The mediocracy blog
QUESTIONS & ANSWERS
Why do you blog?
Largely because mainstream channels of communication – e.g. academic journals, mainstream publishing – appear to be blocked to me. I am pretty certain this is not unrelated to the fact that my point of view is out of line with prevailing ideology.
What do you think of the blogosphere?
There’s a lot of excellent stuff out there. There’s also, it has to be said, a lot of not-so-good stuff. Ditto for the “commentosphere” – often confused with the blogosphere but not the same (most online newspapers have a commentosphere so it’s not unique to blogs). Some of the comments made by web readers are extremely interesting – sometimes more so than the articles they’re responding to – but many are vacuous or pointlessly abusive.
Do you regard yourself as an academic?
Yes, despite my not currently having a paid position. Unfortunately, contemporary academia, perhaps particularly in Britain (the US has a few exceptions to the rule), has abandoned old-fashioned standards in favour of technical pseudo-expertise and ideological correctness.
Does what you blog represent what you’d write as an academic?
No. I don’t see much point in writing for an academic audience on a blog. It’s more like what I’d write for a newspaper, if asked.
You sometimes describe yourself as a philosopher, although you have no postgraduate training in that field.
It probably irritates some people that I do so, but I regard contemporary “training” in philosophy as more of a hindrance than a help in doing the real thing. For one thing, the subject has become far too imbued with the Wittengensteinian perspective that traditional philosophical reflection is a disease which needs to be cured by the modern professional philosopher acting as quasi-psychiatrist.
The Mediocracy book and blog seem to contain a fair amount of political theory.
I have had to think about cultural politics because it has impinged on my life. As a result of mediocratisation, I don’t have the career options I feel I should have, and instead find myself trying to establish, together with others in my position, a private university using capital generated from investment activities. That forces me to think about the ideology behind what is going on.
By “private university” you mean Oxford Forum.
Oxford Forum is currently fairly embryonic. It subsists on a shoestring budget while we build up its capital base by our own efforts, and manages to publish a book every now and then. But yes, the idea is to fund a private research organisation which is free from the need to meet the current ideological requirements of the state. Or the approval of “peers” – a term which in mediocratic academia often means little more than people who have succeeded in satisfying the ideological requirements.
What is “mediocracy”?
Mediocracy is a hypothetical state of society. Informally put, it’s a bit like a cross between communism and The Stepford Wives. I don’t assert that Britain is a mediocracy, but I do suggest that it (and every other Western country) has features of mediocracy, and that it appears to be moving in a direction of increasing mediocracy.
Did you aim to write a serious book or to be entertaining?
To some extent, I felt I had to be entertaining, although the points I’m making are meant as seriously as those of any sociological analysis. I felt pretty sure there would not be much market for an academic book from someone in my position, so I thought I had better try to make it fairly accessible and at least a little humorous.
The Mediocracy book takes the form of a lexicon. Is it similar to dictionaries of politically correct terms?
There is a similarity in the sense that one of the features of mediocracy is a tendency to redefine key terms. This goes with the remoulding of everything else – concepts, theories, institutions. The purpose, I suggest, is to disguise the fact that certain things are disappearing (e.g. real education, real research, real theatre) by creating ersatz versions whose quantity may well be increasing, thus creating an illusion of progress. There is a greater ambition than with other dictionaries. I’m proposing a new model of society with a number of distinct themes which I suggest are related, though not necessarily in a very obvious way.
Is there a single underlying theme to mediocracy?
I believe it – like communism or fascism – is ultimately driven by hostility to the individual, and particularly by hostility to high-IQ individuals. I find it odd when people claim that our current social problems stem from excess individualism. “Individualism” strikes me as a good example of a term that has become debased in a way which makes it harder to criticise what is going on, and I suspect this is not accidental.
You don’t see increased individualism?
I see increased GDP due to capitalistic growth, and also a good deal of redistribution (not enough for many leftists, of course), with the result that most people have far more to spend on luxuries than they used to. And I see increased aggressiveness and “can’t be bothered” attitude, as well as a degradation of interpersonal relationships, which I believe are related to anti-individualistic ideology. These things have become confused with “individualism”, which originally meant an attitude of self-reliance and respect for the individual (not just oneself, but other individuals as well). I.e. the term was used in contrast to a belief in the collective, whereas it’s now often used to denote hedonism and aggression.
What do you mean by “il-liberal”?
The word “liberal” has also become debased. People who identify themselves as liberals nowadays tend to be characterised more by a desire for increasing state interference than by support for libertarian principles. Although notionally “liberals”, they are really illiberal. I started writing the word in that way without being aware of a precedent, but I’ve meanwhile realised that other people (e.g. David Horowitz) were using it before me.