The infrastructure of manufactured intelligence has become a truly impressive thing. Today as never before there is an industry dedicated, not to educating people, but to making them feel smart. From paradigm shifting TED talks by thought leaders and documentaries by change agents that promise to transform your view of the world, manufactured intelligence has become its own culture.
We all know that George W. Bush was a moron. And we all know that Obama is a genius. We have been told by Valerie Jarrett, by his media lapdogs and even by the great man himself that he is just too smart to do his job. And it’s reasonable that a genius would be bored by the tedious tasks involved in running the most powerful nation on earth.
But what is “smart” anyway? What makes Obama a genius? It’s not his IQ. It’s probably not his grades or we would have seen them already. It’s that like so many of the thought leaders and TED talkers, he makes his supporters feel smart. The perception of intelligence is really a reflection.
Smart once used to be an unreachable quality. Einstein was proclaimed a genius, because it was said that no one understood his theories. Those were undemocratic times when it was assumed that the eggheads playing with the atom had to be a lot smarter than us or we were in big trouble.
Intelligence has since been democratized. Smart has been redistributed. Anyone can get an A for effort. And the impulse of manufactured intelligence is not smart people, but people who make us feel smart.
Self-esteem is the new intelligence. Obama’s intelligence was manufactured by pandering to the biases and tastes of his supporters. The more he shared their biases and tastes, the smarter he seemed to be, and the smarter they felt by having so much in common with such a smart man.
Intelligence to a modern liberal isn’t depth, it’s appearance. It isn’t even an intellectual quality, but a spiritual quality. Compassionate people who care about others are always “smarter”, no matter how stupid they might be, because they care about the world around them.
Obama and his audience mistake their orgy of mutual flattery for intelligence and depth. Like a trendy restaurant whose patrons know that they have good taste because they patronize it, his supporters know that they are smart because they support a smart man and Obama knows he is smart because so many smart people support him.
The thought never rises within this bubble of manufactured intelligence that all of them might really be idiots who have convinced themselves that they are geniuses because they read the right books (or pretend to read them), watch the right movies and shows (or pretend to) and have the right values (or pretend to).
The supreme duty of the modern liberal intellectual is not to be smart, but to make others feel smart. Genuine intelligence is threatening. Manufactured intelligence is soothing. And those intellectually superior progressives who need to believe that Obama is smart in order to believe that they are smart cannot stop believing in his brains without confronting the illusion of their own intelligence.
Manufactured intelligence is a consensus, not a debate. It’s not arrived at through a process, but flopped into like a warm soothing bath of nothingness. It’s correct because everyone says so. Real intelligence is the product of constant debate. It is not easy or simple. It is a collision, not a consensus.
Manufactured intelligence is self-involved. It mistakes feeling for thinking. It deals not with how things are or even how we would like them to be, but how we feel about the way things are and what our feelings about the way things are say about what kind of people we are.
Liberal intelligence is largely concerned with the latter. It is a self-esteem project for mediocre elites.
Perpetual self-involvement isn’t intelligence regardless of how many of the linguistic tricks of memoir fiction it borrows to endow its liberal self-help section with the appearance of nobility.
Liberalism isn’t really about making the world a better place. It’s about reassuring the elites that they are good people for wanting to rule over it.
That is why Obama received the Nobel Peace Prize for having good intentions. His actual foreign policy mattered less than the appearance of a new transformative foreign policy based on speeches. Gore promised to be be harsher on Saddam than Bush, but no one remembers that because everyone in the bubble knows that the Iraq War was stupid… and only conservatives do stupid things.
Liberal intelligence exists on the illusion of its self-worth. The magical thinking that guides it in every other area from economics to diplomacy also convinces it that if it believes it is smart, that it will be. The impenetrable liberal consensus in every area is based on this delusion of intelligence. Every policy is right because it’s smart and it’s smart because it’s progressive and it’s progressive because smart progressives say that it is.
Progressives manufacture the consensus of their own intelligence and insist that it proves them right.
[Editor’s note: this article first appeared at Sultan Knish.]