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Location: UFOUpDatesList.Com > 2005 > May > May 18

Forteans As Populist Intellectuals

From: Terry W. Colvin <fortean1.nul>
Date: Tue, 17 May 2005 22:26:11 -0700
Fwd Date: Wed, 18 May 2005 07:45:23 -0400
Subject: Forteans As Populist Intellectuals

Forteans As Populist Intellectuals: A Sociological Probe
T. Peter Park

'By the damned, I mean the excluded' --Charles Hoy Fort
                                 The Book of the Damned

Are 'Forteans' a 'new class' of populist folk-intellectuals
alongside traditional academics and 'highbrows'? Are we seeing
an attempted 'circulation of intellectual elites' in our time?

Do writers on UFOs, Bigfoot, ghosts, 'psychical' phenomena,
Atlantis, planetary catastrophes, and Nostradamus predictions
compete with 'cultural elite' pundits and social critics? Are
Forteans in a 'turf war' with the Lionel Trillings, Irving
Howes, John Kenneth Galbraiths, Noam Chomskys, Richard Rortys,
Nathan Glazers, Michael Harringtons, Michel Foucaults, Jacques
Derridas, William F. Buckleys, Thomas Sowells, Gloria Steinems,
Hannah Arendts, and Susan Sontags?

These questions sound bizarre, even ludicrous. The groups deal
with different topics, enjoy vastly different levels of
'mainstream' media and academic prestige, and appeal to
different audiences. The 'mainstream' often dismisses the
'Forteans' as 'crackpots', while honoring the Galbraiths,
Chomskys, Glazers, and Steinems as eminent scholars addressing
important social, political, and cultural questions. The latter,
rather than the 'Forteans', are usually called 'intellectuals'in
newspapers like the New York Times and Washington Post, in
magazines like Time, Newsweek, Harper's, The New Republic, The
Nation, and The New York Review of Books, by network television
newscasters, and at 'Ivy League' universities.

Still, we may see Forteans as part of a 'populist
intelligentsia' expressing the interests and grievances of
people who feel that their values and beliefs are ignored by
'mainstream', 'Establishment', or 'elite' scientists, scholars,
media, academicians, and clergy. Besides Forteans, such populist
intellectuals and their followers include religious
fundamentalists, and commentators like Rush Limbaugh, Matt
Drudge, Sean Hannity, and Ann Coulter. Still 'further out' from
the 'Establishment' or 'cultural elite', they include
'survivalists.' conspiracy theorists, gun enthusiasts,
'Holocaust Revisionists', 'militias' like the 'Aryan Nation',
and anti-government terrorists like 'Unabomber' Theodore
Kaczynski and Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh. These fringe
communities are not identical, and do not agree on everything.
Still, they do overlap somewhat in membership, interests, and

However, they all feel slighted by the 'prestige' media,
universities, and journals, by the 'official' scientific and
medical institutions, and by the 'mainline' churches. They see
themselves as ridiculed by the 'cultural elites.' They are
beneficiaries of mass literacy and modern communications
technology - radio, television, and the Internet, by-passing
'official' institutions and media with their own alternative
communications networks. They feel excluded by 'official'
institutions and publications, but use the Internet as a
'Samizdat' for spreading their beliefs. If Harvard, Newsweek,
the New York Times, WCBS-TV, CNN, the American Association for
the Advancement of Science, the American Historical Association,
the national Episcopal or Methodist church hierarchies, or the
National Council of Churches of Christ dismiss them, they will
take their ideas directly to 'the people' on the Internet and in
their own publications.

I myself am a Ph.D. in European history from a prestigious elite
school, the University of Virginia, with both high-culture and
Fortean interests. I have published in both mainstream scholarly
journals and Fortean publications. I've spoken at Carlyle
congresses held by professors of English, and at UFO Congresses.
I'm thus a keen observer - and participant - of both
subcultures. Apart from specific subject interests and academic
credentials, these two cultures definitely differ in sensibility
and outlook. Many (not all, but still many) Forteans show a
vision of life very different from that of mainstream academic
scholars - and from that of the American Civil Liberties Union,
the National Organization for Women, Common Cause, People for
the American Way, Americans for Democratic Action, the NAACP,
and Amnesty International. This was not always true In the 19th
century, these two cultures were less sharply opposed than they
are today. 19th century 'proto-Fortean' students of
scientifically unorthodox phenomena saw themselves as the daring
'cutting edge' rather than as bitter adversaries of their day's
'mainstream' science. The 19th century working classes eagerly
pursued 'mainstream' high culture and sought guidance from
'mainstream' intellectuals.

Today's 'mainstream' academics and intellectuals are certainly
not unanimous in their political, social, or cultural attitudes.
We have C.P. Snow's 'Two Cultures' of scientists and literary
humanists - and traditionalist upholders of the Western cultural
'canon' of 'dead white European males' versus multiculturalists,
feminists, Afrocentrists, postmodernists, deconstructionists,
and apostles of 'queer theory.' Still, most share a belief in
the reliability of generally accepted scientific, historical,
and scholarly knowledge, a loyalty to contemporary society as a
going concern worth preserving, a sober hope in its continuance,
and a commitment to humanistic values of 'liberty, equality,
fraternity' for all people. They are committed to religious and
ethnic tolerance and to racial equality, a rejection of
religious fundamentalism and exclusivism, an abhorrence of
racial, ethnic, and religious stereotyping, and a chariness of
apocalyptic visions. Whether they are political liberals,
radicals, or conservatives, and agnostics or religious
believers, 'mainstream' academics and intellectuals accept a
'consensus reality' where evolution and an expanding universe
are established facts - while UFO abductions, Illuminati or New
World Order conspiracies, and cryptographic Bible Codes
predicting current events do not exist. They hold their beliefs
in a tentative manner - aware they may be wrong, seeing their
own views as plausible, reasonably well-founded hypotheses
alongside other reasonably well-founded hypotheses.. Here, they
are the opposite of amateur historians pontificating from their
bar- stool or dinner table that 'history shows' that divorce,
homosexuality, high taxes, immigration, or 'women's lib'caused
the fall of Rome, or that FDR engineered Pearl Harbor to
maneuver America into World War II.

Many Forteans, by contrast, often show a populist suspicion of
such academic and 'cultural elite' attitudes, and a sympathy for
fundamentalist, xenophobic, apocalyptic, and conspiratorial
views. Many exhibit what a friend of mine calls a 'Chicken
Little' syndrome of obsession with 'prophecies' of impending
disasters - in the Bible, or by Nostradamus, Edgar Cayce, and
various'psychics.' They fear an unprecedented, unimaginable
apocalypse about to sweep away human history impossible to
avert: thermonuclear war, Muslim terrorist attacks, a plague
worse than AIDS and Ebola, alien invasion, global warming, a new
Ice Age, a polar shift, a collision with 'Planet X', or the
'Rapture', 'Tribulation', and Second Coming of Christ as
interpreted by Biblical fundamentalists. Many speculate about
Jewish, Masonic, Illuminati, 'International Bankers.' or 'New
World Order' conspiracy theories - and about the U.S. Government
having made a pact with space aliens under Area 51. They scorn
as na=EFve the liberal/radical dream of building a just society
and peaceful world through good will, rationality, social reform
and political activism. They have equally little faith in the
conservative dream of preserving a stable society for coming
generations through Judaeo-Christian moral values, capitalist
free enterprise, fiscal prudence, and a strong national defense.
They reject the tentativeness, the awareness of their own
fallibility, of academic scholars in confidently proclaiming
their conspiracy theories and apocalyptic scenarios.

A grassroots apocalyptic anti-academic cultural and political
populism unites many (not all, but still many) Forteans, UFO
enthusiasts, and 'New Agers' with religious fundamentalists,
'survivalists', conspiracy theorists, militias, gun enthusiasts,
and terrorists like Theodore Kaczynski and Timothy McVeigh.
These people, often using the Internet as their forum as
traditional Bohemians used cafes, represent a 'circulation of
intellectual elites', an autodidact 'intellectual proletariat'
contesting the 'mainstream' high-culture, academic, and
liberal/radical heirs of traditional avant-garde and radical

The 19th century working classes and the 19th century
forerunners of modern 'Forteans' did not share the contemporary
populist resentment of 'mainstream' academics, established
scientists, and liberal/radical intellectuals. In the 19th
century, many American and European workers eagerly strove to
appropriate high culture and supported political movements
devised by 'mainstream' intellectuals. American 'mechanics'
flocked to Lyceums and Chautauquas, or pursued private self-
education in the manner of the 'Learned Blacksmith' and peace
advocate Elihu Burritt. European 'proletarians' joined radical
movements led or inspired by middle-class or even aristocratic
intellectuals. In 19th century America, the 'Lyceums' and later
the 'Chautauquas' gave lectures, readings, and concerts on
philosophy, science, literature, and classical music. They
attracted workingmen - farmers, blacksmiths, carpenters,
shoemakers, and their wives - as well as the middle classes.
Ralph Waldo Emerson was a popular Lyceum speaker, as were Henry
David Thoreau, Daniel Webster, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and Susan B.
Anthony. Many of Emerson's essays were originally Lyceum
lectures. Elihu Burritt (1810-1879), the 'Learned Blacksmith',
was a Connecticut blacksmith who became a peace advocate and
prodigious self-taught linguist. Burritt educated himself by
holding a book on a stand behind his anvil and reading as he
worked. He studied mathematics, geography, and languages,-
learning 50 languages by age 30! He became a crusader for social
reforms - antislavery, temperance, self-education, and above all
world peace, lecturing and organizing international conferences.
The workingmen and farmers who flocked to Lyceums and
Chautauquas, and the self-educated 'mechanics' like Burritt,
were eager to acquire the high culture enjoyed by the prosperous
haute bourgeoisie of Boston, New York, or Philadelphia who had
attended Harvard, Yale, or Princeton.

In the 19th and early 20th centuries, Europe's industrial
workers sought an improvement of their condition by political
action through radical movements led or inspired by
'progressive' intellectuals. The rural peasantry were
traditionalist devotees of Church and King, devout Catholics,
Anglicans, Lutherans, or Eastern Orthodox loyal to the
traditions and institutions of the pre-1789 European ancien
regime, voting for conservative political parties pledged to
upholding Throne and Altar. Urban industrial workers, however,
were estranged from Church, monarchy, and aristocracy. Instead,
they supported various forms of socialism, communism, anarchism,
trade-unionism, or left-republicanism. Skeptical of religion,
urban workers sought a this-worldly improvement of their lot
through political and social action. They embraced either the
revolutionary utopian ideologies of secular salvation invented
by radical intellectuals like St.-Simon, Fourier, Owen, Marx,
Engels, Proudhon, Bakunin, and Kropotkin, or the soberly hopeful
programs of orderly, peaceful, gradualist social reform preached
by middle-class liberals like Jefferson and Mill, and by
reformist socialists like Jean Jaur=E8s, Eduard Bernstein, and the
English Fabian Socialists (H.G. Wells, George Bernard Shaw,
Sidney & Beatrice Webb, etc.)

Whether revolutionary communists or anarchists, or peacefully
reformist social-democrats and left-liberals, Europe's
industrial working classes in the late 19th and early 20th
centuries were wedded to 19th century offshoots of the
Enlightenment. European industrial workers espoused the
Enlightenment dream of Condorcet, Paine, Jefferson, St.-Simon,
Bentham, Comte, Marx, and Mill. With Condorcet, Paine,
Jefferson, St.-Simon, Bentham, Comte, Marx, and Mill, they
dreamed of building a peaceful rational cooperative City of Man
devoted to the Greatest Happiness of the Greatest Number through
reason, science, and good will. They felt that it was the duty
of decent, rational men and women to fight, work, and agitate
for the Hoped-For Better Day to Come. Next to active connivance
in reaction or tyranny, the worst sin was a fatalistic
acceptance of the inevitability of war, injustice, poverty, and
oppression, a lazy pessimistic refusal to fight for justice and
against social evils.

The European workers who joined socialist, communist, or
radical-democratic parties or anarchist cells placed their trust
in schemes of social betterment devised by middle-class
(sometimes even aristocratic) intellectuals, journalists, and
lawyers. Liberal idealists like Jefferson, Emerson, and Mill
came from middle-class or even 'landed gentry' social
backgrounds, as did socialist, communist, and anarchist
firebrands like Marx, Engels, Proudhon, Bakunin, Kropotkin,
Ferdinand Lassalle, Jules Guesde, and Francisco Ferrer, and
reformist socialists like Jean Jaur=E8s, Eduard Bernstein, Eugene
Debs, and the English Fabians. 19th century workingmen, both in
Europe and America, trustingly looked to such progressive
bourgeois thinkers for guidance. They did not resent the
grounding of Marx, Engels, Bakunin, and Kropotkin in Hegel and
Darwin, nor the well-rounded high-culture education of
Jefferson, Mill, and Emerson. The socialists and anarchists,
too, organized adult education programs and 'workers'
universities' similar to the American Lyceums and Chautauquas.
Many socialist and anarchist workingmen were avid intellectual
self-improvers, eagerly devouring Plato, Aristotle, Shakespeare,
Goethe, Hegel, Darwin, Marx, Spencer, and Nietzsche. Leon
Trotsky himself, in his Literatura i revolyutsiya (1923;
Literature and Revolution, 1925), enthusiastically described how
under communism, Man would transform himself, and the
proletariat would appropriate the cultural riches of the past.
In a final chapter of Literature and Revolution, Trotsky
predicted that under communism, the average human type could
rise to the level of Aristotle, Goethe, or Marx!

European workers looked for guidance not only to socialists and
anarchists. They also read and discussed liberal thinkers like
John Stuart Mill, and conservative critics of laissez-faire,
'Mammonism', and the 'Cash Nexus' like Thomas Carlyle, Charles
Dickens, Benjamin Disraeli, Charles Kingsley, and John Ruskin.
They even read anti-socialist, 'rugged individualist' apostles
of science like Herbert Spencer, and elitist anti-democratic
heralds of the =DCbermensch like Friedrich Nietzsche. They saw
Mill, Carlyle, Disraeli, Dickens, and Ruskin as allies against
'every man for himself and the Devil take the hindmost' laissez-
faire 'rugged individualism', Spencer as a fellow-fighter for
scientific enlightenment against religious dogmatism, and
Nietzsche as a comrade-in-arms against petty, narrow-minded
bourgeois conventionality.

The same respect for mainstream high culture marked the 19th and
early 20th century forerunners of today's 'Forteans', 'New
Agers', and 'Fantastic Realists.' It characterized the
Mesmerists, phrenologists, Swedenborgians, Spiritualists,
Theosophists, 'psychical researchers', and readers of books like
Catherine Crowe's The Night Side of Nature (1848) and Robert
Dale Owen's Footfalls on the Boundary of Another World (1860).
Many Mesmerists, Swedenborgians, Spiritualists, Theosophists,
and 'psychical researchers' - unlike their contemporary
counterparts - were actively involved in the progressive social
reconstruction movements of their day: trade unionism, anti-
slavery, feminism, pacifism, socialism, etc. They saw their
Fortean interests as an expansion, broadening, and deepening of
orthodox science, rather than as its overthrow. They were only
drawing attention to phenomena overlooked by 'mainstream'
scientists and philosophers, or hastily dismissed in debunking
mediaeval 'superstition' and ignorant peasant or tribal
'folklore.' They acted like 'cutting edge' Thomas Kuhnian
paradigm-shattering scientific revolutionists, daringly going
where no man has gone in penetrating the secrets of our vast
mysterious universe.

Unlike many current pop-Forteans, 19th century proto-Forteans
did not denounce mainstream scientists as closed-minded
mendacious Establishmentarians, nor orthodox science as a
conspiracy to hide the truth. They did not preach the 'Chicken
Little' syndrome of expecting an unavoidable mega-catastrophe
(atomic war, alien invasion, super-plague, planetary collision,
etc.) to end human civilization in the near future. They hoped
to improve their society, rather than fatalistically awaiting
its apocalyptic destruction. Some Forteans now still hold the
outlook of their 19th century forerunners. Others, however,
embrace populist anti-intellectualism, conspiracy theorizing,
and apocalypticism.

Scientists are themselves partly responsible for the anti-
scientific backlash. On the one hand, many eminent scientists
and philosophers have recognized the importance of anomalous
phenomena like ESP, apparitions, and mediumistic communications.
We may name here Kant, Hegel, Schopenhauer, Henry Sidgwick,
F.W.H. Myers, William James, Henri Bergson, Sir Arthur Conan
Doyle, Sir Oliver Lodge, Alfred North Whitehead, William
McDougall, Carl Gustav Jung, Aldous Huxley, C.D. Broad, and
David Ray Griffin, as well as some supposed scientific skeptics
like H.G. Wells, Sigmund Freud, and Sir Julian Huxley. Against
this, however, we find the dogmatic skepticism of the T.H.
Huxley, Lord Kelvin, Hermann Helmholz, Bertrand Russell, Carl
Sagan, Paul Kurtz, Isaac Asimov, and Philip Klass types. This
has created a popular impression that the academic and
scientific communities are dogmatically closed to any
consideration of anomalous phenomena. It has encouraged the
belief that the academic and scientific 'Establishment'is
engaged in a conspiracy to suppress discussion of such phenomena
in a 'Watergate'-style cover-up.

Historically, the 19th century alliance between 'highbrows' and
'Proles' continued into the early 20th century. In the late 19th
century, however, the working-class, socialist, and proto-
Fortean respect for mainstream high culture gave way to a
resentful populist anti-intellectualism among the American and
European working and lower-middle classes. A grassroots
rejection of both aristocratic/churchly conservative and
orthodox liberal/radical intellectual traditions among the
'plain folk' led to Burkean or 'Throne and Altar' conservatism,
Disraelian noblesse oblige 'Tory Democracy', and traditional
liberalism, socialism, and anarchism alike yielding to an anti-
intellectual populism distinct from the traditional Left and
Right. This populist mentality was born in the decades after the
American Civil War of 1861-1865 and the Franco-Prussian War of
1870-1871. The American 'Gilded Age', the German 'Grundungsara'
of rapid industrial expansion, and the early decades of the
French 'Third Republic' saw the rise of this populist mind-set
among the working and lower-middle classes and small farmers in
both America and Europe. It became quite widespread among them
in the 20th century.

The term 'populism' is used by historians for movements claiming
to represent BOTH the economic interests AND the cultural
outlook of the 'common people' or 'plain folk.', against BOTH
economic exploitation by Big Capital AND the cultural corruption
of big-city and academic intellectuals, 'sophisticates',
'cosmopolitans', and media. Historians rarely use 'populist' for
liberals, socialists, or anarchists who champion the interests
of the lower classes with highbrow ideologies based on Mill,
Marx, Bakunin, Kropotkin, or the English Fabians. Rather, they
use 'populist' for European as well as American anti-
'Establishment' movements with a strongly anti-intellectual,
fundamentalist, racialist, or xenophobic flavor. The original
19th century American Populists were led by small-town Southern
and Midwestern lawyers and newspapermen, with little input from
progressive East Coast and Ivy League intellectuals. Many
Populists expressed racist and anti-Semitic views and conspiracy
theories, and a general resentment of highbrow intellectuals and
'city slickers.' William Jennings Bryan, the Populist candidate
for U.S. President in 1896, 1900, and 1908, defended religious
fundamentalism against Darwinism a generation later at the 1925
Scopes 'Monkey Trial.'

Xenophobia, anti-Semitism, and conspiracy theories were a
disturbing undertone in American Populism. However, they were
central to the 'Volkisch', 'Integral Nationalist', and 'Right-
Radical' movements arising in Europe in the 1880's and 1890's,
and to the thinking of the late 19th and early 20th century
'Conservative Revolutionary' intellectuals inspiring or
embracing such movements - writers like Paul de Lagarde, Julius
Langbehn, Arthur Moeller van den Bruck, Stefan George, Oswald
Spengler, and Martin Heidegger in Germany, Charles Maurras and
Maurice Barr=E8s in France, Gabriele D'Annunzio and Enrico
Corradini in Italy, Knut Hamsun in Norway, Dimitri Merezhkovsky
in Russia. These preached a blend of xenophobia, nationalism,
anti-Semitism, conspiracy theorizing, suspicion of urban
cultural 'decadence', and hostility to both 'Capitalism' and

Especially in Germany and Austria, whose 'Volkisch' groups and
agitators spawned Nazism, these movements embraced occultism,
extreme anti-Semitism, crackpot racial theories, and attacks on
'Jewish' science. In France, anti-Semites divided the country
into bitterly opposed camps with the Dreyfus Affair of the
1890's and early 1900's. In Russia, this ugly reactionary-
populist ferment, officially encouraged by the Tsarist regime,
manifested itself in the pogroms of the 'Black Hundreds', and in
that notorious anti-Semitic forgery sponsored by the Tsarist
secret police, the Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion. The
Protocols of Zion, in translation, became immensely popular
among anti-Semites throughout Europe and even in America, where
Henry Ford serialized them in his Dearborn Independent. The
Protocols were especially popular in Germany and Austria, as
part of what has been called the 'cultural exchange' between
Russian and German anti-Semites. The Action Fran=E7aise and the
anti-Dreyfusards, the Viennese Christian Socialists under Mayor
Karl Lueger, the pan-Germans, Volkisch' groups, and anti-Semitic
parties in Germany, and the extreme Italian nationalists
emerging in 1903 under Corradini were early movements inspired
by the 'Ideology of Resentment', as historian Fritz Stern has
called it - an ideology that reached its culmination with
Fascism and Nazism in the 1920's, 1930's, and 1940's. In the
United States, too, it had its echo in Father Coughlin and his
followers in the 1930's. It did not wholly die after 1945,
resurfacing in the 1950's, for instance, with the Poujadist
movement in France and McCarthyism in the United States. The
'militia' movement, and anti-government terrorists like Timothy
McVeigh, represent a more recent American outcropping of the
same 'Ideology of Resentment' - which in a much milder form
inspires the Rush Limbaughs, Matt Drudges, Sean Hannitys, and
Ann Coulters of our time.

The specific movements of the 1880-1945 era are dead and gone,
except among some small fringe groups, and unlikely to be
revived in their original forms. However, the broader populist
mentality is still with us. We see it in the sniping at
'cultural elites', in the sneering at 'effete snobs' and the
'Brie and Chablis set', in the 'Chicken Little' syndrome, in the
obsession with Nostradamus' and Edgar Cayce's 'prophecies', in
religious fundamentalism, and in the fundamentalist and 'New
World Order' paranoia about computer microchips and supermarket
bar codes as 'the Mark of the Beast.' Anti-Semitism has taken a
back seat to anti-Isl=E2mism and Arab-baiting - especially since
September 2001.

Sociologically, Forteans and other 'populist intellectuals'
represent an attempted 'circulation of intellectual elites', the
yearning of a new would-be 'intelligentsia' for a 'place in the
sun', a 'piece of the action.' Their rise parallels that of the
original radical/Bohemian 'highbrow'intelligentsia in the 18th
and early 19th centuries. Like the radical pamphleteers of the
French Revolution snubbed by the salon philosophes of the High
Enlightenment, and the struggling cafe artists and poets of La
Boh=E8me, today's Internet-surfing UFO, conspiracy, and apocalypse
buffs are an intellectual proletariat resentful of the prestige
and pretensions of 'Establishment' and 'cultural elite'
scientists, scholars, intellectuals, and journalists.

Modern 'mainstream' intellectuals have a three-fold historic
social root: (1) university professors; (2) cultivated upper-
class gentlemen of letters, along with ambitious, talented folk
of humbler origin welcomed into their salons; and (3) 'Bohemian'
writers and artists living on the margins of society. The
celebrated 18th century philosophes and literati of the High
Enlightenment were either gentlemen of leisure or else salon
lions enjoying aristocratic patronage: Voltaire, Montesquieu,
Hume, Gibbon, Diderot, LaMettrie, d'Holbach, Rousseau,
Helvetius, Condorcet, Marmontel, Jefferson. The 'Bohemia' of
struggling writers, artists, and composers living by their wits
on the fringes of society was the seedbed of the 19th century's
literary/artistic avant-garde and political radicalism.
'Bohemia' developed in early 19th century European cities from
the 'literary underground' of 18th century London and Paris.
Tobias Smollett and Samuel Johnson's London had its Grub Street,
described by Johnson as 'inhabited by writers of small
histories, dictionaries, and temporary poems.' France, too, had
a vast 'Grub Street' of hack writers leading hand-to-mouth lives
in garrets. Dreaming of becoming philosophes, celebrated poets,
and noted dramatists, they resentfully envied the Voltaires,
Diderots, Montesquieus, D'Alemberts, and Marmontels leading
privileged lives at the top levels of the Republic of Letters.

Princeton University historian Robert Darnton has traced the
radicalism of the French Revolution to The Literary Underground
of the Old Regime (Cambridge MA and London: Harvard University
Press, 1982). Peering below the High Enlightenment salon
philosophes Darnton portrayed the underworld of garret
scribblers, pirate publishers, pornographers, clandestine book
peddlers, book smugglers, and police spies forming the literary
underground of the Enlightenment. This literary underground
merged into an underworld of swindlers, recruiting agents,
pimps, prostitutes, pickpockets, blackmailers, and murderers.
Darnton showed how this literary proletariat contributed to the
fall of the Old Regime, providing the orators, demagogues,
pamphleteers, and popular journalists of the French Revolution.
The radicalism of the Revolution came from the vulgarized
'philosophy' of their scurrilous and semi-pornographic pamphlets
attacking the vices of the aristocracy and clergy, rather than
from the polite salon philosophism of the Voltaires,
Montesquieus, Diderots, D'Alemberts, and Rousseaus.

Below the exalted level of the Voltaires, Montesquieus,
Diderots, and Rousseaus, lesser figures compiled the
encyclopedias, dictionaries, digests, and anthologies so
plentiful in 18th century France. Cruder hack work included
writing for Government ministers, pamphleteering for the 'bulls'
and 'bears' on the Bourse, publishing social gossip sheets,
writing pornography, peddling prohibited books and pamphlets,
and spying for the police. Many would-be philosophes survived by
compiling anthologies, writing for journals, peddling
manuscripts, or spying for the police. The salon was a preserve
for the high philosophes, who left the cafes to the lower
classes of litterateurs. Cafes were the antithesis of the salon,
being open to everyone (like the Internet today!).

In the early 19th century London's Grub Street and the French
literary underground became stabilized in many European cities
as 'Bohemia', the seed-bed of many noted writers, artists, and
composers - and many influential revolutionaries and social
critics. Like the 18th century French 'literary
underground',19th century Bohemians survived by hack-work for
commercial publishers pandering to mass taste. Gentlemen
Enlightenment authors-like Montesquieu, Voltaire, Hume, Holbach,
and Jefferson could be philosophers in their ample leisure time,
but free-lance writers found no market for serious work.
Instead, as noted by Alfred Salomon, 'the demands of the
uneducated grew louder' for 'creators of entertainment, of
pornography, and of horror stories.' These writers, 'separated
from any form of Kulturtraeger and living on their wits alone',
learned by the early 18th century to 'prefer each other's
company to that of a hostile world.' They created 'their own
life-pattern' as 'white-collar intellectuals' who lived by
'meeting the demands of their publishers and whose spare time
was taken up with more serious efforts.' They formed 'a new
social group', whose 'center' was 'not the court, nor the
Church, but the coffeehouse.' Montesquieu 'discovered the social
function of the coffeehouse - the home of the homeless
intellectual' in the 18th century [Albert Salomon, 'The
Messianic Bohemians', in George B. de Huszar, ed.,The
Intellectuals: A Controversial Portrait (The Free Press of
Glencoe, Illinois, 1960, reprinted from Salomon, The Tyranny of
Progress [The Noonday Press, 1955]), p. 20]

'Coffehouse intellectuals' are 'bohemians... learned men who
have not submitted to the rules of social and professional
careers which the society around them takes for granted.' They
are men 'utterly indifferent to the sources of their income',
who 'do not care to pursue the organized channels of literary or
academic advancement.' In the cafe, one could sit 'surrounded by
poets, astronomers, military tacticians, revolutionaries, card-
players, and philologists', Revolutions, too, were prepared in
cafes. Thus, the German economist Emil Lederer and the Austrian
Socialist leader Rudolf Hilferding discussed the possibility of
a Russian revolution in a Viennese cafe in 1916. Lederer
believed a revolution was impending while Hilferding skeptically
answered, 'Who will make the revolution? Mr. Trotsky, perhaps,
of the Central Cafe?' However, 'Mr. Trotsky stepped out of the
cafe and made the revolution.' [Albert Salomon, 'The Messianic
Bohemians', p. 21]

The coffehouse 'belongs to the bohemians', as 'the salon of
homeless thinkers, poets, and scientists, the drawing room of
underpaid writers, their means of escape from the abysmal
physical conditions under which they live.' Poverty has 'always
been the supreme condition of he bohemian' from which 'he flees
to the comparative warmth of the coffehouse.' Poverty gave
Bohemians 'a set of defenses which have become, since the
eighteenth century, standard procedure for non-conformists: the
anarchical attitude towards the established goods of social
conduct; the refusal to accept the normative requirements of
manners, fashions, and conventions.' The 'routine requirements
of society' have 'often forced men with a specific spiritual
destination' like Baudelaire to 'escape into Bohemia.' [Albert
Salomon, 'The Messianic Bohemians', p. 21]

18th century garret scribblers resented the prestige and
pretensions of the salon philosophes. Since the late 19th
century, a similarly under-appreciated underworld of autodidacts
has been conducting a similar resentful vendetta on the now
successful, prestigious, and 'mainstreamed' cultural descendants
of the 18th century garret scribblers. They are cut off for
various reasons from the established 'highbrow', academic-
scholarly, scientific, labor-union, adult-education, 'mainline'-
religious, or liberal/radical institutions, media, and
communication channels of our time. The literary, philosophical,
and ideological descendants of the garret scribblers are the
20th/21st century intellectual and cultural 'Establishment' - in
effect the High Enlightenment philosophes of our time! They are
now attacked by calorically well-fed but status- and
appreciation-starved 'lean and hungry' poor souls in a more
materially comfortable Electronic Age version of the 18th
century garret underworld, who use the Internet as their 'cafe'!

Most Forteans are decent and reasonable in their social
attitudes and political instincts. However, there are also those
in the Fortean community who nourish darker impulses,
disquieting symptoms of the 'Ideology of Resentment', such as a
weakness for anti-Semitic, anti-Masonic, anti-Jesuit,
'Illuminati', or 'New World Order' conspiracy theories. Syracuse
University political scientist Michael Barkun, author of
Religion and the Racist Right: Origins of the Christian Identity
Movement (revised ed., 1997) and Disaster and the Millennium
(1986), has described the bizarre, alarming subculture of UFO
enthusiasts who also zealously believe in Jewish, Masonic,
'Illuminati', or 'New World Order' world domination conspiracy
theories in A Culture of Conspiracy: Apocalyptic Visions in
Contemporary America (2003). He traces the print, radio, and
Internet dissemination and popularization of such ufological and
occult-tinged conspiracy theories by writers like David Icke,
Milton William Cooper, 'Branton', and Jim Keith. It behooves
decent, sensible Forteans, and the Fortean community as a whole,
to be watchful about such peddlers of hate and paranoia!

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