Jewish World Review Jan. 6, 2011 1 Shevat, 5771
The New Sophists
By Victor Davis Hanson
We are living in a new age of sophism -- but without a modern equivalent of Socrates to remind the public just how silly our highly credentialed and privileged new rhetoricians can often sound.
In response to these unexpected symptoms of blizzards and deluges, climate physicians offer changing diagnoses. "Global change" has superseded "global warming." After these radically cold winters, the next replacement appears to be "climate chaos." Yet if next December is neither too hot nor too cold, expect to hear about the doldrum dangers of "climate calm."
In 2009, brilliant economists in the Obama administration --
There is also a new generation of young, sophistic bloggers who offer their wisdom from the
One constant here is equating wisdom with a certificate of graduation from a prestigious school. If, in the fashion of the sophist Protagoras, one writes that record cold proves record heat, or that record borrowing and printing money will create jobs and sustained economic growth, or that a 223-year-old Constitution is 100 years old and largely irrelevant, then credibility can be claimed only in the title or the credentials -- but not the logic -- of the writer.
America is huge and diverse, but the world of our credentialed experts is quite small, warped and monotonous -- circumscribed largely by the prestigious university and an office in the incestuous
In classical sophistic fashion, rhetoric is never far from personal profit. Multimillionaire Al Gore convinced the governments of the Western world that they were facing a global-warming Armageddon, then hired out his services to address the hysteria that he helped create.
How many climate Cassandras have well-funded research positions predicated on grants and subsidies that depend on convincing the pubic and government of impending disasters that they then can be hired to monitor and address? Are there no green antitrust laws? In contrast, how many of our climate theorists run irrigated farms and energy-intensive businesses at the mercy of new regulations that emanate from distant theorizing?
The public might have better believed the deficit nostrums of former budget director Peter Orzag had he not retired after less than two years on the job to position himself for a multimillion-dollar billet at
Are we to wonder why an angry, grassroots
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Victor Davis Hanson, a classicist and military historian, is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution and a recipient of the 2007 National Humanities Medal. Comment by clicking here.
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