One of the hardest of all lessons for the educated is that in which they are required to listen once again to the voices of the wider population, voices that they have neglected as a matter of course during their training. Taking this instruction is all the more distasteful because the thought of the public is not composed in a foreign language, softening the focus and creating a romantic aura, but in a transparent and ubiquitous low caste dialect of the language spoken and written by the educated themselves. – The discussions of the public, in general media, and in the aggregate of all private discussions, are a mess, or seem so to someone in the educated, literate, numerate, subset. And indeed, en masse, they are even more prone to internal contradiction and inconsistency than the thought of a single person, and this, heaven knows, is quite enough of a mess, even at its most coherent.
But populations, like individuals, are also information processing systems, and intellectuals must learn to understand how such large networks of people operate as subtle integrative networks, and then learn to grasp the aggregate, net outputs, which are frequently in a casual non-technical form.
Indeed, it might be argued that one function for the intellectual, and perhaps one of the most important, is not independent creation but the interpretation and translation of the outputs of the public realm, providing technical grounds for the decisions and expressions of preference that result.
Intellectuals should never forget that, in spite of all appearances, the public, the network, is listening to them (for the intellectual world is part of that network, not separate from it) and if intellectuals abuse their position, by forcing their own views into the translation, they will be rejected, and a rapporteur with more integrity will be preferred.
This is an immensely delicate business, with intellectuals in a continual struggle to express and simultaneously inflect public thought. Their position, indeed, is not at all unlike that of judges, who appear to have vast power underwritten by great knowledge, but are self-constrained by the law within which they operate and which they know better than any contemporary.