’s what makes this fellow a prized America “expert” and a prime example of the European intellectual. He may have his facts wrong, but he’s got the ideology down cold.
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