Seemingly wrong about virtually everything, the “smart people turn out to be dumb! Why is that?” asked Fox News host Tucker Carlson Thursday evening. The answer, as the pundit admitted at the time, is deep enough so that it cannot be done justice in a five-minute television segment.
The commentator opened his show, Tucker Carlson Tonight, talking about the news of the week: How the release of the Mueller report has further reduced the Trump/Russia/collusion narrative to the stuff of tin-foil-hat haters. He went on to say that the Washington types’ embrace of that narrative is typical of them, “the smartest people in the world,” as Carlson mockingly put it. They’re “wrong about everything,” said he — “the border, Libya, the whole country in 2016” (referring to Trump’s election).
His guest, author J.D. Vance, later cited other “elite” errors, such as believing in the late ’90s that “free trade” with China would make us more prosperous and the Chinese more democratic, in 2003 that Iraq had WMDs, and in 2007 that “our economy was solid and there wasn’t a financial crisis on the horizon.”
Carlson concluded, lamenting about our country, “Dad’s an alcoholic; the family’s out of control — I mean, that’s basically what’s happening.” He had wondered, earlier, if there was something fatally wrong with our system (video below). Actually, though, there’s something wrong with a lot more than that.
Vance’s main explanation for our leadership woes was a point Professor Thomas Sowell made in his book Intellectuals and Society: So-called intellectuals are never held accountable for the destruction wrought by their bad ideas.
If an engineer designs a bridge that quickly collapses, a doctor commits serious malpractice, or someone produces a harmful product, his career will likely be over; sometimes criminal charges may even be brought. But pseudo-elites never face consequences for creating deadly “products” — which in their case are ideas, which often become policy.
Obviously, this is largely because it’s harder to draw an easily perceived, widely accepted association between cause and effect. Oh, no, socialism hasn’t failed, you see; it’s just that the right people haven’t implemented it yet. Or, a bad economy isn’t the fault of our policies; it’s the other side’s obstructionism that’s doing it. That’s the thinking and the nature of the excuses — and there are lots of them.
Another difference is that an incompetent engineer or doctor might not have had ill intent, but that won’t help his cause. Yet partially because what pseudo-elites do is impossible to quantify, they often get by on perceived “good intentions.”
Yet, really, the pseudo-elites aren’t as dumb as Carlson gives them credit for. In many cases many of them know or at least suspect the truth, but benefit from lies.
Consider the Trump/Russia/collusion hoax. I’m always struck by how even conservative media figures consistently neglect to mention that Counterfeit News Network (CNN) figures were caught on hidden camera in 2017 admitting that the Russia story was nonsense. They knew.
The point? If they knew, some other pseudo-elites in and out of the media had to know also. But they were pushing the hoax for ratings and/or political gain.
While Trump’s election really did catch them off guard, and economic downturns are hard to reckon, ulterior motives can explain other “missteps” as well. A lot of pseudo-elites directly made money — or received donations from those who made money — off China trade. The border? Democrats get future votes by facilitating (im)migration, big business gets cheap labor, and the latter’s enablers get political support, monetary and otherwise.
Of course, while people like simple either/or explanations, remember that man’s nature is complex. As with everyone else, pseudo-elites do evil with varying degrees of knowledge; some may know the truth on a given issue but ignore it, others may suspect the truth, while yet others are wholly oblivious. Related to this is that man also has an amazing capacity for rationalization (some today even convince themselves that boys can be girls just by wishing it).
Yet there’s another major reason why leadership is bad. When golfer Tiger Woods won the Masters a week ago, he had to score better than every other competitor. Golfers and other athletes are competent because success in their endeavors is dependent upon exhibiting proficiency in what they’re supposed to be doing.
Statesmen should have knowledge, wisdom, and integrity. But is political success commensurate with the degree to which a candidate possesses those qualities?
Actually, the two have no relationship whatsoever. Instead, candidates succeed based on how telegenic, articulate, slick, charismatic, and skilled at self-promotion and self-marketing they are. Simply put, rewarded is not competency, but demagoguery.
But this isn’t a problem of America or our “system” — it’s an eternal problem of the nature of man. Were things any better in the age of kings when the inheritor of the throne might be decadent or a dunderhead? Was it better when might made right and the most successful warrior took control?
The only difference is that when people can vote, they’re more obviously getting the government they deserve. But to suffer with wanting leaders has always been man’s default — and his fault. For, ultimately, his nature and sin lead to all his troubles, no matter the “system.”
Of course, this problem is mitigated by making sure that we, the people, deserve better. For as Patrick Henry put it, “Bad men cannot make good citizens. It is when a people forget God that tyrants forge their chains.”
Thus, we go wrong with that common rhetorical lament, “Where are all the leaders?” The real question ever and always is: Where are all the followers?
Photo: YouTube video of Tucker Carlson’s program