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Far worse than intellectuals' flawed personal views is their ability to influence many

Reader comment on item: The Folly of the Intellectuals

Submitted by Mehul Kamdar (United States), Aug 16, 2020 at 15:26

In agreeing with you entirely, Dr Pipes, I would like to say how frightened I am by "intellectuals'" ability to influence people vastly beyond their immediate circles, and deleteriously when the "intellectual" opinion is directed against an individual or community. At my alma mater, the University of Chicago, we recently had a horrific incident when a respectable Professor of Economics, Dr Harald Uhlig, posted on Twitter that defunding the police was not a good idea, and that cities ought to consider better training instead. He was immediately pilloried by Paul Krugman in the New York Times, leading to students boycotting his classes, and a spineless display of cowardice by President Robert Zimmer (Dr Zimmer had been attacked in "The Crimson" a couple of years ago when a barely articulate student found out that he once contributed a few dollars to a Republican politician's campaign, and I was among a tiny number of alumni to defend him, but that is just a footnote here) when he caved to the entirely concocted controversy over Prof Uhlig's remarks. With his ability to wield the loud New York Times megaphone, Prof Krugman was able to demonize and slime a fellow academician for an entirely innocent opinion, all but calling for him to be hanged, drawn, and quartered. I wrote to Prof Uhlig and to Dr Zimmer, and while I did hear back from Prof Uhlig, there were crickets at Dr Zimmer's end. I am not sure whether this silence was swayed by agreement with Prof Krugman's intention to diabolize someone in order to promote himself (he subsequently became the university's Chancellor) or whether it was cowardice, but it was horrific to see an entire cabal of academics at a university that once boasted of giants like Milton Friedman and Ronald Coase join an outsider to bully an entirely innocent man who was one of their own!

Live, as we do, at a time when some "intellectuals" work hard to find "moral" justification for looting, thievery, arson and rioting aided by unscrupulous politicians and media, it is scary how this might lead to violence against innocent people whom these "intellectuals" decide to scapegoat, just like Paul Krugman did Harald Uhlig. Martin Niemoeller's "When they came" piece has been repeated ad nauseum, ad infinitum to where it might be considered a cliche', but if there was a more appropriate warning to heed these days, I don't know what it is. Thank you for a most timely and necessary article as always.

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