Google: Search Engines Mark Decline and Fall of the Liberal Intelligencia

Old fashioned baby cartoon by Mickey Paraskevas
Cartoon by Mickey Paraskevas

Why is it that the word “Liberal,” often followed by the word “Elite,” has become something to look down upon? It seems to make no sense. Not long ago, both blue- and white-collar workers with limited education looked up to the Elites. The folks with high IQs, graduate school degrees and a wide knowledge of the world were counted upon to become the leaders of the country. Almost all Supreme Court Justices have been graduates of Harvard or Yale. Lead scientists came from MIT and Berkeley. Business leaders were groomed at the Stanford or Harvard School of Business.

Nobody, particularly the Liberal Elites, seems to know the answer to this question. But I think I have the answer.

It’s Google.

Way back when, a boy or girl of 4 who could name the capitals of all the states in America was considered a child prodigy. There were other kids, maybe age 9 or 10, who could multiply large numbers in their heads. They were also prodigies.

One of the great game shows on television back then was The $64,000 Question. Brilliant people who knew the correct answers to anything you might ask were placed in a soundproof booth with a speaker to hear the question and a microphone to give the answer.

“When was the second battle of Vicksburg during the Civil War and who was the general who directed the Confederate Army? You have 30 seconds.”

Even the stupidest of high school dropouts knows the answer to this question today. You ask Google. Or, if you are really lazy and have an iPhone, you ask Siri.

From this perspective, anyone who has spent a lifetime cramming information into their brain about the ranking of the lions of literature from the first half of the 20th century in best-to-worst order is a laughing stock.

People can get that on Google. Or on Rotten Tomatoes or, well, any number of websites.

A man in a suit and tie is sitting at a desk in a busy TV newsroom. Something just came in.

“A new survey shows that 37% of all illegal aliens are drug addicts and nearly 52% had been convicted of a crime before they left Mexico. This news is sending shockwaves through Washington.”

Back in the day, people would have been thrown out of college for saying this garbage. Today, it’s immediately believed as true. Tell your friends.

So no, the computers are not replacing the liberal elite as the great fount of knowledge. The computers are screwing it up. It could easily send us spiraling down to the ruination of democracy, to be replaced by the wishes of the people who tell the biggest lies. Thus global warming, a scientific fact caused by carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, is not attended to. As our president said after meeting with Al Gore, and I paraphrase, “so the answer is that some people believe it’s real and some people don’t.” Then he pulled out of the Paris Accords.

With the big Dan’s Papers coffee-table book 60 Summers just out, I’ve had the opportunity to look back at all these years since 1960, when I started this publication here in the Hamptons. Something I am struck by is the bizarre and weird behavior of this community’s Liberal Elites. These folks hung out together, drank together, went to parties together, did outrageous things together and generally whooped it up in ways that found their way into our pages.

Allan Kaprow sprayed firefighting foam down the cliffs at Montauk while hip members of the Liberal Elite cheered this “Happening.” George Plimpton tried to set off the world’s largest firework at the dump in Quogue. It was widely covered. But it blew up on the launching pad.

George Plimpton
George Plimpton, Photo: Dan’s Papers Archive

There’s the story in Dan’s Papers I found of probably the most astonishing art opening ever to take place in the Hamptons. It was on a small teardrop-shaped island in Gardiner’s Bay, a few hundred yards wide and about a quarter-mile long. The art was a 30-foot metal sculpture that had been built by several artists.

During the afternoon and evening festivities, a small Piper Cub landed on the beach there, and the visitors enjoyed the party. The island was called Cartwright Shoal, and was and is owned by the very WASPy Gardiner family, who also owned the nearby and much larger Gardiner’s Island with the mansion on it. Nobody asked permission to have this work of art at Cartwright. We just did it.

Jackson Pollock painted in Springs. One year, he appeared in a feature story in LIFE magazine, one of the most popular national magazines of that time. “Is he the greatest living painter in the United States?” the magazine asked. The country celebrated the wild Jackson Pollock who died drunk, driving his car into a tree in the Springs.

Betty Friedan, whose book The Feminine Mystique inspired the Women’s Liberation Movement, lived in Sag Harbor. She organized a series of lectures called “The Sag Harbor Initiative.”

One section of the Hamptons down by the ocean, walled off with hedgerows, was the summer colony of the wealthy WASP community. They had cotillions and birthday parties, tennis matches and coming-out parties. As the wealthy establishment of this country, their exclusive properties were admired from afar and made fun of by the Liberal Elite artists and writers of this area.

The Liberal Elite played an annual softball game on a Saturday afternoon in August. Non-Elites were not invited. This game today, still being played is the Artists & Writers Game, a duel to the death.

Know how the restaurant Rowdy Hall in East Hampton got its name? In the 1890s, a group of young New York avant-garde intellectuals came out to the East End—mostly they were painters—and amidst the farmers and fishermen rented a boarding house, wore funny hats, drank heavily, behaved badly and renamed the boarding house “Rowdy Hall.”

Another example: In the 1920s, the big mansion in the center of Water Mill that many of us remember as Villa Maria also owned the triangle next door, where the town windmill sits today. Local citizens back then persuaded the owners of Villa Maria—a religious order of nuns—to cut off that triangle and give it to the townspeople so they could move a windmill to it. The order agreed to do this and did, but reserved the right to take the property back if any “disorderly” behavior were to take place on that property. That codicil is still in the deed. Why? A year before, part of Villa Maria was rented out to a film actress named Irene Coleman, and her parties that year were legendary.

The point is that Liberal Elites were running wild. And it was permitted and encouraged. These were the leaders of the fields in which they operated. They were crazy, smart, genius.

Last week, I read a news item about a hoax pulled off by three members of academia—Peter Boghossian, an assistant professor of philosophy at Portland State University, James Lindsay, a PhD in mathematics, and Helen Pluckrose, a British scholar of English literature. They decided to write academic papers espousing the results of new scientific studies. They wrote 20 of them, and submitted them to various scientific journals. They had just made it up as they went along. Here’s a quote from a paper on canine sexual misconduct.

“My own anthropocentric frame [makes it difficult to judge animal consent. Still,] dog parks are petri dishes for canine ‘rape culture’… [there is] a call for awareness into the different ways dogs are treated on the basis of their gender and queering behaviors and the emergency this poses to female dogs.” Seven of the 20 pieces got published. A victory for those who hate the Liberal Elite.

Today you could mop the floor with a Liberal Elite. Just Google mops and liberals. It’s right there.

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