Here is a money quote out of Hayek’s essay “The Intellectuals and Socialism”.
Hayek’s writing is not joy to read so I have put stuff in square brackets to make his meaning clearer. It is clear enough in the context of the whole paper but that is a really heavy read and you have to be a bit of a nerd with some spare time to take it on.
A new theory may be judged as valid because it seems to illuminate some things but it will produce other new conclusions which further advance will show to have been erroneous. But in such an instance the false belief will appear [it can be presented to the public] with all the prestige of the latest scientific knowledge supporting it [and be picked up and promulgated by a certain class of intellectuals]. Although in the particular field to which this belief applies all the scientific evidence may be against it, it will nevertheless, before the tribunal of the intellectuals and in the light of the ideas which govern their thinking, be selected as the view which is best in accord with the spirit of the time. The specialists who will thus achieve public fame and wide influence will thus not be those who have gained recognition by their peers but will often be men whom the other experts regard as cranks, amateurs, or even frauds, but who in the eyes of the general public nevertheless become the best known exponents of their subject.
Think of your favourite people among the usual suspects who hold forth on climate issues on the ABC and the MSM.
UPDATE. Taking up some points from the comments and a conversation off line concerning differences of opinion about the nature and characteristics of the people who Hayek called intellectuals. First a bit more about their influence.
It is not surprising that the real scholar or expert and the practical man of affairs often feel contemptuous about the intellectual, are disinclined to recognize his power, and are resentful when they discover it. Individually they find the intellectuals mostly to be people who understand nothing in particular especially well and whose judgement on matters they themselves understand shows little sign of special wisdom. But it would be
a fatal mistake to underestimate their power for this reason.
Even though their knowledge may often be superficial and their intelligence limited, this does not alter the fact that it is their judgement which mainly determines the views on which society will act in the not too distant future. It is no exaggeration to say that, once the more active part of the intellectuals has been converted to a set of beliefs, the process by which these become generally accepted is almost automatic and irresistible. These intellectuals are the organs which modern society has developed for spreading knowledge and ideas, and it is their convictions and opinions which operate as the sieve through which all
new conceptions must pass before they can reach the masses.
Hayek used intellectuals for want of a better term to describe all the people who deal in ideas who have some pretence of learning (excluding pop singers and people who write graffiti on walls). That covers a very wide range of people.
The term “intellectuals” does not at once convey a true picture of the
large class to which we refer, and the fact that we have no better name by which to describe what we have called the secondhand dealers in ideas is not the least of the reasons why their power is not understood…The typical intellectual need be neither: he need not possess special knowledge of anything in particular, nor need he even be particularly intelligent, to perform his role as intermediary in the spreading of ideas. What qualifies him for his job is the wide range of subjects on which he can readily talk and write, and a position or habits through which he becomes acquainted with new ideas sooner than those to whom he addresses himself.
Until one begins to list all the professions and activities which belong to the class, it is difficult to realize how numerous it is, how the scope for activities constantly
increases in modern society, and how dependent on it we all have become. The class
does not consist of only journalists, teachers, ministers, lecturers, publicists, radio
commentators, writers of fiction, cartoonists, and artists all of whom may be masters of
the technique of conveying ideas but are usually amateurs so far as the substance of
what they convey is concerned.
The class also includes many professional men and
technicians, such as scientists and doctors, who through their habitual intercourse with
the printed word become carriers of new ideas outside their own fields and who,
because of their expert knowledge of their own subjects, are listened with respect on
There is little that the ordinary man of today learns about events or ideas
except through the medium of this class; and outside our special fields of work we are
in this respect almost all ordinary men, dependent for our information and instruction on those who make it their job to keep abreast of opinion.
It is the intellectuals in this sense who decide what views and opinions are to reach us, which facts are important enough to be told to us, and in what form and from what angle they are to be presented. Whether we shall ever learn of the results of the work of the expert and the original thinker depends mainly on their decision.
The layman is not fully aware to what extent even the popular reputations of scientists and scholars are made by that class and are inevitably affected by its views on subjects which have little to do with the merits of the real achievements.