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Mr. Flynn's book is a very interesting read based on a flawed, though hardy perennial, premise. Proceeding from the notion that we have entered an era when the popular culture is uniquely a wasteland, he traces the lives of a series of public intellectuals of the 20th century who were distinctive for successful marketing their ideas to the masses. In the form of fascinating biographical sketches, he gives us Will & Ariel Durant, Mortimer Adler, Milton Friedman, Eric Hoffer and, idiosyncratically, Ray Bradbury. Respectively, they enlightened the popular culture via The Story of Civilization, the University of Chicago's Great Books, Free to Choose, The True Believer, and, supposedly, pulp fiction.

As must be apparent, I don't buy the inclusion of Bradbury to begin with. But he does fit with the theme that Mr. Flynn develops in the sense that he came from humble roots, had to work hard to gain success, and mainly did so from without the Academy, part of why he was able to reach beyond the Academy. This last bit is important and is something that Mr. Flynn gets exactly right. As we've discussed in addressing the Two Cultures, the specialization of those in the sciences led intellectuals to try to make their fields equally specialized and intentionally turned their disciplines into ghettos of impenetrable arcania where obfuscation and disguising ideas from any but those in the field is the point of publishing. Mr. Flynn's subjects, on the other hand, were devoted to reaching a mass audience and believed that their ideas deserved such an audience as much as that audience deserved exposure to the ideas.

The problem that arises is that we can quite easily name a similar group of folks who are currently reaching the public in large--even larger--numbers and engaging them in similar intellectual pursuits. Consider: Brian Lamb of C-Span and Booknotes; the legendary video game designer Sid Meier; best-selling author David McCullough; PBS filmmaker Ken Burns; author and tv presenter Niall Ferguson; Project Guttenberg founder Michael S. Hart; etc. Here too we find public intellectuals who are devoted to making our history and culture and their ideas about them accessible to the widest possible audience in the most direct and understandable terms.

By all means, read Mr. Flynn's book for the personal histories he presents. But keep in mind that our conservative complaints about the decline of the culture are pretty much always wrong. The blue collar intellectuals are still very much amongst us and everyman is still being elevated.


Grade: (B)


Daniel Flynn Links:

    -WIKIPEDIA: Daniel J. Flynn
    -BLOG: FlynnFiles
    -ARCHIVES: Daniel J. Flynn (Human Events)
    -ARCHIVES: Daniel J. Flynn (American Spectator)
    -ARCHIVES: Daniel J. Flynn (Big Hollywood)
    -ARCHIVES: Daniel J. Flynn (City Journal)
-EXCERPT: from Blue Collar Intellectuals by Daniel J. Flynn
    -ESSAY: WRITING BLUE COLLAR INTELLECTUALS (Daniel J. Flynn, 7/14/11, FlynnFiles)
    -Revenge of the Nerd: It’s Ray Bradbury’s future—we’re just living in it. (Daniel J. Flynn | January 4, 2012, American Conservative)
    -ESSAY: Milton Friedman, Blue Collar Intellectual (Daniel J. Flynn12/19/2011, Human Events)
    -ESSAY: Where Have All the Eric Hoffer Democrats Gone? (Daniel J. Flynn, 12/05/2011, Human Events)
    -ESSAY: The Programmed President (Daniel J. Flynn, 09/12/2011, Human Events)
    -ESSAY: Pay to Play: Authoritarian libertine Hugh Hefner turns 85 this weekend. (DANIEL J. FLYNN, 4.8.11, American Spectator)
    -ESSAY: Bay State Bums: Massachusetts House speakers and their many convictions (Daniel J. Flynn, Summer 2011, City Pages)
    -ESSAY: Echoes of Carter (Daniel Flynn, Apr 14th, 2011, FrontPage)
    -ESSAY: Drinking Harvey Milk’s Kool-Aid: Lionized by Hollywood and California state legislators, the real Milk was a demagogue and pal of Jim Jones. (Daniel J. Flynn, 21 May 2009, City Journal)
    -ESSAY: Howard Zinn's Biased History (Daniel J. Flynn, 6/09/03, History News Network)
    -REVIEW: of Humorists: From Hogarth to Noel Coward, by Paul Johnson (Daniel J. Flynn, City Journal)
    -AUDIO INTERVIEW: Blue Collar Intellectuals (Coffee and Markets, 12/07/11, Pejman Yousefzadeh and Kevin Holtsberry)
    -AUDIO INTERVIEW: Daniel J. Flynn on Blue Collar Intellectuals (John J. Miller, NR: Between the Covers)
    -INTERVIEW: Video: The Blue Collar Intellectual (Jason Mattera, 12/30/2011, Human Events)
    -AUDIO INTERVIEW: Dan Flynn: Why the Left Hates America (North Country Public Radio)
    -INTERVIEW: Bashing Intellectual Morons (Sean Hackbarth, Feb 18, 2005, BlogCritics)
    -PROFILE: Exposing lies of the American left: Daniel J. Flynn fights for the right at Accuracy in Academia and as author of a book that explores knee-jerk anti-Americanism in arenas of radical influence (Stephen Goode, 1/07/03, Insight on the News)
    -REVIEW: of Blue Collar Intellectuals (RAY NOTHSTINE, Acton Institute)
    -REVIEW: of Blue Collar Intellectuals (Cal Thomas, Washington Examiner)
    -REVIEW: of Blue Collar Intellectuals (Arnold Ahlert, FrontPage)
    -REVIEW: of Blue Collar Intellectuals (Larry Thornberry, Washington Times)
    -REVIEW: of Blue Collar Intellectuals (Matthew A. Rarey, University Bookman)
    -REVIEW: of
-REVIEW: of Daniel J. Flynn’s A Conservative History of the American Left (Bill Kauffman, First Principles)

Book-related and General Links: