In search of genuine intellectuals

Updated: 2014-01-08 07:22

By Zhu Yuan (China Daily)

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Unfortunately, quite a number of such experts have been infected with the disease of voicing bizarre ideas, which is characteristic of the virtual world of the Internet. The more bizarre the ideas are the more attention they are expected to attract and the more clicks they are likely to generate.

A typical example of such ideas is a story on smog, published both on the Internet and in the print media. The story says that smog makes Chinese people more equal because no matter how rich or advantaged a person is, he or she cannot escape its harms. It also says smog makes Chinese people more aware of the severity of air pollution, more humorous since they make jokes about it, and more knowledgeable since almost everyone is talking about it.

Except awareness, the other factors the author talks about are nothing but nonsense. But such nonsense is sensational and has attracted people's attention. This is exactly what the Internet portals and websites want and need.

When everyone can share his/her ideas with others in the virtual world, real intellectuals in the traditional sense are badly needed to provide sensible interpretations. But the irony is that most of them have chosen to either give bizarre opinions or be marginalized.

The fame of an "expert" growing because of the bizarreness of his/her ideas has become a prominent social phenomenon, which I believe accounts primarily for the diminishing use of intellectual or scholar to refer to such people. "Expert" is a more appropriate term since such people do have the expertise to conceive bizarre ideas that are highly likely to invite criticism or even verbal attack but at the same time would contribute greatly to enhancing their fame.

This is exactly the biosphere that feeds the unhealthy needs of experts but gives the cold shoulder to real intellectuals.

The author is a senior writer with China Daily.

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