There’s a lot of damning remarks in this sting video of two NPR execs speaking with two undercover reporters posing as Muslim donors. Politically, possibly the worst thing right now is the statement that NPR would be “better off” without federal funding in the long run, and that losing its federal funding now wouldn’t hurt that badly.
But what really made my blood boil more comes about 4 minutes into the video. Ron Schiller, President of the NPR Foundation, laments how anti-intellectual conservatives are and how one of the things he is “most-disturbed by” is how the educated elite is “too small a percentage of the population.”
Go five minutes in, where we learn that universities are liberal “because it’s intellectual.”
The irony, and frankly, hypocrisy here is astounding. I am a closet-intellectual snob. I admit it. But I realize I would betray the intellectual values of reason and rationality that I hold if I succumbed to my own biases on the superiority of the “elite.” Since Plato, philosophers and other thinkers have dreamed of the epistocracy — the rule of the knowing. It’s been resisted because it sits poorly with liberal democratic values to suggest that people deserve to be free yet, because they lack the formal education of some, they are less useful as participants in the state project.
Democratic institutions are difficult. They are fraught with episodes of outsized influence and disagreement even over principles that are to be used in settling disputes. These are legitimate worries. But the institution itself is dynamic — opinion shifts and alters. It’s up to those who believe they have the answers to lead the majority. As Hayek said, advance consists of the few convincing the many. If this is the charge of those who believe they truly know best, then Mr. Schiller is less impressive than he thinks himself and his fellow elites to be.