I don't have much to say, unfortunately, being as I am in the very endgame of the school year and mired in weird extra-curriculars like finding out about every edition of Farquhar's The Recruiting Officer that has ever been published and writing an opera about the assault on Dieppe in 1942. It's a heck of a time to be alive. The sandwiches are enormous.
So anyhow, I was browsing the ACS site's bibliography today, searching out information about the unfortunate (or so some critics were saying) Resurrection of Rome, and stumbled across a brief passage offered up as a sample of GK's work in As I Was Saying. I couldn't tell you what essay it's from, or what the essay was about, but I can tell you that a clearer summing-up of the dangers of things like The Da Vinci Code I have not seen:
"It is especially the educational film that threatens to darken and weaken the human intelligence. . . A false film might be refuted in a hundred books, without much affecting the million dupes who had never read the books but only seen the film." (Emphasis mine)
The modern perception of scholarship is like that of a horse that is blind, but wears blinkers anyway. For the average member of the chattering classes, for a claim to gain currency it is merely enough that the claim be made in the first place. Some chump in tweed suggests that Jesus married the Magdelene, and that's the end of it. He did, obviously, and nobody has ever said otherwise. You can author books and articles about why this is lame until you're blue in the wrist, but you may as well be writing sestinas about economic policy for all the attention you'll get.
Of course, this isn't always true. Sometimes critical responses receive notice from the public. And why shouldn't they? The public is too smart to be taken in by these fruitless attempts by panicking powermongers to retain their hold on a crumbling orthodoxy, and it does them no harm to laugh such attempts to scorn. They know what's really going on. They have the secret knowledge. They've bucked the mainstream, torn the woolen scales from their eyes, and are now their own men, dammit, and nobody can say otherwise.
That is the state of pop history. Orthodoxy is a conspiracy, and anyone who says otherwise is biased, and trying to Cover Up The Truth. So tiring. So very, very tiring.
I respect G.K. more and more as I grow in myself and come into contact with those who disagree with me, often violently. The amount of effort it takes to deal with them is considerable, and these are only unformed students at an undergraduate level. Gilbert had to deal with the noted voices of his age. Somehow, however, deal with them he did, and managed even to take the likes of H.G. Wells and George Bernard Shaw as good friends.
This is the sort of lesson that I need to learn. A lot of us do.